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5 tips for success from physician innovators and entrepreneurs

Looking for sage advice from an entrepreneurial physician who’s ‘been there’? Having produced Joule’s Boldly podcast for three years, I’ve had the privilege of being a fly on the wall, hearing first-hand accounts and learnings from some Canada’s top-notch physician innovators.

Whether you’re just starting out or you’re looking to take your skills to the next level, here is a collection of some of the best advice we’ve heard time and time again:

tweetable: “You have that innate drive already within you. That’s why you’re in medicine. You can use that for good in many ways.” Sonny Kohli
  1. It’s all about the problem you can solve

What is the gap you’re trying to fill? Dr. Dennis DiValentino of RAMCare claims, “Success in the future is going to be found by fixing problems.”

Eric Zhao, medical student and founder of Lumina, echoes this same sentiment. It’s all about finding an “unmet need”—and rather than creating a solution to a small problem, he believes it’s important to learn what can you do to support the big problems instead. 

Dr. Julielynn Wong of 3D4MD agrees. “You have to start with a patient, and a problem the patient is facing. Then you have to ask…who is inconvenienced by this problem?”

  1. Know where you can have the greatest impact

Before you get started with your solution—consider how you’re going have a positive impact. Then, find a way to impact even more people. Dr. Jack Pacey, who claims to have “Inventors Disease”, shares the additional impact he has had through solutions like the Pacey Cuff, which he founded: “As a surgeon, I helped one person at a time. As an inventor, sometimes I’m helping quite a few people on the same day.”

For Dr. Julielynn Wong, bigger is better―her goal is to positively impact a million people. “When it comes to innovation, you have to think about impact. That should be your primary goal. And the bigger the impact, the better.”

  1. Surround yourself with a strong team

Having the right team and support around you is paramount to any pursuit, especially if you are aphysician innovator or entrepreneur. Dr. Jacob Jaremko of CUDL credits much of his success to the team he’s created and claims, “it’s much more interesting to work with a group of diverse people than it is to try and hammer away in isolation.” 

Founder of 16Bit, Dr. Alex Bilbily says having a business partner or co-founder you can trust is critical―so that you can lean on each other when you need to.  Both Dr. Alex Bilbily and Dr. Yanick Beaulieu of Reacts share the importance of surrounding yourself with others that fit your vision,but have  different skillsets to round out your team.

  1. No short-cuts—test, test, test

Getting your innovation project up and running quickly is exciting. But it’s just as important to test your solution thoroughly and pivot if need be. Dr. Wey Leong of ReFilx encourages physicians to talk about their innovation and to have good people around them to test their hypothesis. 

Dr. Denis Vincent of EzReferral echoes these comments—he believes that it’s important to reassess your ideas along the way. If you realize you’re heading down the wrong path, you can pivot. “It’s important to always have reality checks, and make sure that your brilliant idea is actually brilliant.”

  1. Significant impact takes persistence, risk-taking and patience―keep going!

No matter what stage you’re at, know that you’re already making a difference. Persistence and risk-taking are fundamental to your success. Dr. Kamran Khan insists that, “when it comes to innovation, I think risk-taking is kind of intertwined. It’s a necessary thing in order to do something that’s transformative.”

Dr. Dennis Reich reminds us to be patient. “Don’t try and change the world overnight, even if it’s a simple problem.”

Dr. Eitan Prisman says that there are multiple road blocks when you are trying to innovate, but it’s important to stay positive and bounce back from this resistance. If you believe in an idea that will help others, it’s worth fighting for.


If you’re a physician innovator, what do you wish you had known before your entrepreneurship journey? Is there anything you would have done differently? Share your expertise with us on LinkedIn, Twitter, or Facebook.


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The opinions stated by podcast participants are made in a personal capacity and do not reflect those of the Canadian Medical Association and its subsidiaries including Joule. Joule does not endorse any views, product, service, association, company or industry mentioned in this podcast.