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Dental students win campus-wide start-up business competition3 min read

May 4, 2021

Dental students win campus-wide start-up business competition3 min read

Ann Arbor, Mich., May 4, 2021 – Three School of Dentistry students were recently notified that they won a campus-wide student business idea competition. Third-year dental students Nilay Patel, Raurie Petrich and Torrey Talifer won the “1000 Pitches” competition and will share the $1,000 first-place prize as they work to advance their idea into a start-up business.

From left, Nilay Patel, Raurie Petrich and Torrey Talifer

 1000 Pitches” is an annual competition open to all University of Michigan students and is sponsored by the U-M Office of the President, the Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovate Blue. This year’s competition considered exactly 1,000 new business ideas.

The dental students’ business idea involves a digital referral service to improve the process of referrals in dentistry between general practice and specialty providers. Based on personal experience and time spent in private practices, the budding entrepreneurs see gaps in key information being correctly and accurately shared between dentists when a referral case is initiated.

“I was referred for extractions as a teenager,” said Patel. “I got a paper referral but never followed up on it because I wasn’t in pain and didn’t think it was important at the time.  This was a missed opportunity for the original dentist.”

Petrich said research and his experience in specialty clinics indicate people don’t follow through on referrals unless they are in pain.  “It was surprising how much time and effort dentists have to spend to get pieces of information when the patient walks in the door. Referral notes are often incomplete, missing a diagnosis, and sometimes even wrong teeth are marked for extraction, which can lead to a very unfortunate outcome.”

The students discussed aspects of protected health information with Dion Taylor, Senior Data Security Analyst for the dental school’s Dental Informatics team.  Taylor referred them to Lynn Johnson, Associate Dean for Faculty Affairs and Institutional Effectiveness, to see if she could provide more perspective. “In addition to connecting us to dental entrepreneurs to discuss our idea, she also encouraged us to submit a pitch to the ‘1000 Pitches’ competition,” Talifer said.

“Torrey and I went to undergrad at U-M and had heard about ‘1000 Pitches,’ but we never thought about applying,” said Patel.  “Dr. Johnson really helped us find new ways to refine our business case and connect us to some valuable resources.”

For the competition, the team developed their pitch into a short video that was submitted during last fall’s two-month open window for entries. The video was produced with the help of fellow third-year dental student Holly Rizzo, who created and edited the short video to crisply describe the business concept. 

Moving forward, the students have already incorporated their company, Riziom, and are working to hire software developers to build the first product this summer. They hope to test the product on potential customers later this year and next. 


The University of Michigan School of Dentistry is one of the nation’s leading dental schools engaged in oral health care education, research, patient care and community service.  General dental care clinics and specialty clinics providing advanced treatment enable the school to offer dental services and programs to patients throughout Michigan.  Classroom and clinic instruction prepare future dentists, dental specialists and dental hygienists for practice in private offices, hospitals, academia and public agencies.  Research seeks to discover and apply new knowledge that can help patients worldwide.  For more information about the School of Dentistry, visit us on the Web at:  Contact: Lynn Monson, associate director of communications, at [email protected], or (734) 615-1971.