Student-Led Entrepreneurship in Medicine Interest Group Fosters Innovation in Mayo Medical Students

Mayo Clinic School of Medicine’s Entrepreneurship in Medicine Interest Group looks to bridge the gap between medical students, Mayo Clinic entrepreneur/physicians, and the Rochester innovation community. With the one year inception of the group on the horizon, the organizing team is looking for new ways to demonstrate the value of industry and develop skill sets in Mayo’s medical students to help bring their ideas to life.

Second year medical student and Entrepreneurship in Medicine Interest Group cofounder Claudia Gutierrez has seen firsthand how entrepreneurship can translate ideas into viable businesses or products. Gutierrez is a trained biomedical engineer and learned early on the importance of incorporating business into design.

While Gutierrez had seen organizations similar to the Entrepreneurship in Medicine Interest Group at other schools, nothing like it existed at Mayo. She and her cofounder, 7th year MD/PhD student John Scott, felt it was time for change. With faculty mentor Dr. Joaquim Garcia, they launched the group last year.

The mission of the Entrepreneurship in Medicine Interest Group, explains Gutierrez, is to “get rid of that ‘ick’ factor that a lot of medical students have toward industry.” She says these large companies are often portrayed as unethical giants, but are really the entities that bring new treatment options and medical devices into the clinic. She doesn’t want her own classmates to back away from potential interactions with industry due to preconceived notions.

In addition, she says that medical students often are not really exposed to entrepreneurship and business development during college. She learned herself that incorporating business with engineering was essential to understand and create viable, marketable products.

“You can have an amazing design. But if there’s no market for it or if it’s not affordable, you’re never going to bring that product to life and you’re not going to be able to improve whatever it is that you’re trying to improve,” she explained.

And Gutierrez would know. While studying at Drexel University in Philadelphia, she completed three six-month internships, gaining invaluable innovation experience. These experiences included a stint in a cancer bioengineering lab in Switzerland and a venture capital firm in Philadelphia. But perhaps her first internship made the largest impact. Gutierrez spent six months working in R&D at a small medical device company and experienced what life was like in an emerging business. Some days she would be designing software. Other days everyone in the company, including the CEO, would be slapping stickers on devices right before they went to clinical trial. She even got to travel with some of the senior engineers to Argentina as an interpreter.

“It helped me realize that while being an engineer and being able to design something is fascinating, being the physician that gets to test it and understands the limitation of the device, that was kind of the side I wanted to be on,” she said.

Like in engineering, Gutierrez sees similar trends in medicine, where a general understanding of how to move an idea from the research stage, into the clinic, and ultimately into a product or company is lacking.

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She hears stories in the news all the time about the rising costs of healthcare and other issues plaguing today’s medical industry.

“People are entering medical school with the intention of trying to fix those problems. And entrepreneurship and understanding what it’s like to work with a company or even start your own company, it’s just giving you another set of tools that you could potentially work with in the future,” she said.

To help Mayo medical students gain these tools, the group curates a list of Mayo Clinic events of interest to medical students. But more importantly, they hold their own monthly speaker series focused on the intersection of innovation, business, and medicine. This year’s talks included an in-depth look at patents. The group also hosted Kathy Bates, Senior Director of Laboratory Services at Mayo Clinic, and John Black, Co-Director of Mayo’s Personalized Genomics Laboratory.

The group also wants to introduce medical students to the local innovation industry. This starts by connecting with Mayo physicians who are working with industry or have started companies, to help dispel the myth that you can’t be both a doctor and a founder. Gutierrez also wants to partner with organizations within Mayo, like the Surgical Accelerator, with the hope to bring to life viable ideas developed by medical students.

She says the interest group is “trying to connect medical students not just with Mayo, but also with the Rochester community.” Students are drawn to Mayo from all over the world, but often have limited access to the city outside of the clinic. These interactions help them understand all that the ecosystem here has to offer.

While the original idea for the Entrepreneurship in Medicine Interest Group developed last June, Gutierrez and Scott recently added two first year medical students, Adeet McCoy and Elias Sayba, in leadership positions. Gutierrez says this has helped to make the project more fun and increased the impact.

She’s especially excited to bring another female into a leading role in the group. She says it’s easy for women to be dissuaded from these positions, especially in a tech culture that has a perceived domination by men.

“I think it’s really important with anything that has to do with innovation, or science, or whatever it may be, to have a good female presence,” she said.