The Entrepreneurial Mindset
– An Interview with Dr. Arlen Meyers, MD, MBA.
Today we have Dr. Arlen Meyers, MD, MBA, an ENT specialist and surgeon. He is a serial biotech entrepreneur who has created several medical device companies and is leading the way for digital healthcare innovation. He does consulting for Life science, IT, and investment firms. He was named by Modern Healthcare as one of the 50 most influential healthcare executives.
With his broad experience in bioentrepreneurship, Dr. Arlen Meyers discusses traits of great entrepreneurs and how private practitioners can transition into entrepreneurship.
In this interview learn:
- The differences in private practitioners and entrepreneurs
- Traits needed to be great entrepreneurs
- Why excelling in medical education can be a stumbling block for innovation
- The entrepreneurial mindset
Can tell us your background story?
I’m the president and CEO of Society of Physicians Entrepreneurs (SoAP), which is a global, nonprofit, biomedical and health innovation entrepreneurship network.
We provide education resources, networks, mentors, and experiential learning to our members through international chapter networks. Each chapter has regularly scheduled networking and educational events.
Our mission is to get ideas to patients or to help someone coming up with ideas get them to market.
I have been an academic ENT surgeon for the past 40 years. During my career I got involved in bioentrepreneurship through academic research and development. My specialty was in head and neck cancer and facial plastic surgery. I was always interested in bioengineering solutions and research development problems.
To make a long story short, one of our efforts involved inventing a device that optically detects cancer. That led me down a pathway of technology commercialization, Intellectual Property and funding issues, all the things that entrepreneurs have to face. In the process of commercialization, I learned about the gaps. So the main reason that SoAP was formed was to fill the gaps in getting ideas to market. Because most doctors have good ideas, but they just don’t know what to do with them.
That was the start of my journey.
Can you discuss the differences of private practitioners and entrepreneurs?
We need to understand that there are many different definitions of entrepreneurship, and specifically the physician entrepreneur.
There are 5 different types of Physician Entrepreneurs.
- Private Practitioner– The doctor who is in Private practice. They are small to medium sized business owners. They want to do what they’re trained to do for a reasonable amount of profit. They generate revenue sufficient to satisfy their own needs. They do not go to public markets for capital and their exit strategy is to sell the practice or pass it on to a relative.
- Employed Physicians– These are the doctors employed by someone else. Some of these are intrapreneurs. They can behave like entrepreneurs, but as a corporate employee they create value for the organization they work for.
- Technopreneurs– People with a gadget, idea or invention. They are interested in researching, developing and commercializing a drug, device, or diagnostic test. They want to build a company, scale it, and create shareholder value. The product development cycle is long and expensive, requiring enormous amounts of capital from public markets. The exit strategy typically a merger, acquisition, IPO or a kind of strategic alliance.
- Social Entrepreneur– They are Mission driven rather than profit driven. They try to improve the human condition. An example is somebody who delivers clean water to underdeveloped communities or wants to cure malaria in Africa and generate profit as a secondary interest.
- Consultants & Freelancer– Finally there are freelancers and consultants who help other doctors. They can be financial planners, intellectual property managers, wealth managers, marketing consultants, private practice consultants, etc.
The majority of physicians fall under the employed or private practitioner category. Physicians in private practice want a better quality of life, they don’t want to work for the “man”, and they make more money in private practice than as an employed physician, specialty for specialty.
The reality is that very few physicians are engaged in creating innovations. Their main concern is paying off their debt and having a work life balance. And even if they are trying to create innovations, it will be a challenge because organizations have increasingly rigid regulations and love to stifle innovations. They will often get squashed like a grape.
True Visionary Entrepreneurs, the doctors, dentists, pharmacists, and other health professionals look for opportunities under scarce and uncontrolled resources. Their goal is create user or stakeholder defined value through the deployment of biomedical or clinical innovation.
Biomedical innovation refers to drugs, devices, vaccines, and combination products. These take a long time to market with a lot of research and development, human subject trials, FDA regulation, etc. Clinical innovation really deals with the process, platforms, business models, and alternative care delivery mechanisms.
In the middle of all that is digital health, which is the application of information and communications technologies for a specific medical use. Digital health used to be stand alone technologies. But now they are becoming more and more a part of biomedical and clinical innovation. So now it’s hard to put them in a category by themselves.
How can a private practitioner transition into entrepreneurship?
If you’re trying to bring a device or drug to market that is one thing. But if you’re running a private practice, you’re trying to thrive in a turbulent environment, you need to practice Other Care, not ObamaCare.
The most important thing is that you have to have an entrepreneurial mindset. You have to think both in the Now and the New. Because most people are consumed with what’s going on now and trying to squeeze in another nickel of revenue. Trying to keep up with regulatory requirements and administrative needs can distract them from where they need to go.
They don’t spend enough time on where they need to go. Most people in hospitals are so consumed with getting all the charts into electronic records and getting doctors to use digital systems. Rather than thinking about true innovation in healthcare, they are too busy catching up.
It’s not easy to make that transition. This is not something people want you to do. They’ll say we want out of the box thinkers and innovators. But when you do that and try to implement revolutionary change, people will not like it. They don’t want to change. So you need the courage to do this, to lead the change.You’re going to meet resistance against innovation, so you need courage to lead the changeClick To Tweet
What are traits that make for great entrepreneurs?
Physician entrepreneurs or any entrepreneur in general really need to have certain traits.
It starts with an entrepreneurial mindset. It’s a state of mind that is characterized by the pursuit of opportunities with scarce resources, with the ultimate goal of creating, deploying, and harvesting customer defined value. There are certain elements to the definition of entrepreneurship and the mindset that embraces it. Some of these include spotting opportunities and understanding the problem before attempting to solve it.
There are many different aspects to this but the fundamental issue that I see, is that very few doctors, dentists, engineers, and technical professionals have an entrepreneurial mindset. Only about 1% of them have this mindset.
Again, less than 1% of doctors have this mindset. But it’s not their fault though because we aren’t selected to go to medical school because we are creative. Undergraduate applicants to medical school are chosen because they conform. They get picked because they’re very good at memorizing a bunch of stuff and do well on a standardized test. Once they get into medical school, they’re driven to conform.
Doctors excel in medical education because we are taught to conform. But this is the exact opposite of what you want in entrepreneurship, where you need to be creative and innovative.
But there are physician entrepreneurs despite the system and despite the fact that they got chosen to go to medical school. If they have what it takes to succeed despite the system then they emerge.
All innovation really starts out with an entrepreneurial mindset. But there are other important attributes that are needed such as:
- Opportunity spotting
- Luck (Labor, Under, Correct, Knowledge)
- Knowledge, skills, and attitudes
- Network resources
Entrepreneurship is a very hard thing to do. It requires a long timeline and you have to be very persistent. You’re going to meet a lot of bumps in the road. So most people who are good at this have very strong internal emotional motivators. Whether that be fear, greed, revenge, or just being success driven. Some people call this passion. But I think it takes you being personally involved. For example, somebody could be pissed off at something or someone. Or the way certain things are done and want to solve it, to get even.
That may not sound right, but if you look at the literature, a lot of successful entrepreneurs have a certain psychopathology or a certain personality type. A lot of that has to do with what drives them. And this same thing is true for physician entrepreneurs.
The important thing is that when you meet failure, you don’t give up and you learn from it. You must take personal responsibility for the mistakes and failure around you and continue to push forward.Take personal responsibility for mistakes and failures. Learn from them and continue to push forward.Click To Tweet
Continue to – “Unlocking Innovation”
Bio Arlen Meyers, MD, MBA
Dr. Arlen Meyers currently the President and CEO of Society of Physician Entrepreneurs. He has founded several medical device companies and is also the cofounder of a medical tourism company. His primary research centers around biomedical, health innovation, entrepreneurship, and life science technology commercialization. He consults for and speaks nationally and internationally to companies, governments, colleges and universities around the world who need expertise and contacts in the areas of bioentrepreneurship, bioscience, healthcare, healthcare IT, medical tourism, new product development, product design, and financing new ventures.
He is a faculty member at the University of Colorado Denver Graduate School and Direct the Program in Biomedical Entrepreneurship at the Jabs Center for Entrepreneurship at the University of Colorado Denver Business School. He also used to teach otolaryngology, dentistry, and engineering at the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical campus.
Dr. Meyers is a former Harvard-Macy Fellow. He is also a Fulbright Scholar of Kings Business, the commercialization office of technology transfer at Kings College in London. His Publications include “Building the Case for Biotechnology”, “Optical Detection of Cancer”, “The Life Science Innovation Roadmap”, and “Sell the Bullets: Advice to Physician Entrepreneurs”. He is also the associate editor of the Journal of Commercial Biotechnology, Technology Transfer and Entrepreneurship, and Editor-in-Chief of Medscape Reference: Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery.