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Entries in Innovation (12)


Starting A Company As A Medical Student: An Interview With Stephanie Bravo

Having A Good Mentor Can Make A Big Difference

It has been said that you are the average of the five people you spend the most time around. If that is true, the formula is simple; find people that are doing what you want to do and tag along. Unfortunatly, it's not always this simple; however, StudentMentor.org is changing that. This company is dedicated to helping college students find mentors to help them along their journey. They are working with students from over 700 colleges in the the United States. They are currently partnering with the White House on several national education initiatives. It's an impressive operation!

So how did this whole thing get started? I caught up with Stephanie Bravo who is Co-founder of studentmentor.org. At the time, she was a medical student at University of California Irvine School Of Medicine. She is currently President of the company and works full time with the organization and has alot of good advice for medical students.

How did you decide to start StudentMentor.org?

I decided to start StudentMentor.org after having a life-changing experience with a mentor during my years as an undergraduate. I was a first-generation college student who felt completely lost at a large public university and was unsure about my future. But then I found my mentor through the Stanford University Minority Medical Alliance Medical Mentorship Program, and this experience changed my life. My mentor, Dr. Matthew Goldstein (http://www.studentmentor.org/about-us/advisory-board/#goldstein), was a medical student at Stanford University School of Medicine, and he provided so much guidance throughout my studies, especially during those challenging times when completing college and attaining a career as a physician seemed out of reach. Even more than that, we got to talking about life, family, and a variety of other things where he provided tremendous support for me at times when I had no one else to help me. Because of my life-changing experience, I wanted to help other students connect with mentors who could help them at crucial stages in their academic and career pursuits. Thus, StudentMentor.org was born to help students complete college and enhance their career readiness by connecting them with seasoned professionals from a wide variety of backgrounds and industries.

What where some of the challenges/perks of starting a company while in medical school?

There were not enough hours in the day for me to be a well-balanced person, succeed in medical school, and lead an organization. It was very difficult to maintain my course load and go through the process of creating something from scratch. I had to rely on my StudentMentor.org co-founder and friends in medical school to help me juggle. Shifting between these roles was tough, but both required a great deal of tenacity and a strong work ethic. With those in tow, I pursued both medicine and my startup nonprofit for a while. I managed to survive by being very diligent, disciplined, and organized. But, because I was incredibly passionate about StudentMentor.org and the broader issue of higher education, I decided to fully commit to leading my organization and put becoming a physician on the backburner. I know I made the right decision when we received a call from the White House inviting us to meet the President and speak with officials about StudentMentor.org in December 2011. Additionally, after one year, 5000+ mentors and students from all around the nation are connecting and beginning meaningful mentorships. It’s very exciting to be at the helm of an organization that is soaring to great heights at a record pace.

How can medical students and residents get involved as a mentor and what is the time commitment that a mentor makes?

The time commitment for mentors varies depending on their availability. You can communicate with mentees at any time convenient for you. We recommend that mentors set aside about 30 minutes a week to mentor one student. Since professionals come from a variety of industries and backgrounds, it’s very flexible to their schedules. Medical students all the way up to attending physicians can serve as mentors. We even have resident physicians in the program who somehow find time to help their mentees. I hope that those UncommonStudentMDs will consider joining StudentMentor.org too.

You have become an expert at helping people find mentors. Can you give some advice on how to find and approach a mentor?

The best way to reach out to potential mentors is to ask them if they have time to grab coffee. If you speak candidly about looking forward to hearing their experiences and learning from them, then a potential mentor will be receptive. It’s not a good idea to lead with what you want to get out of the relationship, e.g. a letter of reference, the contact information for their colleague, etc. Like with any relationship, you have to put in the time to build trust, and that starts with putting yourself out there by telling your story, sharing your goals, and realizing that a mentor’s insight is extremely important in helping you achieve your goals.

Do you have any advice for medical students who would like to start a business?

Taking time off from school might be the best move since building a business is a huge time commitment—kind of like medical school, but without a 4-year plan or any other roadmap. That being said, I’ve had amazing classmates at UC Irvine School of Medicine who have written and published novels, created student organizations, and ran underserved clinics while still maintaining a full course load—so it is possible!

Another, big tip is to reach out for help and persuade people to your cause. If you can build a movement that your classmates are passionate about as well, then you’ll have 100+ medical students in your corner to help get your business off the ground. It’s very important to build and utilize your networks in any business, including medicine.

Why did you want studentmentor.org to be a non-profit instead of a for profit company?

There are pros and cons to both entities. In a for-profit entity, the bottom line would always rule and not necessarily doing the most good for the cause. We decided to become a nonprofit to keep the monies accrued by the organization focused toward achieving its goals. Additionally, it was a lot easier to recruit mentors who are all volunteers.

If you could pick one book for every medical student to read what would it be?

I would recommend “The Empowered Patient” by Elizabeth Cohen, CNN Senior Medical Correspondent. It’s great to read books on the “white coat” reading list, but a holistic understanding of the medical profession comes from reading books written for patients as well. This book by Cohen offers patients insight into how patients should go about getting the best medical care possible. She argues for being a “bad patient” by asking questions and not blindingly doing what you are told until you understand what and why you need to do it. As future physicians, it’s absolutely critical to be able to communicate with patients. So, learning more about the patient's perspective and trying to meet them where they stand is a good start to becoming a great physician.

 Video: Why I Started StudentMentor.org

 Video: How StudentMentor.org Works




Say Goodbye to Your Stethoscope: An Interview With Dr. J. Christian Fox


With Portable Ultrasound, Some Medical Students are Already Ahead of the Curve.

So you're on wards, doing your best to look smart, take care of your patients, and get that fine letter of recommendation. Suddenly, the attending thinks he hears an extra sound while doing a cardiac exam. Now, full of joy and self pride, he will take time to let you have a listen. The goal, of course, is so you can develop your powers of cardiac auscultation or look like an idiot, the latter being more likely. Either way, you eagerly place your stethoscope over the patient's chest wall with a very intelligent and contemplative look, all while trying your best not to seem studentish. Tuning in to listen, you even furrow your eyebrow a little, shake your head up and down and mutter, “Hummmm very interesting....yeah...that’s very interesting,” careful not to oversell it. Of course, you hear no murmur, nothing other than good ol’ S1 and S2 lub dubbing along. But, you cannot disappoint your attending who is looking down at you full of pride for catching this slight blip on the radar of the patient's cardiac cycle. He is just glad someone is here to appreciate the level of medical acumen that has just been demonstrated and imparted to a future doctor who will carry on the sacred art.

Learning to identify and diagnose patients based on every little slosh or swoosh heard by your stethoscope is a skill that we are all expected to master as a medical student. However, according to Dr. Eric Tropol, you may never need it as a physician. As I watched the TEDMED talk by Dr.Topol, I learned that we may not need the stethoscope for long. Medical wireless and portable ultrasound companies are developing new devices that make it possible for doctors to carry an Echocardiograph machine in their lab coat. So now I don’t feel so bad about my underdeveloped auscultation powers. If I cannot hear something, I’ll just get and echo or ultrasound; problem solved.

However, now we have another predicament. Have you ever been asked to explain what you see on an ultrasound or echo? I have, and I get the same feeling when looking at a Jackson Pollock painting. Usually, my face gets all wrinkled, I shrug my shoulders and shake my head, utterly clueless. I have also been known to take the 3D Magic Eye approach, pushing my nose to the screen and staring intensely, hoping that a 3D image will magically pop out at me making the diagnosis. Hasn’t happened yet, but I’m still optimistic. There are a few medical students in the nation who are probably reading this and thinking I’m a giant kook because they can read ultrasounds in their sleep. Dr. J Christian Fox is the director of University of California Irvine’s portable ultrasound program. Part of his passion is to give the medical students and residents training in ultrasound techniques. He sees that the use of ultrasound will continue to grow as a tool for diagnosing and treating disease. After the interview, I was left wondering why more institutions aren’t teaching ultrasound in their curriculum.

 To Learn More Visit:

Check out our conversation below


Radiologists Putting Surgeons Out Of Business?

Looks like the scalpel might be getting replaced by a keyboard and mouse

I recently watched a video where patients underwent surgery without a single cut. It's pretty unbelievable! For the past 13 years, Yoav Medan has been working as a pioneer in MR guided Focused Ultrasound Surgery. As I watched this clip,  I had visions of my future self telling my grandchildren (in a crotchety old man voice) about the good ol' days when we used to get to cut our patients open and slosh through their insides during surgery....those where the days.  I guess surgeons will have to start being a little nicer to the radiologists. They may need a job from them someday.



There Must Be A Better Way

Physician Burnout

10 Steps To Avoid Becoming "That Doctor"

“What man actually needs is not a tensionless state but rather the striving and struggling for some goal worthy of him. What he needs is not the discharge of tension at any cost, but the call of a potential meaning waiting to be fulfilled by him.” - Dr. Viktor Frankl

Recently, I was examining a 4 year old boy who came to the clinic with a cough. As I bent my six foot five inch frame down to his level and pressed my stethoscope to his small chest, he watched me intensely. I flashed him a quick smile; he returned the favor and continue to observe every move I made. When I finished listening to his lungs, his curiosity could no longer be contained. He looked at me and said, “Can I listen to your heart now?” So for a moment we traded places; he became the doctor and me the patient. He was actually quite good at imitating me by quietly tuning in to hear my heart beat and prompting me for a deep breath by inhaling and nodding for me to follow suit. As he was finishing with my exam, his mother, beaming with pride, said, “He wants to be a doctor, and that’s what I want him to do too.” I chuckled thinking at once of my many sleepless nights, stress over exams, and the events with family and friends I had already missed in pursuit of this noble goal, and I’m just getting started.

As the little boy and his mom left the clinic, I began to think about the many overworked physicians I see or speak to, who started out like my young patient then slowly had the wonder and excitement sucked out of their physician experience. Some doctors have even responded to my questions for advice with, “I have no idea why anyone would want to go into medicine any more!” If I’m honest, sometimes I feel they may have a point. Then again, I have met physicians who still love the work they do. Over the weekend, I spent some time with a family friend who is an ER doctor. I asked if he got frustrated by all the “waste of time” consults he sees in the emergency department. Looking at me genuinely he said, “Every patient visit is an honor for me, I see them as a life I can touch.” I guess I shouldn’t have been taken back, but I didn’t expect that response from an ER doc with 30 years under his belt.

The question that begs to be asked is simple, "What’s the difference?" We have all met different versions of both doctors and one has to wonder what makes a doctor bitter, miserable, and look 10 years older than they should and the other still happy to examine or even reexamine a child with a cold because his pushy paranoid mom insists her son needs a prescription right now! Does it all come down to specialty, work hours, who gets paid more, or just personality?

This question is one that I am not qualified to answer, and is one that I will likely continue to answer throughout my career. However, I did find a great start in a comment Dr. Arlen Meyers posted in response to my post on Practicing Medicine In The Year 2050. You can read it there, but it’s worth a reprint.

For those who don’t know, Dr. Meyers is and ENT Surgeon, entrepreneur, author, educator, and CEO and President of the Society of Physician Entrepreneurs.

Here's what I would say to students interested in medicine:

  1. Like anything else, follow your heart, not your parents.
  2. There are lots of ways to make a difference with an MD degree other than seeing patients.
  3. You will need to get your ticket punched (MD degree, residency) to do most of them.
  4. Don't tell the admissions officer at the medical school that you have no interest in practicing medicine.
  5. Hear all the people who are bitching. Just don't listen to them.
  6. Don't be a slave to debt if possible. Sacrifice and pay it off as soon as possible.
  7. Taking care of business is a part of taking care of patients. Start learning it as soon as possible on your own because you won't learn it in medical school.
  8. Innovate
  9. Innovate
  10. Innovate

These ten steps are not a prescription for an easy, turn-key career, but they will allow you to have a career on your own terms. I believe that these 10 things will make the difference between physicians who continue to stay engaged and passionate and those who become jaded and defeated.


Practicing Medicine In The Year 2050

Our future patients may need vaccines and antivirus software.

For those who have not seen or heard of the documentary, Transcendent Man, it is a film that chronicles the life and work of author, inventor, and futurist Ray Kurzweil. The film is at once fascinating and uncomfortable. It makes The Matrix look like a prophecy the will soon become reality. In another 40 years, according to Kurzweil, you may be presented with the same desicion as Neo, swallow the red pill and end up downloading kung fu. He firmly believes that in the next 40-50 years humans will merge with machines, and artificial intelligence will become self aware. So if you are sick of trying to remember intimate details of purine metabolism, forget it, just download the software update. The reason we will need to enhance our brains is simple. Technology will eventually hit a point referred to as “the singularity”  where improvements will be made so fast that the normal human brain will not be able to keep up without plugging into the matrix, so to speak.

This movie also explores the future of medicine. Doctors will have machines the size of red blood cells armed with one thousand times the computing power of my mac. These little cyborgs will go cruising through our vasculature diagnosing and treating disease as they float along. Really, it's unfortunate we have to wait for them because if I have to get pimped on nephrotic membranoproliferative glomerulonephritis one more time, I think I might loose it.

I guess no can say for sure what the field of medicine will look like in even 20 years; but one thing is for certain, it will have many changes. In fact, medicine is likely to change more in the next 20 years than it has in the last 100, which is both a frightening and exciting thought. For the physicians of the next generation, memorizing and mastering the current treatments and practices will not be enough. The next wave of great doctors will be creative thinkers, innovators, and those who are most able to embrace and navigate change. All that said, I might still wait a few years before I start downing pills offered to me by some random large black man in a leather coat.

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