Ingrid Ellerbe has joined Diversity by Doing Healthtech (DxD), the health technology industry diversity initiative led by the Stanford Byers Center for Biodesign and Fogarty Innovation, as executive director. Ellerbe, who has spent the last 30 years helping underserved communities succeed in the technology and education industries, came out of retirement to take the part-time position. “It was an opportunity to continue the work I had been doing in a more focused way,” she said. “And frankly, the ‘doing’ part of Diversity by Doing was very appealing.”
“Over the past three years, DxD has grown from a handful of participants into a vibrant organization that develops diversity, equity, and inclusion initiatives for people across the health technology innovation spectrum, from student interns to board members,” said Paul Yock, the founder of Stanford Biodesign and a leader of DxD. “There’s clearly a tremendous appetite for meaningful ways to get involved in improving diversity in our ecosystem, and we’re delighted to have Ingrid on board to lead the way.”
“We are particularly grateful to Kim Ennis and BioQuest, who conducted the search for us,” said Marga Ortigas-Wedekind, chief commercial strategy officer of Fogarty Innovation and a DxD leader. “Kim had the insight to realize that we had lots of experience in health technology innovation. What we needed was experience leading volunteer-driven organizations to grow our diversity programs for health technology stakeholders. Ingrid was our dream candidate.”
About Ingrid Ellerbe
Ellerbe’s career as a doer was launched when she moved from Los Angeles to Baton Rouge to attend Southern University, a Historically Black College and University (HBCU). “In California, racial disparities existed but weren’t overt,” she said. “Down south it was out in the open. They still had drinking fountains that were marked for whites only.”
The eye-opening experience caused Ellerbe to “dig in deep.” She got involved in advocacy at Southern University and went on to devote her career to expanding educational opportunities for underserved students. “I think education is a civil right,” said Ellerbe. “But the more I traveled around the country, the more I saw that not all things are created equal and not everyone has a level playing field.”
Most recently, Ellerbe spent five years as the executive director of Base 11, a nonprofit workforce and entrepreneur development company that helps women and minorities succeed in STEM. The organization works across the education-employment continuum to motivate and train college students and set them on direct pathways to four-year STEM degrees, well-paid STEM jobs, and the opportunity to launch their own STEM-related businesses.
Ellerbe believes that Base 11’s motto, “Awareness, Access, and Belief,” accurately describes some of the biggest challenges in addressing racial inequities. “First, you have to be aware of the opportunities and what you can be and do,” she said. “If you are someone who didn’t grow up with engineers and doctors and people around you who are successful in STEM careers, then you don’t really know what’s out there.”
Belief comes from seeing people who look like you in those careers. And access is about making sure that trained students have a place to go. “We partnered with industry to make sure our students had job opportunities once they completed their education,” Ellerbe said. “And we were equally invested in entrepreneurship, shepherding students from community college through applying for grants to start their own businesses.”
During her tenure with Base 11, Ellerbe grew participation from three community colleges to 15, developed partnerships with universities and institutions across the country to provide fellowships and internships for students, and built programs to provide advanced technology training, including four MIT-inspired innovation centers. “The whole concept was to impact as many students as we could,” said Ellerbe. “We had a target of 11,000 students. We reached that goal a year early and kept on growing.”
STEM and Personal Impact
Two things that Ellerbe finds most motivating are driving people to STEM careers and seeing the positive impact of those choices. Both will be key characteristics of her new position with DxD.
“I like to be hands-on and work alongside women and minorities to help them succeed in STEM fields,” Ellerbe said. “A career in STEM changes the trajectory of someone’s life. I’ve seen women who thought – and who were told – ‘you can’t be an engineer, you can’t be this or that’ blossom when they started taking courses at institutions like Caltech.”
Ellerbe adds that in health technology, the industry has just as much to gain from increased diversity. “Health technology innovation can reach its greatest potential when the people involved – from entry level all the way up to leadership – look like the people they serve. That means not only attracting diverse talent, but learning to appreciate the different backgrounds, different cultures, and different ideas that are brought to the table.”
As Ellerbe takes the helm of DxD on May 3, her first priority will be to talk to all of the organization’s stakeholders. “There’s a design process I use where I bring everybody in the room and ask, ‘What do you want out of this?’ Once I identify common goals, we can build programs and work towards them.”
To measure success, she is a firm believer in “inspecting what you expect.” She explained, “I love how it feels to make a difference in people’s lives, but I also know that you have to have some level of accountability. As a group, we’ll need to define how many people we want to impact and what will that look like.”
To help Ellerbe accomplish these goals, she plans to rely on what she describes as her “personal superpower,” emotional intelligence. “I am still tightly connected to 90% of the people I have worked with,” she said. “It’s a testament to the fact that I care about them. I’ve learned how to listen and absorb what’s going on so that I can best lead and support all the different stakeholders who need to get involved in order to create opportunities and make an impact.”
(Photo caption) Directionally correct: Ingrid Ellerbe in Sedona, Arizona, as she was preparing to step into her new DxD adventure. Photo courtesy of Brigitte Archer.
This articles was written by Stacey Paris McCutcheon, Manager of Academic Projects and Communications, Stanford Biodesign.