SoPE & The Japan Ministry of Health

In the last decade, entrepreneurial spirit within the United States has grown rapidly across various industries, but especially in the medical and healthcare fields. Many practicing physicians have entered the entrepreneurial world, creating new inventions themselves, launching companies or acting as consultants or advisors for medical device companies. We often we take for granted the entrepreneurial spirit in the United States.

Jeffery Hausfeld, MD, MBA, FACS and Rania Nasis, MD, MBA had the pleasure of speaking with individuals from Chiyo, the Japanese Ministry of Health about the success of medical and healthcare entrepreneurial ventures in the United States and how physicians and their roles have evolved over the last decade, leading to new inventions, development of impactful medical devices, and improved patient care.

In their conversation, Dr. Hausfeld and Dr. Nasis discussed how, up until more recently, physicians in the United States took a mostly traditional path after medical school to become practicing clinicians. However, over the last couple of decades, the medical field has developed a more entrepreneurial atmosphere, where physicians can pursue different career paths. After finishing school, students now have the opportunity to pursue a multitude of surgical or medical residencies, conduct academic research, enter a career in industry, or launch their own companies. By contrast, in Japan, medical students have limited options beyond clinical medical upon graduation.

Physicians still primarily focus on taking care of patients, but the atmosphere in the US encourages physicians to take business classes and to be more entrepreneurial after medical school. Medical students are exposed to physicians who develop products and continue to innovate. It is not uncommon in the United States to add-on an MBA degree, or incorporate business classes as part of medical school curriculum. Combining medical and business knowledge diversifies the path for medical doctors to take, and enables them to invent, consult for health-related companies, or start their own companies. Doctors are a natural choice for medical device development. Doctors are involved in the design and development of medical devices for patients, and the earlier they are a part of the conversation, the more ownership they will feel around the product and the better the outcome for the patient.

In the past, when physicians veered away from only practicing medicine, it was looked upon unfavorably, but through gradual societal change we have begun to celebrate physician entrepreneurship, and the positive impact it has on the life of everyday people. Doctors using dated technologies became frustrated while practicing, sparking innovation to create products, methods, and techniques that improved clinical practice and patient care. When physicians started to consult and start their own companies, many did not know where to start. The Society of Physician Entrepreneurs (SoPE), with chapters across the United States and internationally, provides educational content around key topics (patents, developing medical devices, regulatory pathways, starting/launching a company) and offers networking opportunities with other entrepreneurially-minded individuals. Because membership is not exclusive to physicians, SoPE has a variety of regulatory affairs specialists, engineers, lawyers, and technical developers with knowledge in diagnostics, apps, med-tech, and biopharmaceuticals. SoPE has partnerships with various medical schools and hospital systems across the country, providing educational and networking resources for medical students and employees. SoPE has and continues to embody the changing culture within the medical field, which encourages innovation to improve patient lives and patient care. We hope that this outreach will help to foster and nurture the innovation and entrepreneurial drive for our colleagues in Japan!