In a year like no other, we all searched for silver linings. One of them was the ongoing success of numerous programs at Fogarty Innovation, including the Ferolyn Fellowship, which continued to foster relationships with inspiring medtech innovators like Holly Rockweiler, CEO of Madorra Health, a graduate of Fogarty Innovation and now a Ferolyn Fellow.
As followers of Fogarty Innovation know, Madorra has had a great deal of success in its goal of improving the quality of life for breast cancer survivors and post-menopausal women, through the development of the first non-hormonal medical device treatment for vaginal dryness.
Growing up in Madison, Wisconsin, Holly always knew she wanted to be an engineer, like her dad, but it wasn’t until a survey class in college that covered the various types of engineering when she discovered a passion for biomedical engineering. “I always think about the fact that as the daughter of an engineer and a social worker—my mom—landing in healthcare and medical devices is the perfect fit. While I work with amazing technologies, there is also the people or patient aspect aligned with it.”
After earning her master’s degree at Washington University in St. Louis, she worked at Boston Scientific for several years as a research scientist and then learned about the Stanford Biodesign fellowship, where she discovered the excitement of the Silicon Valley medtech ecosystem.
Madorra spun out of her fellowship work, but that isn’t what compelled her to start this company. “We were very driven by fulfilling an unmet need. We have an exciting solution, and these women deserve this,” she says, explaining her driving force.
Team dynamic yields significant progress
The company has just completed a successful year-long trial that produced strong data, which they’ve been presenting through abstracts, presentations and posters at several scientific conferences.
Although COVID-19 made some aspects of their work more difficult, the fact that the product is for home use meant they could move forward even when healthcare clinics were closed.
Now they are ready to set up their next clinical study, building on what they have learned.
“I’m so impressed with what our team has been able to accomplish in this crazy world where we are supporting a clinical trial across the globe in Australia via Zoom from our homes on the west coast. I think this speaks to the commitment and passion of our team,” Holly says, describing them as all portraying similar standards of excellence and commitment, which has created strong, bonded working relationships.
Learning and growing through the Ferolyn Fellowship
Although Holly was nominated by two individuals, this was the year that she was able to participate, since it was open to people outside of Silicon Valley. She had heard so much positive feedback from former participants, including Shreya Mehta, and was also impressed with the caliber of people involved, such as Kate Garrett and Amanda French, both of whom are also Stanford Biodesign and Ferolyn Fellowship graduates.
She has found the in-context mentoring to be extremely valuable; for example, a recent session was about making standout pitch decks. “They help with whatever I’m doing, and it feels amazing to have this horsepower,” she says.
It’s also allowed her to hone her own leadership. “I’ve constantly found myself saying that I’m getting permission to be ‘me,’ really being able to envision myself as a CEO,” Holly says. “You come to this role with ideas of how someone is supposed to act, but this program constantly pushes back against relying on preconceived notions,” she says, adding that her mentor, Angela Macfarlane, has been vocal about helping her lean into her true self as the best way to be an authentic leader.
In fact, Angela has helped stay focused on her goals and passion of why she started the company, rather than being mired in spreadsheets and other details, which, while important, can overtake the real goals of the mission. “My North Star is delivering this product for women, and I need to focus on the how and why of doing that.”
She believes that the ethos of the fellowship stems from Ferolyn’s impact. While Holly never had the opportunity to get to know her, she recalls presentations she gave at Stanford Biodesign. “You hear what all the people in the program have to say about her, and it’s clear her style of leadership is incredible. You can feel it being infused throughout the program.”
When not focused on the overall vision and day-to-day details of Madorra, Holly stays busy with her 18-month-old and husband. They enjoy the outdoors as a family, whether it’s hiking, visiting the beach or finding the best playgrounds in Portland.