Fogarty Innovation once again achieved what it does best: help prime the next generation of medtech entrepreneurs through its 2023 Lefteroff summer internship, which attracted a cohort of accomplished, enthusiastic students to learn more about the dynamic world of medtech and the career possibilities it offers.
Launched in 2014 to honor former board member and avid supporter of Fogarty Innovation, Tracy Lefteroff, the program has reached 116 interns over the past decade.
A multi-faceted experience
The Lefteroff program offered both breadth and depth. The experience kicked off with a core curriculum, where senior Fogarty staff members provide a crash course in all the different elements that are needed to get a technology to market.
Other key aspects include a clinical immersion program, where interns met with physicians in different specialties and participated in clinical care observation, thanks to the generosity of El Camino Health and more than 30 host doctors and nurses. Each intern also was embedded with FI staff or one of Fogarty’s startups, where they used their own expertise and knowledge to complete a real-world project to help the company progress. In addition, they took field trips to visit companies farther along in the development and commercialization process.
“The goal of the program is to expose enterprising young men and women to medical innovation and related careers,” said Dr. Zach Edmonds, who serves as chief medical officer at Fogarty in addition to practicing at El Camino Health. “We are proud of the unique experience we offer and are excited to see how these interns will put their knowledge into practice throughout their career journey.”
The success of the program is due to the avid participation of so many Fogarty team members, including Gretchen Berstler, Marga Ortigas-Wedekind, Fred St Goar, Denise Zarins and Zach.
“It’s so inspiring to see the sense of purpose and creativity from these young people who are destined to help shape the future of medtech innovation,” said Gretchen, who serves as program manager. “And of course we appreciate the dedication of so many industry professionals who graciously offer their time, talent and advice.”
An insider’s view of the medtech lifecycle
The program evolves and grows each year to provide dynamic new opportunities that help keep it fresh. This year, one of the exciting updates included a daylong visit to The Foundry and Abbott, where interns heard the story of prominent industry success Evalve and its groundbreaking technology, the minimally invasive, catheter-based MitraClip system. The goal of the visit was to illustrate the medtech ecosystem lifecycle through this concept, which was conceived and developed at The Foundry, commercialized, and then successfully exited when the company was acquired by Abbott.
“It was quite the ‘start-to-finish’ story we were able to offer, as we aimed to show the interns what they might accomplish someday,” said Fred, the physician inventor of the revolutionary system, who participated in the discussion, along with Hanson Gifford, CEO and managing partner of The Foundry.
Interns share success stories
We spoke to a few interns to hear more what they did and learned at Fogarty and how this experience will help shape their future career plans.
Mac, who recently graduated from Hamilton College in Clinton, New York, where he studied neuroscience, discovered his time with Fogarty confirmed his interest in attending medical school and approaching innovation from that lens.
He was surprised by the breadth of experiences they had in a relatively short amount of time; for example, throughout his shadowing days, he was able to see nine different medical specialties. He also had an excellent experience with his company, Enspectra Health. Mac helped finalize verification testing, then conducted market research to inform commercialization strategy so they can move quickly after gaining their impending FDA clearance.
Shivam is a senior at Georgetown University, studying healthcare management and policy on the pre-med track although he hopes to work in industry prior to committing to medical school.
During the internship he worked on integrating and launching Fogarty’s expansive new Customer Relationship Management (CRM) platform.
Shivam appreciated the professionals who generously donated their time and expertise to share their experiences and offer their inside perspective. In particular, he enjoyed hearing about their achievements as they exited the industry and pivoted to independent consulting or venture capital.
A recent graduate of the University of Arizona where he studied ecology and evolutionary biology/microbiology, Nikhil is currently weighing his options. Prior to the internship he planned to pursue a PhD in microbiology, but now he’s considering a new path that incorporates medtech as well.
During the internship, Nikhil worked with Auricle on bench model testing, with a prototype that simulated the fluids in the human ear to test the efficacy of different adhesives. He then helped document and standardize the procedure to help the teams be able to access data more efficiently in the future. His favorite part was the connections he was able to make, fulfilling a goal he set to proactively meet as many industry professionals as possible – asking for advice and finding out more about their individual paths. He also valued the field trips, particularly one to Tallac Therapeutics, due to his interest in biotech.
For Arushi, who will be a junior at University of California, Davis, studying biomedical engineering, the internship helped clarify her goals, including a plan to pursue biomedical engineering rather than medical school after graduation. She came to that conclusion while shadowing procedures, where she discovered she was more interested in the robotic aspect of surgeries than the surgeon’s role.
During her work with Materna Health, Arushi got a firsthand look at all the aspects involved in creating a medical device, including the steps needed to commercialize a product and bring it to market. Arushi enjoyed the diverse nature of the intern cohort, especially meeting people from out-of-state and hearing about their experiences and how they chose their unique path.
Samantha (Sam) Sternfeld
A rising senior at Stanford studying biomechanical engineering with a minor in computer science, Sam was excited to explore career possibilities that would make use of her mechanical engineering and bioengineering background.
For her company project, she worked with Immergo Labs on an intensive data organization project to document a recent study, which will yield her an impressive publication credit. Sam also soaked in the information gleaned from the background “101” classes, which she says helped expand her point of view and gave her a glimpse into how broad the field is and how many different things people can do, while all working toward the same goal.
An experience that will have long-lasting effects
As Fogarty CEO Andrew Cleeland kicked off the graduation ceremony, he said, “This is a bittersweet day for us – it’s a great day that these interns are taking the next step after their sojourn with us, but we hate seeing them go, as they enliven this place with their energy and enthusiasm.”
As he reminded attendees, “This program is designed to inspire the next generation to come into the medtech and healthcare industries and improve patients’ lives. I look forward to hearing what these interns’ futures hold and the impact they will make collectively and individually, as part of our family, always.”