Meet Pittsburgh's 40 Under 40 Honorees for 2017
We present this year's class of 40 people under the age of 40 who are making Pittsburgh a better place.
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Steve Fleck (39)
President and CEO, Careform
When Steve Fleck founded his first healthcare company, ClearCount Medical Solutions, in 2005, he was also pursuing an MBA at Carnegie Mellon University’s Tepper School of Business. Nine years later, he sold the medical device company to Stryker Medical. Fleck loved being an entrepreneur, and he told himself that if he were blessed with a second startup, he would apply what he learned the first time around. He got that opportunity in 2012 and used it to start an innovative healthcare company. Careform uses a platform that allows doctors to track certain pharmaceuticals and reimbursements. Patients can access information on pharmaceutical reimbursement, access and affordability. The company has grown to over $15 million in revenue and has more than 150 employees. “I have been blessed and fortunate to run a successful business two times,” he says. Fleck, who received his undergraduate degree from Cornell University, says he was inspired by his grandfather, who founded a coal company in addition to working as a real estate developer, president of a bank, and a town commissioner. “He taught me there are no shortcuts to success,” he says.
Brian Burley (31)
President and CEO, Burley & Company Enterprises
Brian Burley has mentored many minority youth and shared his own experiences as a young businessman of color. Burley, who received an MBA at the University of Pittsburgh, went on to become a successful black businessman and entrepreneur with his own publishing arm and foundation. But, Burley knew he was fighting the negative stereotypes of African Americans. So he decided to create a literal counter narrative of his own to inspire young people of color and the city at-large. He wrote and published a coffee table book called “YNGBLKPGH” after working with more than 140 young black Pittsburghers to describe their blueprint for success. Each profile includes a handwritten letter to the younger generation with wisdom, hopes and inspiration. “I wanted it to feel as genuine as a book can feel,” he says. The book was funded with the help of a BMe Community Leader grant he received in 2015 for his work as a young black man promoting positive images in the community. People ask him when a second volume will be published; he says it’s coming soon. “We can also do volumes 3, 4 and 5,” he says.
B. Reeja Jayan (37)
Assistant Professor (Mechanical Engineering, Materials Science & Engineering, Chemical Engineering), Carnegie Mellon University
B. Reeja Jayan’s expertise is in designing more efficient materials for manufacturing by lowering the energy required to produce them. When she was diagnosed with celiac disease while working on the last leg of her Ph.D., she set out to find a material that could act as a sensor for proteins to detect gluten proteins in foods and other products. “They tell you to avoid gluten and go home,” she says. “But gluten is in everything.” She says she ultimately hopes to create a product that consumers and doctors can use to test for allergens. In her work at CMU, she teaches mechanical engineering students about materials using the game Minecraft. “It was no longer learning,” she says. “It was fun.” She started with senior undergraduates, but she looks forward to current middle schoolers entering her classroom. “They love this game, and they are experts,” she says, adding that they “know much more about the game than I will ever know.”
Mila Sanina (31)
Executive Director, PublicSource.org
As the executive director of PublicSource.org, Mila Sanina is passionate about digital storytelling and public-service journalism that gets to the heart of issues in western Pennsylvania. As an example, she cites the series her staff did on the inequities facing black girls in Allegheny County. “It showed how much this demographic has the deck stacked against them,” she says. When Sanina took the helm at PublicSource in July 2016, she tweaked the company’s mission to go beyond storytelling and be more focused on the community. PublicSource also hosts in-person events, bringing attention to issues such as poverty in small-town America, as addressed in a speech by J.D. Vance, bestselling author of “Hillbilly Elegy.” Sanina grew up in Kazakhstan, then part of the Soviet Union. She notes that Kazakhstan’s leaders did not permit freedom of the press or protect journalists. “I always wanted to be journalist,” she says. “I was born in the wrong country.” Sanina worked at PBS and CNN International before moving to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, where her final position at the newspaper was deputy managing editor. In her short tenure at PublicSource, she has already doubled traffic to the site — but with hard-hitting stories written by the nine-member staff, not through frothy page clicks. “PublicSource is essential to making Pittsburgh a smarter Pittsburgh,” she says.