“If you want to go quickly, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.” - African proverb
Among the pieces of wisdom passed down to the 2015-16 fellows, this aphorism has stuck with me most among the many heard during my fellowship year. It may admittedly be because it’s repeated often at MI2; however, the phrase is also the best encapsulation of my experiences as a fellow and what I take with me into my post fellowship future.
Innovation is an inherently chaotic and disjointed process. Within health care, innovation is notorious for also being slow-moving. It’s not hard to come up with ideas that are well-informed and can address a key need in health care—in fact, we spent a few months in the trenches at the MedStar Diabetes Institute and came up with a couple hundred. What makes innovating in healthcare so challenging is not the search for new ideas, but the significant headwinds inherent in evolving and executing those ideas.
As has been highlighted in previous HFA blog posts, the core reason we succeeded in sustaining and recently transitioning WellRooted into MedStar Healthy despite those headwinds was through remaining true to the second half of the above aphorism. Patients, clinicians, educators, committees, startups, executives—it took us selling nearly everyone on our vision and bringing them actively into our orbit before we could claim progress, let alone “mission accomplished.”
So, with my role in the fellowship at long last complete, what’s next? Throughout the fellowship, I was fortunate to meet many passionate entrepreneurs who share my love of health care and technology. If my pre-fellowship work in consulting taught me how to analyze startups based on their ideas, then the fellowship certainly expanded that to include a startup’s ability to execute and (relatedly) their empathy for their users. Through this lens, I’ve joined two early-stage digital health startups that I believe have both the brains to dream of a better future for health care and the entrepreneurial brawn to make those dreams a reality.
One of these startups is Amalgam Rx, a company focused on developing digital therapies that improve the lives of patients living with a chronic disease. The company recently announced their first product: iSage Rx, a basal insulin titration app for adults with type 2 diabetes that can be used directly or integrated into other apps. Their second upcoming project, and the one on which I’ve focused my time as a product manager, concerns psoriasis.
As if working for one startup isn’t enough, I’ve also been working with a second startup in the cardiovascular space. While work at most early stage companies requires doing a little bit of everything, my role here most closely resembles business development. Success in health care has always required understanding and empathizing with not only patients but all stakeholders. I consider myself fortunate that my roles for both companies afford me that opportunity.
As I expand my knowledge from one chronic disease to another and another, I’m reminded of what Dr. Smith shared with me in our first conversation: “Mastering diabetes is the key to understanding how the whole of modern medicine works.” After nearly two years since the start of my fellowship, I’m beginning to see the threads that connect diabetes to other chronic conditions at all levels of the healthcare system. Even after now multiple years of learning about various chronic conditions, I’m still discovering just how much more there is to learn. Entrepreneurship is a path that grows longer and more complex the farther I travel along it. It’s also a path that I’m thankfully not traveling alone due to the fellowship.
Dan Hoff is an alum of the 2015-16 fellowship who continues to work in the healthcare startup space. Read all Alumni Voices posts here.