Leaving Residency to Start a Business – Surviving Medicine Podcast: Part 2

Leaving Residency to Start a Business – Surviving Medicine Podcast: Part 2


So let’s transition, I guess, from where
were you when you decided to make that transition from you know,
medicine to I’m going to go more of the the business route? I guess where were
you in your life? Where were you in the middle of residency? And kind of where
when did that happen? Yeah, I was in my third year of residency and mainly
pathology at that time, and I think just just realize that I was just continuing
to plug away and still faced with the same ‘I don’t know what specialty I want
to practice’ problem even though I had sort of forced myself down one path
there. And this idea that had started really two years prior was just still in
the back of my head and I decided well if I’m not sure what I want to do, as far
as clinical practice maybe it’s a good time to take some time and see if
something could come of this idea and so you know I let them know and
of course you get a mixed reaction because medicine and physicians, you
know it’s a stable career, it’s a guaranteed steady a stable income and
it’s you know it’s a great career option and you jump through so many hoops to
get in and to get to that point and student loans and everything else and so
it scares people and that’s when you say ‘oh I think I’m gonna try to do something
that’s way riskier’ and physicians in general tend to be more risk-averse I
think and so definitely had mixed response but you know I felt like
it was something I needed to at least try and so I took some time off at that
point to give it a go and then so at this point I couldn’t look back and
say I didn’t end up having to go back. And I’m I’m happy you know in in the decision I made and I think this was
eye opening for a lot of my colleagues who just were like oh we’ll
see you back in a few months they’re probably like ‘oh she’s going to
take a short sabbatical, she’ll be back back’ right? Yeah, so I think you know it’s it’s,
I think for physicians and medical students, especially, successes is just
such an important thing and a lot of times it just gets drilled into your
mind that success is measured by you know your test scores, or your you know
like dollars, like your income or your you know your career path. And I think
what people don’t realize is that success really is just measured by you
know, doing something that matters even if it’s to like one person that’s still
success and so I was willing to do that I was willing to forego so I guess the
success that traditionally medical student or doctor would look for and say
oh I’m okay with that, I’ll still feel like I did the right thing if this helps one person
pass their exam or whatever it might be. So were you were you starting
to I guess, this was in 2011 I guess when you made that transition? Yeah it was late
2011. So where did the idea come from? I guess to
go this route or was it something that I guess maybe you always had thought
about or had always been doing? Yeah, it was something I had been thinking
about for a long time and I decided okay I’ll finish residency and then
I’ll do this or try this afterward in that way I’ll have sort of a fallback and I
realized that I just kept putting more time into training, when I knew it just
wasn’t in me to use that training anyway I guess. So I just I guess it just got to
a point where it was yeah pretty sure that pathology wasn’t the
right path for me either and I didn’t want to start over again and try
another specialty again so that was when I decided like just go for it and hope
for the best and sort of jump in. I guess for our listeners, why don’t you tell them what was your next move I know in the intro I obviously talked
about for BoardVitals but I want hear it from you I want to hear where the idea came
from and kind of how it got started. Yeah so I mean really the idea just
came from seeing the inefficiencies and low-tech study methods that residents
were using. My pathology program here at Mount Sinai actually literally studied
from handwritten notes that the seniors had passed down and there was a box with
the stack of wrinkled up papers munched handwritten notes from years and years
of you know just tidbits from previous graduates. And I thought that
was just the strangest thing I’d ever seen so I said ‘no one’s typed this up
even into a word document?’ No, it was just that’s how it was and so me and my
husband, who was across the way another hospital doing his psychiatry residency
and I was like ‘is this what it is?’ he said oh yeah we have like file boxes and old
expired exams that people have already written all over and things like that.
And so I said ‘well there’s got to be a way to put something online so that
people can study’ I said well you know we had at that point and I don’t think UWorld
was as widespread but for USMLE I think we used Kaplan when I was a med
student. And I said Kaplan does it for you know Step 1,
at least they had a first Step 1 at that point and there’s no reason that
there couldn’t be something like that for all these different board exams.
And so that’s when we said, ‘okay we’ll start with psychiatry’ because he was studying that and
we’ll start putting that together and you know he advised me as far as topics
and we had a few writers and sort of started to grow a question Bank for
psychiatry specifically and yeah. At first we didn’t charge, we were just
kind of getting feedback and seeing you know what tweaks to make and how really,
I had taught taught myself how to do enough coding to put something together
and then I met my co-founder Dan probably a few months into that and he
had started a pathology similar thing for pathology right when I was starting
to after psychiatry do pathology and so he had reached out and he’s um he’s a
tech savy. He has a really interesting background I
did a little research. Yeah and so all the stuff I was struggling with
as far as the business in terms of you know managing the technology side and
and a lot of the business aspects you know it was he was the perfect fit and
so we decided to merge our two companies and and then I could just focus on the
medical side so it worked out great. Wow so that was so it’s when when I saw
that that you had had a co founder co-founder was very medically related
but had been kind of a serial entrepreneur, I thought to myself there
are probably physicians out there or residents out there who have thought
about doing anything business, whether it’s biotech, whether it’s pharmaceutical,
whether it’s you know board our education based material and it’s
interesting because I think that we as physicians, or as medical professionals,
when were trained we don’t get any business background, we don’t get a lot
of this education that obviously you had a co-founder that could support you with
maybe he knew more of the the business side of it but I know that obviously you
grew up with a little business minded but
yeah yeah. So how was it I guess finding a co-founder or working
with him to kind of mesh your guys’s ideas and it’s very different role I
guess leaving pathology residency into now being working with one other person
trying to build a company. Yes, definitely.
Well the good thing was I mean he he also grew up in a medical family and his interest in business school was the this was kind of his project in business
school was building an educational product similar and so you know it
worked out great that we you know had the same vision and and similar
backgrounds, not educationally but just from you know growing up both you know
with physicians in family and seeing that kind of medical education
process from childhood. And then I think you know we just met and worked really
well together and I think that’s not always the case so we’re pretty pretty
lucky that we have you know complementary backgrounds and
personalities that worked well together and I think you know it was one of those
things where we probably could have both built a product on our own and had
something but it probably wouldn’t have been as successful I think. So what
advice would you give I guess to any let’s say there’s a position out there
who is practicing medicine but doesn’t feel that it’s right for them and
they’ve known but they just don’t know what to do what they maybe have ideas I
guess what advice would you to give to them no matter wherever they’re at in
their in their transition? Yeah, I think, you know I think it’s always good to
have a you know fallback and you can always start small so a lot of things
you can start while you’re a medical student or while you’re, you know
training or while you’re practicing even and still have you know you always have
the option to fall back on you know as long as
finished medical school I guess. You still have that to fall back onto you
can always go back and do training, you can always train in a different specialty,
so I think one thing is just making sure that you feel comfortable with what
you’ve left behind and that you could you know have something there if you if
you wanted to go back and then just do something that is it falls in your like
in your interests and skills and just you know just give it a shot I think I
hear right I do a lot of mentoring advising of other physicians who will
want to start other companies or have started other side ventures and that’s a
big thing now physicians are all side giging now. So I advise a lot of them
with these things and what I see most often is just not giving it
enough time and not you know getting a little nervous and then just going going
back to clinical practice as sort of a safe place. So I would say you know make
sure that you feel comfortable taking on a little risk and you’re willing to
feel that fear a little bit. So how long was it while
you’re transitioning to where you felt comfortable like, ‘I think I made the
right decision’ I’m sure there was probably months or years where you were
like did I make the right decision? Yeah, I think you always, I mean it doesn’t but
it doesn’t matter what you end up doing you always think there could have been
different decisions you make right? So I don’t think that ever goes away, I always
say on you know maybe I know a friends who are OBGYN’s and say’ oh my I
should have done surgery’ or you know the that always happens no matter what when
you kind of choose a path and you go down, you always think I wonder what it
would have been like if I’d done something different. I think as far as
the real fear that would all of my colleagues and family said
was the big risk would become true as part of that going away
I think really once I mean once we got some funding and could hire some staff
that’s when ok this is doable like this this can work if we have
support and so that I think when things kind of eased up. It almost sounds
like almost right when you realize that other people believed in your vision too,
that it was maybe a little, like I mean funding obviously is this is a group
of people that really believed in your vision cuz they’re not going to give you
money but that’s interesting to think about. Yeah there’s definitely some validation
more so than you know, we were selling some before that and so you know
there’s a little bit of validation just in that and getting feedback from people
who like the product but yeah definitely I mean raising funds and New York and
Silicon Valley is not easy and so especially for something like you know
something that’s not totally unique or totally new. Something that others were
sort of doing and so that was a really validation I think that okay they
believe in us as a team and our product specifically that we can win.

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