Making the Move from Medicine to Entrepreneurship
Medical professionals have a great deal to offer the business world, but what does it take to make the jump from scrubs to suits?
Medical professionals of all stripes do incredible work every day — often saving people's lives, alleviating pain or offering comfort. But sometimes, even following the many years of training required to become a licensed caregiver, one might wish to leave the profession behind and try something entirely different.
Exchanging the scrubs for a briefcase
There are a number of reasons that someone in the medical field might be drawn to entrepreneurship. One of the most obvious is that caregivers like nurses and doctors who are accustomed to using traditional interventions to help patients may be inspired to develop their own market solution for a medical problem or shortcoming they've discovered. This could be an idea for a new medical device or treatment, a mobile app cloud service or a groundbreaking approach to a standard procedure.
Take Justin Barad, co-founder and CEO of Osso VR, who has an M.D. from UCLA. Inspiration came to him during his residency when he saw the limitations of traditional surgical training. He was ultimately able to combine his medical knowledge with a passion for gaming to create a company that uses virtual reality to provide 3D surgical simulations.
Another reason for switching careers may be a desire for a change in lifestyle or work schedule. Clinicians often get weary of being exposed to illnesses and viruses or being tied to the physical location of their clinic. Although the vision of working on a laptop from a beach in Bali might be wishful thinking, a career in business is likely to involve more travel and the need to work on the go.
Personality and skill set can be factors as well. Caregivers who are especially personable and really adept at explaining complex medical concepts could find themselves being wooed by health-related businesses that want to have the expertise of a clinician on hand. Even big tech companies like Apple and Google are expanding into healthcare and hiring doctors.
What entrepreneurial roles might suit a medical pro?
Some caregivers find the opportunity to found a start-up related to their experience. This will most likely be something they've been mulling over for a while, realizing they just might be the right person, with the right qualifications and aspirations to begin a new venture.
It's smart to create a partnership with someone who already has a foothold in their business of interest, or who at least has some relevant connections, to help incubate an idea into reality. For example, Barad co-founded his company with a veteran game developer.
Even if a medical professional doesn't have their own innovative idea or solution to a medical problem in mind, they could still be a welcome addition to an established business. They may be perfectly suited to an executive role at a medical technology firm, for instance, where they could help drive the development of products or services related to their medical background. Or they could be a major asset to the sales team of a pharmaceutical company, given how customers and prospects will appreciate hearing from someone with life experience in the field.
To be a successful entrepreneur, changes in skills and mindset may be necessary. Seeking further education could be a wise move. If that's not feasible, taking night classes or online courses in areas that need work like public speaking, marketing or business writing could be helpful.
Beyond expanding skill sets, someone shifting from the medical profession to business must make one big change to their mode of thinking – and that entails becoming more comfortable with risk. A doctor for example may tend to be risk averse, as they should be, given the life-and-death stakes sometimes involved with patients. Entrepreneurs must be willing and ready to take calculated risks – that's how a business innovates and grows.
Before turning in those scrubs for good, there are many ways to begin dipping a toe into the entrepreneurial pool. Talk to people. Go to medical conferences and visit vendor booths to get a feel for what service providers and suppliers are doing in the marketplace. Share solutions you have to the problems you face with others and see what they think. Read up on reported advances in medical journals, which may spark some great ideas.
Good healthcare and medical companies don't exist without the input of professionals with firsthand experience. Caregivers who make the move to business not only have the opportunity to explore a rewarding second career, but also have the potential to bring life-changing innovations to patients.
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