Encouraging the next generation of healthtech problem solvers is a key goal of Fogarty Innovation, and this summer it partnered with Stanford University’s inaugural two-week Surgical Technology & Entrepreneurship program for high school students to expose young minds to the intriguing world of medical technology, innovation and entrepreneurship.
Part of Stanford’s Pre-Collegiate Summer Institutes program, run by Stanford Online High School, the course drew a diverse group of student applicants from 10 countries and 15 U.S. states. It was designed to provide an extensive overview of the changing medicine and surgery fields, exposing students to the clinical, engineering and business aspects of healthcare.
The course was taught be renowned practitioners from the Stanford Department of Surgery, including course directors Dr. Geoffrey Gurtner and Dr. James Korndorffer; Dr. Jagannath (Jagan) Padmanabhan, who served as course instructor; and Dr. Mary Hawn, chair of surgery at Stanford School of Medicine. Other instructors were innovators and educators from Stanford Biodesign, including Dr. Paul Yock; the Graduate School of Business and the School of Medicine, including Dr. Sarah Soule; and numerous members of the Fogarty Innovation senior leadership team, including Mike Regan, Marga Ortigas-Wedekind, Denise Zarins, Greg Bakan and John Morriss, who led all the sessions related to entrepreneurship.
A unique view into all aspects of medtech
The curriculum covered a host of timely topics including: an overview of innovation in healthcare; discussions surrounding current challenges in general, plastic, vascular and neurosurgery; the Biodesign process for needs-based innovation; design thinking; the future of robotics surgery; advice on business plans; an introduction to intellectual property; and best practices in creating a pitch deck, which culminated in a “Shark Tank” style project competition at the end of the program.
“In addition to introducing them to the basics of surgery and how engineering and technology development can address surgical challenges, we offered them a real-world perspective by sharing how Stanford faculty have developed these types of technology,” said Jagan. “Then the Fogarty collaborators helped them see how they take these ideas to create a startup and manage all the steps that will ideally help get the technology to patients, including market analysis, a pitch deck, IP strategy and more.”
A key part of the course was the “Shark Tank” style project, where students teamed up to develop a new product for a surgical problem, working with mentors, including surgery residents, to help them through the process.
“These students were extremely brave and not shy to explore their ideas,” said Jagan. They really pushed their boundaries of knowledge and dove headfirst into the program.” In fact, he added, they would almost always run over time with questions that reflected their level of engagement and interest.
Course director Geoff Gurtner commented that, “it was fascinating how cohesive the teams were given that all their interactions were virtual and the team members were often on different continents and time zones.”
“We’ve received overwhelmingly positive feedback on this inaugural program and look forward to continuing to build it as a unique way to develop talent in this field,” he said.
Fogarty Innovation brings field to life
The caliber of students was impressive, according to Fogarty’s Mike Regan, who also acted as a judge for the Shark Tank competition. “I was encouraged to see how thoughtful they are, driven by a strong sense of purpose and with an immense social justice conscience. They were able to communicate very clearly at such an early phase of their education and present and convey complex ideas.”
The international flair of the program added another fascinating layer, he said, noting the different ways students assessed healthcare issues and solutions depending on the needs in the region from which they hailed.
Denise Zarins lauded the dynamic format of Fogarty Innovation’s participation, with two senior staff members leading each session on entrepreneurship to keep the conversation fast paced and offer students two different perspectives.
“We look forward to continue collaborating with Stanford Surgery and helping expose more young minds to the world of innovation and entrepreneurship,” she said.
And, ideally, they inspired curiosity in potential related career paths as they introduced this next generation of future life sciences professionals to the field.
“Hopefully we were able to impart that solving health problems is the most rewarding thing anybody can do,” said Mike. “It’s complex and challenging—not for the faint of heart—but there’s no better feeling in the world.”