Building on a track record of great success, the sixth annual Lefteroff internship class was the biggest ever as the eight-week program keeps expanding and improving.
This year we had a broad range of interns hailing from around the country, China, India and Indonesia, with a variety of backgrounds and experiences. The internship, created to honor former board member and avid supporter of the Fogarty Institute, Tracy Lefteroff, is designed to cultivate and inspire the next generation of entrepreneurs and innovators in life sciences.
“Participants were partnered with a company-in-residence (CIR) or an FII executive based on their interests and field of study, and completed a very intensive, hands-on program that exposed them to the entire process of developing medical technology – from inception to actualization,” said Denise Zarins, CTO of the Fogarty Institute and Lefteroff program director. “It was very gratifying to see how much the interns learned during their time at the Institute, and in turn, how much our startups benefitted from the skills and knowledge these students brought into the program.”
One of the priorities of the internship is spending time with industry insiders, which this year included FII staff, entrepreneurs and board members; several of last year’s interns; the executive team at El Camino Hospital and more than 40 of its physicians; serial entrepreneur Josh Makower; and investment manager for the Global Health Investment Fund, Curt LaBelle. Together, they spanned the entire medtech ecosystem, thus showing students different aspects and career opportunities within the industry.
They also benefited from academic and industry visits, including our partner, Stanford Biodesign; one of our CIR graduates, EchoPixel; and Abbott Labs, which offered the perspective of a large company.
Lastly, they participated in a core curriculum taught by the Fogarty Institute staff, which provided a broader understanding of what it takes to develop medical devices and showcased potential career opportunities.
“This was another impressive class – their level of professionalism, sense of curiosity and ability to quickly grasp concepts was far beyond their experience and age,” said Zach Edmonds, MD, Palo Alto Medical Foundation hospitalist and clinical advisor to the Fogarty Institute. “Because of the larger class size, we increased the number of shadowing experiences to 43, and kept it very personalized, providing interns the option to choose between 18 different specialties throughout the hospital.
“In total, the interns interacted with over 100 patients and followed several of them through their hospital journey, which provided a complete view of healthcare and the challenges we face on the frontlines of acute care delivery, both on the physician and patient side. The response from the clinicians and the interns was so positive that we look forward to continuing to expand this program,” Dr. Edmonds added.
Meet the interns
We had the opportunity to speak with a few of the interns regarding their experiences, and their program highlights were surprisingly similar – they appreciated the opportunity to see different aspects of healthcare and how it intertwines with medtech through shadowing physicians, talking with patients and dialoguing with seasoned entrepreneurs and the FII leadership team. And gratifyingly, it helped solidify their interest in medtech or healthcare as a career.
Here are some additional highlights from a few of this year’s class:
Parker Callender; University of Wisconsin-Madison; biomedical engineering major, computer science minor
Parker partnered with Materna Medical this summer, working on design improvements for one of the startup’s devices which aims to reduce pelvic floor injury during labor and delivery. She also helped with a variety of marketing tasks, including search engine optimization (SEO) to increase website traffic, creating marketing collateral and helping with a case study.
“Everyone was so accessible and made us feel like we were part of the ‘family,’ as they helped us gain a better understanding of our potential career paths and shared their personal journeys and lessons learned. Through shadowing clinicians and working among so many medical device companies, the internship helped me see that I have a much stronger love for medicine than I ever thought. Thus I decided to stay in the biomedical engineering program, which provides an excellent technical engineering and medical background.“
Nathaniel Serrurier; Pomona College, Claremont; public policy analysis major (concentration in biology), Spanish and pre-med minor
Nat worked with Mike Regan, CIO of the Fogarty Institute, most notably participating in meetings with current and potential companies-in-residence, where he got an insider’s view into a variety of technology and product development challenges and an understanding of how companies operate within the Institute. He also researched investments in the medtech industry to identify potential avenues for increased funding in the earlier stages and contributed to a white paper on medtech reimbursement, which he realizes is a critical component of a startup.
“This was the first time I had the opportunity to utilize some of the skills learned in my major, and it has been an extraordinary experience to see firsthand how policy and the private sector intersect. I always thought that to be in medtech you had to have an engineering background, but through the internship, I realized that my career doesn’t have to be one-dimensional; I could work as a physician but also integrate my policy background to help mentor or work with early-stage medtech startups.”
Nina Marie Siprashvili; University of California, San Diego; chemical engineering major, psychology minor
Nina worked with palmm to create an electroconductive surrogate for the skin to test how the startup’s electrode designs deliver current. She also worked on grants and other projects related to the business side, as that is one of her interests.
“It was fascinating to follow a patient through their hospital journey, including talking to one before and after brain surgery, which I had the opportunity to watch. Meeting so many different people from various backgrounds, from entrepreneurs to physicians, helped clarify my career path, including eventually pursuing an MBA. I also learned that launching a startup and getting to market is very hard, and simultaneously I was impressed with how personable and approachable the individuals in the industry are.”
Rohan Thakur; University of Minnesota; neuroscience major, psychology minor
Rohan worked with Lume Medical, helping develop a prototype and conducting market research and user needs assessment for the company.
“One of the unique aspects of this program is that you get both the startup and ‘medical’ culture and learn how they tie together since the Institute is so closely connected with El Camino Hospital. In prior projects at the university, I collaborated with other students and started projects from scratch, making it hard to see the end goal. Therefore, it was nice to be part of a company that already has a defined product foundation and foresees its impact on patients, even if it may take a few years to get to market. I also enjoyed learning about the seasoned executives’ career paths; they may have had some hardships and questioned their path, but in the end, the message was that as long as you are passionate about what you are doing, you will end up loving your job and be successful.”
Caleb Phillips; Stanford University; science, technology and society major with an emphasis in life sciences and health
Caleb worked with John Morriss, director of the Invention Accelerator program at the Fogarty Institute, and collaborated with physicians at El Camino Hospital on a potential innovation idea for a pacemaker.
“When I came in, I didn’t know anything about medical devices. Now, thanks to my time with John, I feel I learned so much about the different aspects of what makes up a medical device company. During the program, we had many opportunities to observe surgeries with multiple different doctors; it was particularly fascinating to see procedures where devices were being used to help patients, something that we wouldn’t have had the opportunity to experience in other settings.”