Someday, Dr. Maria Bell predicts, there will be some form of medicine practiced in the metaverse.

The virtual universe still in its early stages of development lends itself to that, said Bell, a longtime gynecologic oncologist at Sanford Health.

Think about child psychology, she suggests.

“I think it’s less intimidating to talk to an avatar than a human being,” said Bell, who also has served on the Sanford Health board of trustees. “I think there will be medical applications in the metaverse, and so that’s how I started.”

With an eye toward the future of her field and a growing curiosity in the emerging technology, she bought a ticket to The Sandbox, a virtual world where participants can buy virtual land and use it to create and monetize their own, largely entertainment-related, experiences.

“I said, ‘I have to see it for myself, to see this technology and what it can do.’ All the big corporate people are there. Nike. Snoop Dogg. I went to a Snoop Dogg concert in The Sandbox,” she said. “All these big-name players are there, so you know they think there is value.”

What did it look like in health care? That wasn’t immediately clear.

But, at age 60, Bell had an MBA she says she has “never used” and an entrepreneurial bent that needed exploring.

“I’ve always been entrepreneurial and an innovator but never took a personal financial risk,” she said. “I told myself: ‘You’re 60. If you’re not going to do it now, you’re not going to do it,’ and I set a limit for how much I was willing to invest.”

While she continues to work full time in health care, she formed Digital Twin Imaging about a year ago — originally with the idea of places, services or assets related to medicine in the metaverse. She hired Elliot Barnes, a longtime family friend and recent SDSU grad with a degree in graphic design and an interest in new technology, and the two began learning how to use sophisticated cameras, drone and scanners.


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