Episode 20: The Innovation Cohort – Inventing with empathy

March 10, 2020

The American healthcare system has an urgent need to develop innovative ways to care for patients and communities. Workers in every corner of a health system – from administrators to physicians to custodial staff – have unique and important insights. The Innovation Cohort at MaineHealth is designed to turn these insights into transformative medical care.

Join us for a conversation about healthcare innovation and collaboration with Dr. Jennifer Monti. Dr. Monti is a general cardiologist most interested in the intersection of medicine, public health, and entrepreneurship. She developed the Innovation Cohort at Maine Medical Center in response to her experience as an inventor and entrepreneur. She firmly believes good ideas come from every corner of an organization, and that Portland, Maine should be the easiest place in America to learn to invent and to be an inventor.

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Notes

 
Episode Notes

The American healthcare system has an urgent need to develop innovative ways to care for patients and communities. Workers in every corner of a health system–from administrators to physicians to custodial staff–have unique and important insights. The Innovation Cohort at MaineHealth is designed to turn these insights into transformative medical care.

Join us for a conversation about healthcare innovation and collaboration with Dr. Jennifer Monti. Dr. Monti is a general cardiologist most interested in the intersection of medicine, public health, and entrepreneurship. She developed the Innovation Cohort at Maine Medical Center in response to her experience as an inventor and entrepreneur moving an idea from scribbled drawing to working prototype, company formation, fundraising, and clinical trials. She firmly believes good ideas come from every corner of an organization, and that Portland, Maine should be the easiest place in America to learn to invent and to be an inventor. She received a degree in biochemistry with honors from Harvard College, as well as degrees in medicine and public health from Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, Ohio. Jenn’s favorite lunch spot is LB Kitchen, her favorite place for dinner is home with her kids, and her favorite local business is Print Bookstore on Congress St. in the East End. She is a huge college basketball fan and is still upset that the Big East fell apart.

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Produced by the University of Maine Graduate and Professional Center, with help from WMPG

Episode Guests

Dr. Jennifer Monti is a general cardiologist most interested in the intersection of medicine, public health, and entrepreneurship. She developed the Innovation Cohort at Maine Medical Center in Portland in response to her experience as an inventor and entrepreneur moving an idea from scribbled drawing to working prototype, company formation, fundraising, and clinical trials. She firmly believes good ideas come from every corner of an organization, and that Portland, Maine should be the easiest place in America to learn to invent and to be an inventor. She received a degree in biochemistry with honors from Harvard College, as well as degrees in medicine and public health from Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, Ohio. Jenn’s favorite lunch spot is LB Kitchen, her favorite place for dinner is home with her kids, and her favorite local business is Print Bookstore on Congress St. in the East End. She is a huge college basketball fan and is still upset that the Big East fell apart.

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Transcript

​This transcript has been lightly edited for clarity.

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The Greater Good: Episode 20

Carrie: Welcome to the Greater Good: a podcast devoted to exploring complex and emerging issues in law, business and policy. I’m your host Carrie Wilshusen, Associate Dean for Admissions at the University of Maine School of Law.

Our guest today is Dr. Jennifer Monti, a cardiologist with Maine Health Cardiology and the founder of the Innovation Cohort at Maine Health. Founded in 2018 the innovation cohort empowers trainees, clinicians, and staff across the institution to create innovative solutions to address unmet clinical needs, improve patient care, reduce costs of care, and improve public health. The Cohort is supported by the Maine Technology Institute and the Center for Performance Improvement at Maine Health and has begun collaborating with the University of Maine System and local businesses to develop prototypes. Dr Monti has created an interdisciplinary innovation model to change the face of healthcare delivery. 

Welcome. It’s wonderful to have you here today. To begin with, we’d love to learn how you got interested in this work.

Jennifer Monti:

I think I came into medicine interested in this work because I felt like it was clear to me that what we were doing was not working and wasn’t solving problems that people needed solved every day. And I still think people who do this type of work usually have some sort of pretty personal link to something that bothers them. When I was 16 my sister died suddenly of an ear infection, got an antibiotic she was allergic to, had an allergic reaction to that, developed pneumonia and then died in like a week. So it was from, I’m fine, I’m healthy, I’m 17, to I’m not alive anymore. So my sense of what it meant to be a doctor or what doctors had to offer was that it’s not great. So I didn’t come into medicine thinking that you could do all sorts of good for people. I came in with this great fear that people didn’t know what they were doing in a sense that you wanted to fix things, help protect people. And then I think I had a pretty unique educational course in how I sort of chose where to be educated across the path, which means made the job I have now sort of a natural fit.

Carrie Wilshusen:

So talk about that a little bit. What was your educational path?

Jennifer Monti:

So I did my, I went to a public school in Connecticut and then went to Harvard for my undergraduate degree in biochemistry and then spent three years working in the Bay Area before going to medical school. So I hadn’t worked for three years. I worked in a small group that did things like valued early stage technologies. In other words, trying to figure out what’s coming out of labs or coming out of small companies that may drastically impact healthcare in the future. So how do you invest in those types of technologies or how do you plan for them if you’re a health system who needs to plan budgets really part advance.

Carrie Wilshusen:

So you were doing innovation work before you got into the study of medicine?

Jennifer Monti:

That was my first entree to sort of caring for people. So when I was looking at medical schools, I wanted to go somewhere where it seemed like everybody did that. I also was a more mature student, have taken three years off, I was not able or willing to sit in a lecture hall, kind of do a traditional path. And so I went to medical school at case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, which has this really interesting track with partnered with the Cleveland Clinic where you spend most of your time there. So Cleveland Clinic is really world class and taking the discomfort, scientific insights, clinician ideas, and turning them into either new processes that get embedded in their big organization or startups and companies that then have sort of redefined what it means to be in northeast Ohio. So I got to go do my medicine, there while being co-located with all these great midwestern engineers, right? Case said its roots as an engineering school. So again, I thought this is what doctors do. They anticipate the needs and they invent and they have opportunities to do this type of work. I subsequently decided to do a residency at Johns Hopkins at the Bayview Medical Center. Again there I felt like there was some path where people who understood how you start to get at the discomfort that you feel. I had a couple of remarkable mentors there who really helped me continue to think in that way, to push in ask sort of the next questions. And at the same time, Baltimore is like a public health challenge and in multiple ways part of having gone to medical school at Case that program I was in that you actually had to spend five years. So one of the reasons I ended up in Baltimore for residency, I had spent that extra year of medical school in Baltimore. I was a deputy to the commissioner of public health who was Josh Sharfstein at the time, who eventually went on to be a second in command at the FDA. He ran that office very much like a congressional office responding to demand as they come in. So I got to see what it was like to make those decisions. And I said, this is really where the action is for me, the intersection of sort of medicine, public health, and I think entrepreneurship because that was really the way to solve problems most efficiently. In some cases it isn’t to go an academic research route, but in some cases it’s not. And spending that time introduced me to that way of looking at problems.

Carrie Wilshusen:

With your intention to impact change in the medical community based on your personal experience?

Jennifer Monti:

Yeah, I think I always had and still do feel sort of a calling and a loyalty to care for individual patients because that’s like the fuel for the fire every day. And every doc has cases they remember forever cases that you want to tell your kind of buddies about at lunchtime. That’s really what motivates you and the choices you’ve made.

Carrie Wilshusen:

So in your medical studies, you were able to partner with the engineering school and then you go to Baltimore and you get the public health lens very deeply steeped in your learning.

Jennifer Monti:

And then just as I was leaving Baltimore to transition to what’s called fellowship is how sort of internal medicine doctors go on to become specialists. I had my first idea for a medical device. I think you’d have to spend a few years training, you know, when you’re in training you say, why do I have to do this? It takes so long, I don’t want to do this. But by your third year or so you start to realize, number one, how you discriminate sick vs. not sick. And that’s a skill that you really need time to cultivate. And then you also start to see the limitations of what you’re offering and things just start to come out of the woodwork. So I had, I remember clearly the night that this happened in the ICU at Hopkins I had been taking care of patients with a heart attack and thinking, well, is there something about their, their heart vessels that we can sort of stimulate so that cells that are good at healing can find their way to a patient’s heart. And I drew it out. It’s one of those classic sort of back of the envelope moments. And I was able to get an engineering team, talk to people at the business school there and start to kind of patch together what an entrepreneurial team looks like. And that in Baltimore at that time, and this is getting to be 10, not quite 10 years ago, it was kind of hard. The medical school and the main hospital and the Bayview hospital are basically downtown. The engineers are getting towards the suburbs so you have to drive there and then the business school, which was pretty nascent a few years old at that time, is right down in the inner harbor. So by the time you get a meeting together, you’ve traveled for an hour.

Carrie Wilshusen:

So you’re seeing some barriers to the work you wanted to do?

Jennifer Monti:

Yeah, really clear barriers. It didn’t have much to do with science, but had to do with sort of the connectivity, sort of like you had the bricks there, the people but the mortar didn’t quite make it hold together. So I, that was really my motivation for moving to the University of Pennsylvania, which is densely located in center. It’s at 34th and spruce in Philadelphia and I thought if I’m going to be able to make projects like this work and advance, I need to be at a place that has that density. And I did find that there again you have another idea comes out of the woodwork and I was able to quickly patch team resources together, decide pretty quickly if it had legs or not and then move forward and to starting a company, raising money, running trials and doing that sort of all by sort of hustle or just learning as you go. So when leaving there, when you sort of done with training and you’re ready to be your first sort of, you know, responsible, we say attending physician job, we said where do I want to live that aligned with our values number one and where do I think we can do this work that we can start to sort of build a path that’s aligned with how a lot of us think about doing this work. I started looking around, I thought about some West coast options and we looked at the East coast for, I have two kids looking for a place for family. And I started to look at Maine Medical Center and I said, this is a total gem. Large medical system. Big catchment area for my field. Tons of cases. We do everything with the exception of transplant. And the more people I met, the more I said, jeepers, this is an academic division. On paper, people very much look like me, you know, in terms of training, deep expertise. And at the time when I came, our chief of the division was a guy named Doug Sawyer, who’s now the chief academic officer at Maine Health who has this really interesting academic background who also chose to be here. So I said, this looks like a place that’s sort of, yeah, that might work there. You know, there was no, not a clear defined path, you know, for doing any of this work per se, but interesting people and things starting to sort of percolate up. And I said, that’s a place with the energy that I want to join.

Carrie Wilshusen:

And one of the beauties of Maine is that people talk to one another here.

Jennifer Monti:

It’s pretty amazing to connect to people that were also interested in this and all of remarkably humble as well. And I see things that are going on either around town or across the state in other places. Folks would shout from the rooftops about all of that interesting opportunities. So now I think our charge, now that we’ve started to just lay a brick, you know, maybe a little bit of a tension on some really interesting ideas on how we can solve problems. We have to continue to press on the connectivity and figuring out how we can scale some of the really thoughtful things that are happening.

Carrie Wilshusen:

And tell your story to attract other people to your work. So tell us a little bit about what is, so you now are running an innovation cohort at Maine Health. Can you talk about what is that?

Jennifer Monti:

I built it as just a home for people across the organization who see many different things are either uncomfortable with in terms of what we have to offer people for care or things I think maybe it could be done better. And I said, all right, well let’s just build a space and this type of work has to be done in sort of its own space because it’s not part of anybody’s day to day job as a general rule. I said, well, let’s figure out a way to carve out some resources and have a space where we talk about these problems and we talk about them across divisions, across education levels.

Carrie Wilshusen:

Can you just define these problems for us?

Jennifer Monti:

For example, the application to get into the cohort is like five lines. And the first one is, what’s your name? The second one is what’s your email? Third one is what is the clinical discomfort that is making you apply? What do you think a solution might be and how might a little bit of early resource help accelerate your idea.

Carrie Wilshusen:

So you’re basically bringing in people with ideas to share their ideas and try and generate some solutions?

Jennifer Monti:

And to find some like-minded souls who may be in completely different disciplines but kind of had the same values or kind of process that you go through. And part of the goal is to really sort of test things out to make sure that people aren’t sort of, you know, silent geniuses in the basement who either aren’t sharing their ideas or maybe they’re not fully developed. It’s hard to make anything move. So finding like-minded people to help encourage you or discourage you if it’s a time to be discouraged about something you’ve been pushing on for awhile. That’s probably the most important part of it is figuring out the network that can help build a network effect and have things work.

Carrie Wilshusen:

Well, let’s talk about that a little bit because we all have this presupposition that good ideas come from a guy in the basement who has been sitting there pondering a big thought and, and this amazing solution. It has a Eureka moment.

Jennifer Monti:

Yeah. I think people who study this field and it’s really become a robust academic area of study I’ve shown time and time again that that’s not the case. And I think we need to use that research to figure out better ways to care for people. And part of that is putting people who may have an inkling of a thought or at least a discomfort, putting them in an environment where there are some resources to cultivate that and help it grow.

Carrie Wilshusen:

So the best way to come up with an idea is to bring like-minded people together to really germinate that idea and come up with a great solution?

Jennifer Monti:

I think like-minded in spirit and maybe radically different in approach or role, if that makes sense.

Carrie Wilshusen:

Makes a great sense.

Jennifer Monti:

I try to, we try to call our space the flattest room in the hospital.

Carrie Wilshusen:

Explain that.

Jennifer Monti:

In other words, there are no attending physicians. There are no people lower on the totem pole. You’re just people on a first name basis. And I would, we need to make sure that if you are a custodian with a good idea that you are sitting at the table and if you’re a physician with a good idea, you may be sitting at the table and if you have any beef about sitting with each other, then you shouldn’t be in the room. Because we have to recognize what the science tells us is that good ideas come from everywhere and that talent is sort of equally distributed. Opportunity is not. So how do we build a place within a complex organization where those are the upfront values that then can help support the discussion and whatever people want to pursue as individual. I think for the state at large, we’re a little bit challenged by the sheer geography of the state. We have to be very deliberate about building those runways.

Carrie Wilshusen:

Because the ideas need to come from all over the state in order to serve the state.

Jennifer Monti:

Right, and if somebody with a great concept who is, you know, two or 300 miles north, how do we make sure that they are having the quickest way into resources and people that can help to support them, that’s a deliberate act. It doesn’t happen without some deliberate efforts to do that.

Carrie Wilshusen:

So this is a big change in thinking about where good ideas come from, isn’t it?

Jennifer Monti:

I think so. And I think it’s not the way that business runs on a day to day basis.

Carrie Wilshusen:

Is there resistance to it?

Jennifer Monti:

Well, I think people have so much on their plate and in any field or any business, the most important thing is how we get through the day and put out a good product and in my case, you’re taking care of people, making decisions. Maybe you’re putting out really good automobiles, right? But it’s gotta be somebody’s job to think about the future of the automobile or what’s wrong with that existing automobile. There’s just classic studies that big organizations sometimes don’t have space for that.

Carrie Wilshusen:

It’s easier to stay with your old patterns.

Jennifer Monti:

Yeah. The man who wrote the seminal work on this just passed away in this past week. His name is Clayton Christensen, well known author at the Harvard Business School professor who wrote a book about exactly how this happened. And he started with the steel mills who were doing certain high value products and why would we change? And the smaller mills started to sort of do little things that they could do well and the big guys said, ah, that’s not our core business. We don’t need to do that. Meanwhile, those sort of smaller ones were coming up and up and up, being able to do more and more. And all of a sudden that sort of incumbent is challenged by all this sort of raft of competitors. It’s happening everywhere. It’s the same taxi/Uber debate that you hear.

Carrie Wilshusen:

So in changing your model and in reaching across boundaries and not living in the hierarchical structure, you actually innovate much more quickly.

Jennifer Monti:

That’s the hope. At a minimum, you learn a tremendous amount.

Carrie Wilshusen:

How are you seeing it impacting Maine Health?

Jennifer Monti:

What I have found, I can just sort of speak personally that you’ve really the connections that you make with people who are in the room invaluably are beneficial for the organization down the road and you’re not sure how those will play out. And there has to be a space that can sort of cultivate those relationships because maybe it’s not this project, right? But maybe two or three years down the road it’s, hey, remember we met that person who did this and that and then something else takes off. So that’s what I’m seeing is that people who would not meet each other otherwise are starting to have conversations in the room and you see after meetings, oh they’re talking in the corner know, thinking about maybe this or a different concept. So I think these can be hard to quantify particularly so early in the process. We’re very early in what we’re doing. We really are an experiment. Right?

Carrie Wilshusen:

But it sounds like it’s building a forward thinking culture and kind of empowering a lot of different individuals within the organization that might not have been empowered before.

Jennifer Monti:

That’s the hope that we can do that and that people feel like it’s okay to talk about the things that you want to make better because people, employees I think like that in a big organization are signaling that they care.

Carrie Wilshusen:

You talked about this before, but it sounds like this is definitely not limited to the medical realm. This is an idea that crosses a lot of realms, right?

Jennifer Monti:

Particularly because there’s so much data and research that’s been done in this field. They’re all sort of generic overlays and theories that apply pretty well across industries. So if anything, you know, and I’m definitely not inventing something new, a lot of places have groups like this. I think it was just the right time to start a little pilot experiment at my new place of being because I didn’t find that group at the beginning.

Carrie Wilshusen:

So this is a different model than how medical care has been traditionally delivered. Is that correct?

Jennifer Monti:

Well, I think it is a, a project or a process or an offering that health systems, most of them did not have 10 or 15 years ago. And I think now a lot do and part of that has to do with just the changing nature of health systems. And part of it I think has to do a little bit with what docs, when people who work in healthcare want to spend their time on explaining about. I think that people by definition in the, in the profession, it’s a caring profession. They want to help people. They may feel frustrated by the limitations of a device that they use or a process that we have and they’re looking for a place to be creative and solve that problem instead of maybe kind of feeling like they’re banging their head against the wall, doing the same thing time after time.

Carrie Wilshusen:

And having to wait for some big medical conglomerate to develop it for them.

Jennifer Monti:

Right. And what I have tried to tell folks who come into the cohort with a new idea or a concept is don’t discount what you’re bringing to the table. Because there are big companies, you know, that develop a lot of what we use. They need to find innovative people to help them understand what doesn’t work about technologies that they’re offering.

Carrie Wilshusen:

And folks who are working with the end user, I imagine.

Jennifer Monti:

That’s a huge issue. Right? So talk about that a little bit. You know term, I think in the businesses, customer discovery, like the people who make widgets and gadgets really want to build something useful so that when it gets out in the field it’s successful. People who don’t do that in advance, it’s not going to sell. I was just reading an article. I played basketball in college, I was just reading an article last night about when the NBA tried to change the basketball out and I just tried to put in something new without getting any input from players in the NBA and the ball lasted eight weeks and then they had to turn it around and the CEO of Spaldin retired in the next year. It was this same thing that happened. It’s an end user problem. So that’s where I hope we can get is if we have people who are talking about new things, they need widgets, gadgets, well maybe we can draw it on the back of an envelope and maybe we can get to a good prototype stage and maybe we can find the right actors in an ecosystem to help sort of catalyze that and, and move it out into bigger relevance. I get excited about solving our local problems and then figuring out how they might play out or contribute to some of the problems that everyone else is seeing.

Carrie Wilshusen:

And it’s wonderful to have the different world-views coming in from the different players at Maine Health to bring in their lens on an issue.

Jennifer Monti:

Extremely interesting. I mean, I like to say let’s make it try and make it the most powerful learning environment in the organization. What does that mean? It usually means you feel safe. It means you feel like you can share openly. It means you can talk about the things you don’t know. And I think that’s really an important tone to set up for trying to do things that are a little bit different than our day to day jobs.

Carrie Wilshusen:

So talk about some of the ideas that the cohort has looked at and how the ideas come to the cohorts.

Jennifer Monti:

We have had three full cohorts, about 14 or 15 projects come through and then a handful of sort of affiliated projects, people who have sort of found me or resources that were attached to help advance things that had already had already started. We have worked on several medical devices. One helps to close holes is called gastro cutaneous fistulas, helps to close them from the outside. Professor at USM is actually helping with the prototype on that. We have built a, I’m working on building a mock device for a device that gets implanted and you have to do things to, to help people understand what it would mean to have a device like that before they actually have a real live implanted one in the hopes that once they get the real thing, it won’t fail. It won’t clot off, it won’t have trouble. We have built an app to build what we’d call people’s food genome. So helping people to understand what effectively Instagram for what you eat with real-time feedback to help people sort of look visually at what they’re eating and how we can help change that pattern. We have built software to help understand nurse staffing ratios across different divisions of a hospital. We have built smart sensors to tell when an ostomy bag is full.

Carrie Wilshusen:

Can you talk about how these ideas came into the cohort?

Jennifer Monti:

Mostly we got set up to get started and then I, every time we’re going to get started I have a little road show. Yeah. I go out and meet with people and chiefs of divisions. I meet with the residents make sure that our chief medical officer who’s charged with sort of overseeing the medical staff at all the Maine Health hospitals knows that the cohort is available, not just to people in Portland but to everyone. And I just think about who has either found me organically who I can then reach out to, to have them reach out to their networks or figure out the places. I think we’re most likely to find people who would be interested in this work. And at this point, because we’re such a new project, that’s how we do it.

Carrie Wilshusen:

So you have a person, so give me an example of a, of a background of a person who comes to you with an idea and how it’s generated into an actual device.

Jennifer Monti:

One, I’ll give you an example, one of our pediatric surgeons working on this device to close holes from the outside and his colleague, another surgeon buddy of his had been in the previous cohort looking at an educational opportunity that we didn’t end up putting additional resources in but he’d gone through the process. And I think when we were then saying, Hey, we’re going to start our second cohort if people are interested, apply. I think that’s how he knew about the cohort. And he said, well, here’s a problem I’ve been looking at for 15 years as a pediatric surgeon. I wonder if I can do this a little bit differently. And again comes with the back of an envelope drawing, like printing the pieces on a 3D printer at his neighbor’s house. Like that’s when you know you have something is when someone is hanging out at their neighbor’s 3D printer trying to solve their problem.

Carrie Wilshusen:

So are there barriers to the work you do?

Jennifer Monti:

Oh, yeah, I think the first barrier I think is culture. What culture are we creating in that room to make an environment where ideas and thoughts can really be fleshed out to the point where they’re ready to be shared with a bigger audience. I think if you do have the culture wrong or the chemistry of the people in the room is not quite hanging together, it’s going to be hard to make sort of go through a process to learn more and investigate each idea. I think the other barriers is thinking about securing resources to do this type of work because the research shows there have to be people whose job it is to focus on cultivating this type of work within an organization and Maine Health has made some strides in that way. I know that the organization is looking at hiring somebody who’s charged with being sort of a VP of innovation and that job is still to be defined, but that’s out there and being recruited for right now. So I think those are the primary challenges.

Carrie Wilshusen:

I would also think empowering people at all levels in the organization to trust their ideas and their life experience and bring them forward to the cohort.

Jennifer Monti:

The most interesting thing I get to do is when the applications come in, I get excited. It comes up, click on it and I see, Oh who? Who has applied what, where across the organization are these coming from? And we’re open right now for applications. The first one that comes in is from a nurse who’s describing a very specific need. I have second one came in from a resident, third one came in from one of our attending physicians. And there’s a fourth one I saw come in this morning that I need to look at. So we can probably support, well a four to six projects in any given. We’ve run it twice a year at, well we’ve only been through three, but we plan to run it twice a year and my hope is we can do about four to six projects. We usually have somewhere in between 15 and 20 applications, but I would take one project if I felt like that was the only one that came in that time that looked like we had a good chance of success, that that’s kind of values were aligned in the right way. So it’s always fun to see what comes in and then to kind of close it out and look at them as a group.

Carrie Wilshusen:

And just the process of working on it. So an idea comes in the door, so somebody drew something on the back of the napkin, then does the cohort with all of their various views on that issue come together and discuss and bring their perspective to bear on it? Is that how it works?

Jennifer Monti:

Yes. And it’s fascinating because you might be a surgeon presenting to a room of social workers. What does that mean? It means you have to speak in a really clear layman’s terms because that’s also the language you’re going to have to use if anyone’s going to consider investing in the project. So learning how to sort of talk to people across organization, organizational level or job type. So the first day it’s always, the only thing that people have to come with is a 90 second pitch. And what I say is your pitches to tell me who cares and why. That’s it. 90 seconds ready go. And they come pretty well prepared. But it’s remarkable to see where they get from our first meeting to sort of our fifth meeting in that, in that clarity.

Carrie Wilshusen:

Do you have to train around being open to the feedback from other members of the cohort at all?

Jennifer Monti:

I find that people who choose to apply are almost self-selecting or kind of waving their hand as somebody who’s more in tune with that vibe. So I’ve yet to have, or maybe we are selecting projects. Well, I’ve yet to have kind of a rogue actor. I had to be like this, this is not, this is causing the group’s kind of chemistry to be off. We haven’t had that yet.

Carrie Wilshusen:

So you said that this is not unique nationally, that there are other folks that are doing this kind of work. Can you talk a little bit about the national landscape in this area?

Jennifer Monti:

Yeah, I’m certainly not an expert in it, but I do know some of it from my experience. Generally large academic medical centers, so places like Harvard, Mayo, Stanford, Cleveland Clinic, Penn have innovation centers, multimillion dollar funded places generally and they usually tend to have large basic science laboratories also attached to them and it really is the home for things like patent filings and patent execution and starting companies and none of them are self-funding. In other words, in some cases at a large academic center you may have a lab that comes up with something brilliant, perfect fit for the market and becomes a big company on its own wild success or a license is executed to a large company to then develop that device or medication and then that’s, that develops a royalty stream back to the institution. That certainly happens in some places, but in no place does it happen where it’s self funds, the whole kind of organization. It’s usually a combination of dedicated funds, philanthropy and some royalties coming back.

Carrie Wilshusen:

Do you think there’s a sea change in how we think about where good ideas come from?

Jennifer Monti:

I think that the people who study these processes have done a great service to how we think about building products and companies in the future. I think it’s also just that as things have changed in terms of how easy it is to start a company, how information is distributed, I think that’s all sort of contributing to what we see now, which is people feeling like if they have a good idea, they ought to be able to pursue it through some channel. We know a scary amount of your life is predicated on the networks that you’re in and figuring out a way to curate those networks here, making them dense and connected that’s its own sort of expertise.

Join us next time as we continue our conversation with Dr. Jennifer Monti as we discuss medicine, public health, and innovation.

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