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Life Sciences Magazine

Dustin Freckleton: Thriving in Uncertainty

Most Twenty-Four-Year-Olds don’t have strokes. Of those who do, most don’t turn their medical crises into successful wearable-technology companies.

Then again, most people aren’t like Dustin Freckleton.

Freckleton was a first-year medical student when he woke one morning with a splitting headache. Looking in his bathroom mirror, he realized his “horizon was at an angle” and he was standing on the side of his foot. As he straightened, he felt a “warm oil” sensation trickling down from the top of his head. He lost all feeling, fell, and called out to his roommate that he was having a stroke.

Though it seemed unlikely, Freckleton was indeed having a stroke. He remembers lying on the gurney at the hospital being “absolutely terrified” that the life and the future he had envisioned for himself could be completely taken away from him. Although he was able to make a full recovery and stay on track to graduate from medical school, experiencing a personal health crisis made Freckleton think less about becoming a surgeon and more about how he could prevent people from entering the hospital in the first place.

Growing up, Freckleton was “one of those weird kids” who always knew he wanted to be a physician like his father. He remembers asking his dad what he did at work and his dad responding, “Today I saved lives.” The desire to do the same was imprinted on Freckleton’s young mind.

His education cemented that desire. Freckleton attended a healthcare-oriented high school, then came to BYU to study neuroscience. He loved “the classes, the professors, and the spiritual approach” at BYU. “Where else in the world do you start with a prayer in organic chemistry?” He also appreciated that BYU not only taught him material, but taught him how to learn. He developed “high-caliber friendships” that he still relies on. His college friends, Freckleton notes, “are now leaders in healthcare and startups and industry. Those relationships are incredibly meaningful to me.”

Then came medical school: the University of Texas Medical School at Houston. After Freckleton’s stroke, he continued on the path to graduation but also completed a master’s degree in entrepreneurship at the University of Houston and started pursuing financing for a new company. There came a point when he had to decide between being matched for a medical residency or “stepping on the ledge” and investing his future in business. Freckleton’s wife was a great support to him at this time and told him, “I know where you’re the happiest.” That statement “was the catalyst” for Freckleton’s decision to stick with the company.

That decision has paid off . Freckleton’s company—LVL Technologies, Inc—develops wearable sensors that give real-time measurements of “the body’s most critical biosignals.” While the company’s past sensors have focused on muscle monitoring, the “world’s first wearable hydration monitor” is about to hit the market. Th e inspiration for such a device stems from Freckleton’s stroke, which ended up being partially due to dehydration. Th is new monitor, called the LVL, computes how much water a body loses throughout the day, logs water intake, tracks activity and sleep patterns, and more. As founder and CEO of the company, Freckleton explains that LVL Technologies wants to “develop wearable devices that bring more purpose to the sensors that are already there. Taking them from toys to tools . . . helping people understand the human body. Helping us to live higher quality lives.” Ultimately, he continues, “if I can help avoid even one stroke event or negative experience, it makes it all worth it.”

If Freckleton has learned anything from his career path, he reports, it’s how to “endure uncertainty. I think it’s human nature to avoid uncertainty. It’s human nature to settle or retreat to comfort. For me, medicine was a place of certainty: I knew I’d always have a job. I knew I’d have income for my family. Going into the startup . . . was the quintessential definition of uncertainty. I’ve had to learn to live in and stare in that abyss of uncertainty and find the grit to keep moving forward. It’s not natural to me . . . but the extent that you can thrive in it is the extent that you can do more and become more and be happier along the way.”

The College of Life Sciences selected Freckleton to receive BYU's prestigious Alumni Achievement Award for his life-changing innovations. Freckleton will be presented with the award during homecoming week this fall.