Fogarty Innovation’s highly successful and popular Lefteroff summer internship program returned this year after a COVID-induced break, with 15 eager students from around the country.
The internship, created to honor former board member and avid supporter of Fogarty Innovation, Tracy Lefteroff, is designed to cultivate and inspire the next generation of entrepreneurs and innovators in life sciences. It was launched in 2014 and has been evolving and growing ever since.
“It is always a challenging task to select from the talented pool of applicants, and each year the students raise the bar with their intellectual curiosity, enthusiasm and passion,” said Fred St Goar, program co-founder and Fogarty Innovation vice chairman of the board. “It’s exciting to see how much they grow and learn, and a good reminder that the industry is in good hands with bright minds like this.”
The multi-faceted program revolves around education with Fogarty staff, who share insights on entrepreneurial-related topics from launching a startup to intellectual property and commercialization; real-world projects with the companies-in-development at Fogarty; and shadowing clinicians, which is always a highlight for the students.
It offers a broad exposure to the medtech ecosystem through interaction with a variety of companies and organizations of different sizes and scopes, such as Action Potential Venture Capital, Abbott, Alydia Health, Stanford Biodesign, Medtronic and El Camino Health; along with self-directed activities and classes on diverse topics like cybersecurity, women’s health, machine learning and career planning. The interns also participated in a variety of social activities to come together and bond as a class.
“All of us at Fogarty enjoy having the interns here working directly on projects with the companies-in-development, which is where they spend about half their time,” says Denise Zarins, program director and Fogarty Innovation CTO. “Students are paired with the startups based on their skillsets and the projects the companies need assistance with for the summer. It’s a chance for them to have an incredible hands-on experience, working side by side with engineers, clinicians and marketing professionals.”
Here are the impressions from three of the students with whom we had the opportunity to catch up:
Kristina Claras, studying bioengineering at Oregon State University
Kristina worked with Fogarty company-in-residence Chronus Health on blood enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA), which is a way to quantify a target protein, such as albumin, which is an important blood protein. She particularly enjoyed the shadowing at the hospital and was able to watch a total hip replacement, which she had learned about for a final school project and was excited to see come to life.
“What they do at Fogarty Innovation is truly changing the world, and you can feel that with the energy and passion that everyone is displaying — there’s an immense drive to further the medical field. Seeing a product that was once a startup go to a patient who deeply needs this care transformed my whole perspective on medtech.”
Krutin Kumar, graduated from the University of Texas at Dallas with majors in neuroscience and business and is applying to medical school
Krutin also worked with Chronus Health, performing market analysis on applying their cell counting and differentiation technology to other fields and diseases. His favorite parts were interacting with mentors and professionals in different fields and shadowing at El Camino Hospital to see first-hand how innovative technologies play a critical role in delivering patient outcomes.
“My biggest takeaway was understanding the value of putting yourself out of your comfort zone, whether by approaching someone to learn more or taking on skills that are outside of your area of knowledge. This is a critical step to continually grow both personally and professionally.”
Sean Rothenberger, Ph.D. student in biomedical engineering at Purdue University
Sean worked with Terumo Medical Innovation, developing a non-invasive monitor to measure urine output of patients with the aim to introduce a device that images bladder volume. He appreciated all the networking opportunities and the chance to meet everyone from engineers to clinicians to people with a business background.
“It was impressive to see how we’re all working towards the same goal of helping patients, and it showed me how I can use my skills as an engineer to further that mission.” He also was pleasantly surprised at his fascination with intellectual property and patents, which he can apply in his transition from academia into industry.
Andrew Cleeland, CEO of Fogarty Innovation, summed up the experience perfectly in his graduation remarks, “The impact of mentors is crucial to medical innovation and that is one of the many reasons this program was founded. I’ve been so impressed by this remarkable group and, while career is important, I encouraged our interns to also make it a priority to experience the moment, enjoy life and nurture relationships. It is our hope they stay in touch with each other and with us — once they are part of Fogarty, they are in our family forever.”