Academic Software Developer Wins UB Entrepreneur Award

Release Date: June 2, 2009

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John Eisner will be honored during Business Partners Day for starting a company that develops software products for applications in academic administration.

BUFFALO, N.Y. -- In 1993, John Eisner, D.D.S., Ph.D., was asked to develop software to streamline the admissions process at the University at Buffalo's School of Dental Medicine, where he was associate dean.

Eisner responded to that challenge not just with a solution for UB but with a solution that other dental schools could use as well.

The result was Academic Management Systems, an academic software company with more than $2 million in sales, located in UB's Technology Incubator, where it has expanded its space three times, most recently last month.

Over the past three years, the company has doubled in size and now has approximately 20 employees.

At Business Partners Day on June 4, Eisner, UB associate professor emeritus of dentistry, will be presented with this year's UB Faculty Entrepreneur Award. The award recognizes faculty who demonstrate the vision and perseverance to translate their discoveries and inventions into products that improve the well-being of individuals and communities.

"John Eisner is a unique person, who has both the technical and management skills necessary to bring to market a useful innovation to benefit society," said Robert J. Genco, vice provost and director of the UB Office of Science, Technology Transfer and Economic Outreach (STOR). "He had a vision to produce software products with broad application, as well as specific goals and the persistence to make it a commercial success.

"His success shows that UB supports entrepreneurs and over time, this entrepreneurial culture will result in a better quality of life for our citizens and a great stimulus to our regional economy," said Genco.

Eisner started his career as a professor of community dentistry, but had begun taking on administrative roles, especially in information technology, at the University of Dalhousie in Canada, and at UB, starting in 1989.

While Eisner was associate dean for information resources in the UB School of Dental Medicine, the school's former dean Louis Goldberg asked him to develop a program that would streamline the school's admissions process.

"I told him we could write a program just for UB and I could do it in about six months," remembered Eisner, who was also chairing an information technology advisory committee for the American Dental Education Association. "But I knew that other schools were also facing the same challenge, so I asked the dean if he would mind if, instead, we wrote an 'industrial strength' version that we could then sell to other schools.

"A lot of other deans would have probably said, 'No, that's not our core business,'" said Eisner, "but Dean Goldberg said, 'That sounds exciting. Go for it.'"

In 1995, the company sold three copies of AdMIT through a non-profit organization that was run through the UB Foundation; the following year, it sold six.

After that, Eisner said, "sales went through the roof."

In 2001, Academic Management Systems moved into space in the UB Technology Incubator and Eisner became its vice president. The same year, Academic Management Systems became a subsidiary of Liaison International, Inc., a Massachusetts-based software solutions company; Liaison's president, George Haddad, formed a partnership with Eisner and Michael Russo, director of software development for Academic ManagementSystems.

"Now we have more than 200 admissions software customers, not just at dental schools but in other health professions schools, including medical, pharmacy and veterinary schools," said Eisner.

In 2007, Academic Management Systems got a significant boost when it was awarded a contract from the American Physical Therapy Association to provide its product, ClinicEval, as the system that the association offers to all physical therapy programs to manage and evaluate the off-site clinical experiences of their students.

"Before APTA had this product, all clinical assessment was done on paper and it was difficult for physical therapy programs to follow the progress of their students while they were off-campus," said Eisner. "Now, both the remote clinical instructors and students have a single, Web-based method for assessment that allows daily monitoring by the directors of clinical education. It's a well-researched, national model for clinical assessment that we believe will be adopted by other health professions."

The company's other products include: CoursEval™, which provides "end of term" course and instructor assessments and has more than 200 customers at large and mid-sized universities; GrADMIT, a Web-based application management system for graduate schools used at UB, and SiteAssign, a software program that helps provide students in the health professions with a lottery-style approach to the selection of clinical preceptor sites.

Eisner is quick to attribute much of what his company has achieved to his partners' support and to the 20 people Academic Management Systems now employs.

"I can't emphasize this enough," he said, "this entrepreneurship award from UB is really for all of us at AMS. We have shared a common vision and commitment along the way, but you're only as good as your staff. It's a great team!"

Eisner added that several partnership agreements and the implementation of lean management practices, such as those promoted by the Six Sigma philosophy, have contributed to the company's success. He also said the company has benefited from the excellent assistance it has received through UB STOR.

The University at Buffalo is a premier research-intensive public university, a flagship institution in the State University of New York system and its largest and most comprehensive campus. UB's more than 28,000 students pursue their academic interests through more than 300 undergraduate, graduate and professional degree programs. Founded in 1846, the University at Buffalo is a member of the Association of American Universities.

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