After an intensive eight-week program at the Fogarty Institute, our third-year Lefteroff interns emerged with a broader view of the medtech landscape and what it takes to launch a startup and take a product to market.
The intern’s feedback was very rewarding as they shared their favorite moments and learning experiences during the graduation ceremony. For some, the internship validated their desire to pursue a career in healthcare; for others it ignited a passion for starting their own company; and for all, it provided invaluable hands-on experience, along with real-life lessons from the many mentors with whom they interacted and the companies/organizations they visited.
We had the pleasure of chatting with a few of the graduates to learn more about their summer experience: Aaron Katz, a recent graduate of Clemson University who is pursuing a biomedical innovation and development master’s degree from Georgia Institute of Technology; Heidi Peterson, a junior at Stanford University pursuing a degree in mechanical engineering with a minor in arts; Mikelle Foster, graduating in December from Cal Poly San Louis Obispo with a degree in biology and a minor in psychology; and Ryan Palmer, a rising sophomore at USC and a human biology major.
Aaron Katz: “Meeting professionals from many backgrounds gave me an insider’s perspective.”
Aaron worked with Madorra, a startup aiming to improve the quality of life for breast cancer survivors and post-menopausal women. As part of his internship he was responsible for finding eco-friendly materials to build Madorra’s product, prototyping a more economical product design, researching the best advertising channels, collaborating on product packaging and assisting with Device and Failure Mode Effect Analysis (DFMEA).
In addition to this broad range of experience, Aaron valued the opportunity to be exposed to many professionals with different backgrounds, from entrepreneurs to surgeons, venture capitalists, government regulators and mentors from the life sciences industry.
Heidi Peterson: “A startup needs a wide variety of skill sets.”
During her internship, Heidi worked with Zebra, a startup creating the next generation of medical imaging that provides a non- invasive, real-time way to examine the skin and determine the potential presence of cancer. Her main task was to work on the optimal form and shape of the device – building models and refining the design through computer-aided design (CAD) and soliciting feedback from dermatologists. She also worked with a lawyer to write a description of the patented ideas, assisted with the design of one of the device elements and analyzed the financial data model.
Her favorite part of the internship was working on project elements she was unfamiliar with, as it underscored the value of building the diverse skill sets required to launch a startup – from marketing to design, engineering, to securing funding, and much more. Upon graduation, Heidi intends to pursue a master’s degree in biomedical engineering to later work with prosthetics and neuro- prosthetics.
Mikelle Foster: “There is no set path to success.”
Mikelle worked with InPress Technologies, a startup developing a simple device to stop post-partum hemorrhaging (PPH). During her time with the company, she conducted research on key opinion leaders and advocacy organizations in the global market and how to effectively get InPress’ device to market in countries where PPH is most prevalent.
The most valuable part of the internship for Mikelle was learning that there is no set path to becoming a physician and medical technology entrepreneur, as most of them have diverse backgrounds. She also really enjoyed observing her first cardiac ablation and was fascinated by the personal interaction between doctors and patients. Her hope is to go to med school, following a master’s in stem cell and regenerative medicine.
Ryan Palmer: “Innovation has such a positive impact.”
Ryan had the opportunity to work with G-Tech, a startup that records the electrical signals that naturally occur in the digestive tract (also called the gastrointestinal or GI tract) and is studying the patterns of stomach and intestinal contractions in individuals following abdominal surgery.
In his first exposure to medical device technology, Ryan reviewed data garnered from the startup’s patches and tested the device for accuracy and repeatability. He was also tasked with organizing and developing an algorithm to interpret data received from patients at El Camino Hospital, where the startup is conducting a clinical trial, and from patients suffering from Parkinson’s disease. With five million data points received for each person that was tested for a period of three days, he was a very busy intern!
His most valuable take-away from the experience was learning about the different career paths in healthcare and the positive impact innovation has on patients. He has dreamed of being a surgeon since he was a young child, but is still open to exploring other options.