There is a design and development facility located in Winter Park, Florida where custom body parts are made to order. The facility is housed in an unassuming section of a somewhat ordinary-looking commercial building. Inside however, visitors encounter enthusiastic craftspeople who gladly show off their creations -- arms and legs, heads and chests, even entire bodies, all carefully displayed on tables and shelves. Welcome to the world of SIMETRI.
Our guide to this world of meticulously designed, anatomical models for medical training is SIMETRI’s President and CEO Angela Salva. First-time visitors may be tempted to imagine a dark, sterile place monitored by people in drab lab coats. However, in no time at all Angela dispels that false image. Her story and the story of SIMETRI offer a fascinating look at how one woman built a business by following her values and understanding what her business could be.
Identifying a Need and Adding Value
Citing impressive statistics of employment and economic impact, the Metro Orlando Economic Development Commission identifies our area as the nation’s epicenter for modeling, simulation and training. It is an environment in which Angela and her woman- and minority-owned, small business feel right at home.
From its beginning in 2009, SIMETRI has created an impressive reputation for quality in Central Florida’s dynamic simulation business. The company has grown by identifying targeted market opportunities while also contributing to the development of the overall environment for simulation technology.
In line with that dual approach, Angela became the current Chairman of the Board for the National Center for Simulation (NCS). The NCS is an organization that brings together government, academic and industry members, all of whom are committed to the development and advancement of simulation and related technologies. One of Angela’s chief goals as chairman is to assist in diversifying our Central Florida economy, while also maximizing the potential for technology as an engine for high-paying jobs and economic opportunity.
A Mission to Save Lives and Preserve Health
SIMETRI is a company that designs and builds anatomical models used for medical education and training. It has also created realistic simulations of battlefield wounds and injuries for use by the U.S. Army and its combat medics. The company‘s work was recognized In 2012 and 2013 when it was selected as a “Top Simulation and Training Company” by Military Training Technology magazine. SIMETRI’s effort to support realistic medical training is well summarized by its slogan: “Bringing art and technology together for immersive medical training.”
Angela is SIMETRI’s non-stop power source who deftly brings art and technology together to create remarkably life-like models. She has surrounded herself with a highly motivated team of experts whom she calls her family. Together they work in a close-knit environment where creativity and problem-solving are essential assets. The team unites behind an important mission. They want to save lives and preserve health.
We asked Angela how a young girl who came from Colombia with her parents at the age of five became the president of a company that designs highly sophisticated training devices for some very demanding customers.
She described the daunting challenges that her parents faced when arriving in the United States bringing with them only limited English skills. “My parents are the two greatest people I know,” says Angela. They worked multiple jobs to provide for their family. Angela and her two brothers worked alongside their parents performing custodial jobs. Angel’s father also found work as a teacher of GED courses in spite of his limited English.
With the support of their parents all three children successfully graduated college, with two of them earning advanced degrees.
“I learned the value of hard work and tenacity from the example of my parents,” says Angela. She also recognized that women sometimes must work twice as hard to achieve their goals and establish themselves in business. During her early years and today as a successful entrepreneur, Angels says, “My purpose was always to meet or exceed my parents’ expectations.”
The Path to SIMETRI
Angela began her career after graduating with a degree in Mathematics and Computer Science. She later added a Masters Degree in Computer Engineering from the University of Central Florida. After serving as a project manager and manager of business development for Indra Systems Inc., a foreign-owned company, she became its Vice President and Chief Operating Officer in 2004. During her time at Indra Systems she nearly tripled the company’s annual revenues that came from the development and delivery of military training programs.
Ultimately, Angela recognized that her interests and talents would be better suited to running a company which she owned. In that way, she could apply all she had learned from her family, education and work experiences. “My mother brainwashed me about having family as a foundational asset and value,” says Angela. She also says, “I like putting people together and making things happen.” SIMETRI became the vehicle for realizing her goals and living out her values.
Compassion and Empathy
Waymon Armstrong is the President of Engineering & Computer Simulations, a firm that employs technology to deliver education and training for a variety of government and commercial clients. Recognizing Angela as a “results-oriented person with a can-do attitude,” Waymon and his firm contracted and partnered with her and SIMETRI on a number of important medical training projects.
Waymon says that rather than being cold or impersonal, there is a considerable amount of “compassion and empathy” that goes into the development of technology-supported medical training. It is an area where he says Angela feels right at home and has made a personal commitment.
Based on his experience of working with Angela since 2009, Waymon describes her as a person “who is a parent, a leader, an entrepreneur, and someone who doesn’t have to get all the credit.” “There is a genuine humility about her,” he says.
The SIMETRI Family
At SIMETRI art, technology and a sense of family combine to create realistic, results-oriented medical training. That combination is reflected in the makeup of Angela’s team. Her director of special effects is a 30-year veteran with numerous film and television credits who also served as the art director for Ripley Entertainment, Inc. Her medical research engineer has served as a fire fighter and paramedic with the Winter Park Fire-Rescue Department since 2002. Angela is also joined by a former colleague from Indra Systems who now serves as a SIMETRI project manager.
Another important member of the SIMETRI family is Angela’s brother Antonio whose face, chest and arms serve as the model for many of the company’s interactive anatomical models. In addition to his degree in Biology and his ideal physical proportions, Antonio has the kind of patient personality that enables him to remain motionless as molding compound is applied to his features.
We asked Angela how she would summarize the elements that make her and her company successful. She says the qualities of tenacity and humility are essential. So also is a reputation for on-time delivery of what is promised. Just as important, however, is having real passion. For Angela, it is a passion that comes from an authentic understanding of personal and corporate goals and from an unflagging commitment to achieving those goals.
Most importantly, Angela says success lies in finding fulfillment in work, while also establishing a proper balance between work and family. At SIMETRI, there is a real symmetry between the mission of supporting medical simulation and the best approach for achieving that mission.
Photos by Daniel Kuykendall