Mario Ramirez: Building The Clinician's Role In Healthcare Innovation

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Mario Ramirez, MD, didn’t take a “traditional” track through the medical field. And now, as Briovation’s Chief Medical Development Officer, he’s working on a project to help other physicians - and clinicians in general - find their way into and through non-clinical settings.

This project isn’t about Ramirez himself, but to understand what’s going on and why it’s happening, we have to understand his story. (For details on the program itself, skip to the bottom of the page.)

A Clinician Innovator's Winding Path

Ramirez went into medicine with an eye towards emerging concepts like genetic medicine. And that interest in the cutting edge has remained. However, in the wake of 9/11, Ramirez developed an interest in other issues closely related to our health and safety as a society. “I got drawn into the forces and the discussion around national security and some of those things.” His clinical and lab work meant that there was limited time to delve into these issues. So, he took time away from medical school and went over to the Harvard Government School, where he focused on international security and affairs.

After completing his MPP and MD degrees at Harvard, Ramirez came to Nashville for an emergency medicine residency at Vanderbilt University Medical Center. Subsequently, Ramirez decided to take the next step of his career by entering the Air Force.

“I spent three years on active duty, and I spent seven of those months deployed to Afghanistan. And really I think gained some new perspective on clinical medicine and what it means to provide care in really difficult places. But I think more than anything, I just came back with a better understanding of that the human side of medicine that you can lose sight of sometimes as a resident.”

From there, a stint as a White House Fellow looking at emerging threats like Ebola led to this crystallization:

“What I gained over the course of that year was an interest in working outside of established pathways, and I got really interested in working on problems for which there wasn't kind of a defined solution and became more interested in the startup space.”

It was a recognition that “physicians have a role in trying to craft innovative solutions to really difficult problems.”

Which brings us to the present. Ramirez came back to Nashville and co-founded Affirm Health (a Jumpstart Foundry portfolio company), where he still serves as Chief Medical Officer.


Building a Straighter Path

Now at Briovation (Health:Furthers and Jumpstart Foundry’s parent company), Ramirez is building a dual-purpose program that will help other clinically-trained innovators do what he did with more structure and formal training.

The first purpose is “to see how we can inject real clinical experience and clinical relevance into [healthcare innovation].” The second is to provide training around business and innovation for clinicians.

This latter point about training is key. Clinicians want to get involved, but may not have the resources to do so.

“One of the things that's been lost over the last couple of decades is that clinicians as a whole have been left out or moved out of the innovation discussion. And that happens […] Primarily because clinicians are already quite busy taking care of patients […] But also because it's an entirely new body of knowledge that you just don't get training for.”

This is where the Health:Further Clinician Innovator and Entrepreneur Program comes into play. Designed to educate clinicians on the language and practical considerations surrounding startups and innovation, this program is a new piece of the 2018 Health:Further Festival (August 27-29).

Ramirez explains:

“The goal with the Clinician Innovator track is to do a couple of things. First, it's to  introduce people to and have a meaningful discussion about the issues that come to mind when you're talking about being a clinician and wanting to move into the innovation space. And so that's everything from ‘how do I make it work with my clinical life.’ And […] if I have a company and I need to go out and look for capital how do I do that, if I have an idea how can I help bring it to market?
“The second part of that is trying to [give] clinicians who come to the festival a real entry point into the space.”

Again, it’s that challenge of knowing where to start. Ramirez says that in many of his conversations, fellow clinicians know they want to get into healthcare innovation but struggle to connect with the companies that might be looking for their expertise.

“So we're going to take these companies that come to Health:Further and introduce them to a body of clinicians that are at least interested in being involved. And we’ll have a discussion about what it looks like for both parties if you're involved on a part time level, Or if is this something that as a clinician you think you want to do full time, how do you make that transition.”

Or, if a clinician is looking for a different type of involvement, how does one go about investing in a healthcare startup?

The goal, as Ramirez sees it, is to provide an opening for whatever outcome an entrepreneurial clinician might want. Whether that’s as a chief medical officer, a solo investor or member of an angel group, the healthcare industry - and the health community as a whole - needs more applied insight from the people who have spent their careers on the ground caring for patients. When this happens, there’s a benefit for everyone involved. As is clear from Ramirez’s career, the idea of what a medical career looks like is shifting, so we need to account for that. At the same time, the “primary goal in all of this is to make sure that we deliver innovation that leads to better healthcare for people.”


How to Get Involved

Health:Further has teamed up with Greg Goodman and the Physician Entrepreneur Summit to help produce the Clinician Innovator Track at the Festival. If you’re interested in attending this program, tickets for the event will go on sale February 26.

In the meantime, check out physiciansummit.com for free access to PES-Mini, including interviews with Ramirez and more than a dozen other physician entrepreneurs. Sessions include “Business Residency,” “Future Care,” “Impact,” and “Dose of Greatness.”

Questions? Leave a comment below or email mario@healthfurther.com