Above: Bruce Scharschmidt, ’70 MD, spoke to medical students about life as a pharmaceutical entrepreneur during the inaugural “MDs in Business” seminar.

Alumni President’s Message: De-risking the Future

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That great visionary Yogi Berra once said, “It’s hard to make predictions, especially about the future.” But we can rely on select individuals who have been there to help us de-risk the future and give us both direction and some insight on how we make our way in the future world of medicine.

Our Medical Alumni Association Board (MAAB) has been involved in new initiatives hoping to engage Northwestern medical students, residents, fellows and alumni. With the help of many MAAB members, we have undertaken an “MDs in Business” seminar series; we planned and inaugurated an innovative, six-part curriculum for our students in collaboration with a nonprofit healthcare technology incubator in Chicago called MATTER and the American Medical Association (AMA); and we continued a very successful Women in Medicine panel during Alumni Weekend (we’ll have full coverage of Alumni Weekend in the upcoming summer issue of Northwestern Medicine magazine).

Our inaugural “MDs in Business” seminar last fall featured Eugene Bauer, ’67 MD, chief medical officer at Dermira, and Bruce Scharschmidt, ’70 MD, currently an independent biotech consultant and previously the senior vice president and chief medical officer at Hyperion Therapeutics and MAAB president. Bauer explained that the relationship between academia and industry has changed dramatically. This partnership means industry has access to more discoveries, giving them a better return on investment while academia gets essential money to build and expand academic infrastructure.

Scharschmidt echoed Bauer’s thoughts, and he focused on the distinct difference between life as an academic physician and life as a pharmaceutical entrepreneur. The acceptance of failure as a key tenet of entrepreneurship is in stark contrast to ongoing tenets in medical residency training. In March, Jordan Dubow, ‘03 MD, ’07 GME, followed up their talk with a presentation focusing on his own career, which has ranged from academic medicine to Big Pharma to biotech to his own clinical trial consulting business.

The MAAB’s leadership has also supported the innovation curriculum at MATTER with AMA sponsorship for our medical students. The program exposes the next generation of physicians to opportunities in healthcare innovation and entrepreneurship. It was designed to equip, empower and embolden our students to be active leaders, as well as harness their potential as budding entrepreneurs. This year-long program is targeted to first- through third-year medical students to educate them on the business of healthcare and to introduce them to design thinking. The initial presentations involved uncovering the innovation process, as well as meeting entrepreneurs, investors and industry leaders, and facilitating the opportunity to ideate and harness entrepreneurial ambitions.

The inaugural session was held at MATTER on February 28th and was entitled “A Medical Student’s Journey into Healthcare Entrepreneurship.” Two Northwestern students, Alexei Mlodinow, CEO of Surgical Innovation Associates, and Tyler Wanke, CEO of Innoblative, led the session, focusing on key decision-making points in their medical school careers and, retrospectively, what they would have done differently.

Through each of these forums, we have provided insights into the future decisions that our students, residents and fellows will encounter as they progress through the educational system and begin their careers. We hope that the information we provide to our future alumni will help de-risk their future.