Teresa Castiello

Teresa tells us that, “In a ‘chronological order’ I am a woman, a cardiologist, a mother, and now, quite surprisingly, an entrepreneur. My journey as an entrepreneur had its seeds planted at least 10 years ago and it patiently waited to find a favourable field. I have always felt a strong urge to extend my impact beyond one-on-one patient care. This desire led me to actively seek opportunities to make a broader difference in the healthcare landscape. A year ago, I decided to heed my inner calling to shape healthcare in a way that aligned with my vision. With a mix of caution and ambition, I founded MIAL Healthcare, a hospital-based service that offers multidisciplinary care with a personalised and holistic approach. Innovation lies at the heart of MIAL’s core values, and I am actively working on delivering cutting-edge digital healthcare solutions through my company. I am committed to using my clinical expertise and newly experienced entrepreneurial spirit to improve patient outcomes and physician workflow, standing as an example of the future of healthcare.”

What were your initial years of growing up like? Tell us about your life before starting your corporate journey/venture/initiative.

I was born and raised in the art and history-rich city of Rome, Italy. I was fortunate to receive an excellent education that instilled in me a deep love for art and literature. I have always been a passionate learner and equally attracted to sport, embodying the ancient Roman adage of “mens sana in corpore sano” (a sound mind in a sound body), a message I continue to convey to my patients. My love for art in all its forms led me to pursue a three-year course in theatre, which I would have continued indefinitely had I not decided to embark on a humanitarian mission to Africa. However, I have no regrets. My passion for the humanities has shaped my approach to science, allowing me to view it through a more multifaceted lens.

I decided to become a doctor when I was seven years old, so I take my eight- and five-year-old daughters very seriously when they tell me they want to be a paleogeneticist and an astrophysicist, respectively. Children are closer to their true selves, and their inner desires should always be respected and encouraged.

I completed my medical studies and most of my training in Rome. Towards the end of my cardiology training, I embarked on humanitarian missions to Sudan, Kenya, and the Middle East, experiences that broadened my horizons and deepened my commitment to healthcare. Upon moving to London, I found myself in a male-dominated cardiology profession, but I persevered, driven by my belief in meritocracy and hard work. After two fellowships, I secured a lead consultant position within the National Health Service, a role I hold to this day. My contributions to the field have been recognized with appointments as HF Educational Lead for the Royal Society of Medicine and, more recently, as Cardiology President, the first woman to hold this role. At the European level, I actively participate in the European Society of Cardiology and have served on various committees, currently the Digital Health and Patient Care Committee of the European HF Association. This commitment undoubtedly had an impact on my role as CEO and Founder of MIAL Healthcare. 

Every industry that is now a large-scale, top-notch business once started as a small idea in the minds of entrepreneurs. What was that idea or motivation that made you start your business /initiative? What motivated you within to say YES, go for it!”

The initial idea was to create what I used to call Eu-Cardio, a safe space of excellence in cardiology care. However, over the years, this vision has evolved and expanded into the comprehensive healthcare model that MIAL represents today.

The motivations behind MIAL’s inception are multifaceted. Having worked in the public healthcare systems of Italy and the UK for over two decades, I’ve witnessed both the strengths and shortcomings of these systems. While essential, they are overburdened due to social, political, and public health factors, leading to prohibitive wait times and delayed diagnoses. In this context, MIAL bridges the gap between the healthcare system and the needs of citizens by providing a high-calibre specialist service with Italian-trained professionals who are well-integrated into the British system and have demonstrated exceptional human and professional qualities. These individuals embody the DEEP-I values that underpin MIAL’s ethos: Dedication, Excellence, Education, Personalised care, and Innovation.

Each value is linked to a specific project. Notably, the value of “Education” is intertwined with SIAL school, “Italian School in London,” which MIAL has chosen as a charity partner, emphasising the fundamental importance of education and health for individuals.

However, MIAL’s scope extends beyond immediate patient care to encompass the well-being of doctors as well. The COVID-19 pandemic has left a profound impact, leaving the healthcare workforce demoralised and on the verge of professional collapse. The increasing patient volume and the advancements in medicine, which have extended lifespans and improved quality of life, have also brought to light numerous chronic and acute diseases that were previously challenging to treat. Disregarding the quality of work of doctors while focusing solely on patient care is both hypocritical and impractical. An exhausted doctor in a crumbling system, despite their dedication and expertise, cannot provide optimal care. Therefore, MIAL is committed to enhancing the quality of work for doctors and offering a comprehensive service that includes both preventive and specialised care, utilising systems that can identify and treat those in need, both in person and remotely. This goal can only be achieved by harnessing the power of cutting-edge digital technology and artificial intelligence.

By the end of 2024, MIAL aims to launch a platform linked to a mobile application that will streamline administrative tasks for doctors, facilitate shared care among specialists from different fields, and provide patients with immediate access to their specialists and clinical information, including second-level diagnostics such as CT scans, MRIs, and surgical procedures. My vision extends to expanding the project to lower-middle-income countries, to which I feel a deep connection. The goal is to replicate MIAL’s success in these regions, making high-quality healthcare accessible to a wider population.

The founding of MIAL represents a culmination of my experiences, aspirations, and unwavering belief in the transformative power of healthcare. MIAL is not merely a medical practice; it is an embodiment of hope, innovation, and dedication to improving the lives of patients and healthcare professionals alike.

Would you like to share with our young budding women entrepreneurs the change you would like to see in the world if given an opportunity?

I may not possess the magic wand to eradicate war, famine, and injustice, but I am committed to harnessing my abilities to effect positive change within my sphere of influence. Each of us should strive to contribute our unique strengths and talents to the betterment of society.

As a woman, I feel compelled to advocate for women’s empowerment and advancement. I often remind others that “women are the largest minority in the world,” highlighting the paradoxical marginalisation of a significant portion of humanity. Over history, humankind has mistreated and diminished the very essence of its potential – women.

As a doctor, I am dedicated to bridging the gender gap in medicine. For centuries, medicine has been dominated by men, often overlooking the unique needs of women. This has resulted in poorer health outcomes for female patients, who are more likely to be underdiagnosed, undertreated, and inadequately represented in clinical trials. Additionally, women face significant professional hurdles compared to their male counterparts. In the UK, for instance, nearly 90% of consultant cardiologists are men. This gender disparity is not due to a lack of competence or capability among women in the field.

As an entrepreneur in healthcare, my vision is integrating the perspectives of both patients and doctors. MIAL’s mission is to provide exceptional standards of care, seamlessly integrating research and digital health into clinical practice. We aim to offer personalised and multidisciplinary care with a holistic approach, optimising care pathways and enhancing the quality of patient care and physician workflow through digital health innovations. Our ultimate goal is to make specialist care more accessible and affordable, even in remote or underserved communities. Every individual deserves the best possible opportunity for optimal health.

I firmly believe that digital health cannot and will not replace the irreplaceable human interaction between patients and doctors. However, when embraced with deep empathy and medical expertise, digital health can serve as a powerful tool to support and augment, rather than replace, the doctor-patient relationship. MIAL aims to be a concrete example of how humanity, science, and digital technology can and should collaborate to revolutionise healthcare delivery.

Women are a growing force in the workplaces worldwide, standing shoulder to shoulder with their male counterparts. There are cracks in glass ceilings everywhere, with many women breaking through to carve out a space right at the top of the pyramid. What are your thoughts about women leadership today?

History has undoubtedly witnessed remarkable female leaders and scientists, from Cleopatra’s astute diplomacy and extensive culture,  to Hypatia’s groundbreaking contributions to science, Artemisia Gentileschi’s artistic prowess, and Marie Curie’s  double Nobel Prize winner.  However, their numbers remain disproportionately low compared to their male counterparts. The time has come to rectify this imbalance and harness the unique perspectives and strengths that women bring to the table. Women, as nurturers and caregivers, are often adept at managing multiple responsibilities, operating under pressure, and making sound decisions with limited resources or support. This resilience and ability to adapt are essential qualities for success in today’s dynamic and demanding world. While we don’t advocate for perpetuating these challenging circumstances, women’s resilience and adaptability under duress are undeniable assets in leadership roles.

In today’s interconnected and rapidly evolving world, we need to foster an inclusive and equitable environment that empowers women to rise to the top and contribute their talents to shaping a better future for all.

As we strive for a more equitable and inclusive society, we must actively support and empower women to assume leadership positions, recognising the immense value they bring to the table.

What’s the most important thing you have learned in your personal life and professional journey? What is your personal motto in life?

As a physician, I understand that change is an inherent aspect of science. It’s a dynamic and ever-evolving field. I often say that “Science is true until science proves otherwise.” This reflects the importance of continuous learning and improvement in our pursuit of knowledge. The spirit of openness and inquiry that drives scientific discovery enables us to make consistent progress in our field and within ourselves.

Of course, not all changes are welcome or easy to adopt. Some may be detrimental or present us with difficult decisions. However, most changes are necessary and often conceal opportunities for growth.

I don’t have a personal motto, but I believe that every day we learn something new is a good day. Knowledge is the gateway to infinity.

With your grit and determination, you are making a considerable impact, breaking through, and serving as role models for many budding entrepreneurs. What would you want to say to our young women leaders/audience reading this?

Remember the little child within you, that little girl with such big dreams, the one who never gave up on them. Observe what she loved to do, what was truly meaningful to her. She was full of determination and light, and she knew what she wanted out of life.

Embrace this child, hold her close, and never let the world’s negativity dim her light. They may try to discourage you, urging you to abandon your dreams. But silence their voices. You are capable of achieving anything you set your mind to.

Cherish the radiance of that young girl, let it illuminate your path through life. Pursue your dreams, whatever they may be. If you stay true to yourself, your path will lead you to greatness.