When he is not helping a patient, mentoring entrepreneurs at Stanford Biodesign, supporting the Fogarty Institute as a board member or assessing how to develop a new medical device, Fred St Goar, MD, is looking for ways to help improve the global health system. Through a lifetime of fascinating medical experiences, he is well-equipped to wear all those hats equally well.
Creating a medical career on multiple trajectories
While his parents were both doctors, Fred’s decision to pursue a career in medicine wasn’t immediate; in fact, it wasn’t until his junior year in college that he decided to apply to medical school. And even once he was accepted, he delayed, instead spending a year working at a mountaineering school in Switzerland. At that point, he had to weigh his passion for the outdoors with his desire to join the medical world, and fortunately for innumerable patients and the entire industry, his inclination to give back prevailed.
Fred attended Harvard Medical School and completed his medical and cardiology training at Stanford University. “Being a resident at Stanford in the mid-‘80s was incredibly stimulating and motivating as I was immersed in innovation and the mindset that there was always a better way to do things,” he says.
His career was jumpstarted by working with Paul Yock on his game-changing intravascular ultrasound imaging project in the late ‘80s. “It was an incredible experience to not merely be a doctor, but also be part of this clinical work and involved in the creative aspect of innovative technologies,” says Fred.
While a fellow at Stanford, Fred was involved with launching Heartport, a company co-founded by his colleague John Stevens, who later became CEO of HeartFlow, the Institute’s first company-in-residence.
“The desire to innovate was infectious. I feel incredibly fortunate to have been exposed to that kind of energy, while being surrounded by ‘out-of-the-box’ thinkers like Tom Fogarty, for example.”
Later in his career, in parallel with his clinical work, Fred co-founded Evalve with FII board member Allan Will and was the physician inventor of the company’s revolutionary minimally invasive catheter-based MitraClip system.
In addition to his role as an active participant in the cardiovascular medical device industry, Fred also served as a consultant for various established medical device companies and continues to be involved with Stanford Biodesign and the Fogarty Institute.
Because of these opportunities, Fred is a strong believer in encouraging physicians to continue to practice medicine, but also to consider a career that supports the development of medical devices. “Physicians bring a different and very valuable perspective to the process, and it’s a career that they can pursue in parallel, to bring value to both systems,” he says.
“I believe this path makes physicians better at their job, and at the same time, I’ve seen that some of the most effective medical device companies have physicians on their teams as mentors and supporters. They are tremendously helpful in keeping projects focused, because they are in the trenches and know the user base and the patients’ needs best.”
Taking the expertise to a global stage
While working as a mentor with Alydia Health, an FII graduate that is focused on making childbirth safer, Fred saw a big global need for practical, easy-to-use therapies that will have a dramatic impact on developing countries. He began working in Rwanda with a new rural-based medical school, the University of Global Health Equity under the umbrella of Partners in Health, where he currently serves on the advisory board.
Launched in 2015, the university awards medical degrees and master’s of science degrees in global health delivery to students who come from Rwanda and abroad. They work with Harvard and Stanford Medical School faculty, Rwandan policy makers and other industry professionals to become the next generation of leaders in the field, focusing on solving global health challenges and ensuring the continuation of Rwanda’s recovery, growth and success.
The Rwandan government has also given them a piece of land on the edge of the capital city, Kigali, in an area known as the “Innovation City,” where a broad range of international organizations are co-locating. On this site UGHE and Partners in Health plan to build a healthcare innovation hub. The aim is to create an East African-based center that can collaborate with U.S. universities and programs to support bidirectional global health delivery innovation, a “glistening diamond in the rough,” as Fred describes it.
In parallel, he is on the board of an obstetrical hospital run by Village Health Works – the only hospital of its kind in the entire region – in Burundi, the second-poorest country in the world where maternal mortality is one in 24 women. Although both were devastated by genocide, Rwanda was able to successfully build a government-supported infrastructure, including a healthcare and education system, while Burundi had no government support in those areas.
“We have to remember that there is so much we can offer developing countries, and it’s encouraging that the concept of global medicine has become an emerging focus,” said Fred. “As prominent universities like Stanford and Harvard increasingly turn their attention here, I am hopeful that more will get involved and share their expertise. By leveraging our resources, we have the opportunity to truly make a significant impact.”