Physician viewpoint: 5 traits successful physician-innovators have in common

Physicians who want to have a hand in the digital transformation of healthcare — and do so by launching startups and collaborating with researchers on new innovations — typically share a few key qualities, from strong communication skills to an inherent instinct for entrepreneurship.

In a recent interview with the American Medical Association, Arlen Meyers, MD, professor emeritus at the University of Colorado School of Medicine and president and CEO of the Society of Physician Entrepreneurs, listed several traits that clinician-entrepreneurs should have, and which can be cultivated into a successful career as a health tech innovator while still in medical school.

1. Instinct: While hard work will certainly get a medical innovator far, there are some things that cannot be learned from a book or taught. "You have to be, in some respects, prewired to do this," Dr. Meyers said.

2. Vision: The ability to look at an obstacle or failure and see an opportunity, then quickly adapt is crucial for both physicians and innovators.

3. Energy: Med school students and full-time physicians do not have a lot of time to spare, so it is imperative that they are energized and still operating at the highest level when they do find a spare minute to pursue entrepreneurship.

4. People skills: While there are often many opportunities for innovation within health systems and med schools, the most effective entrepreneurs are continually expanding their networks. "Do your best to integrate and connect to the local ecosystem," Dr. Meyers suggested. "Whether it's digital health or bio-pharma or med tech, most major cities have these bio-clusters and science associations that you need to take advantage of."

5. Desire: Failure will come early and often, and only an unimpeachable drive to succeed will help physician-innovators continue on toward their goals. "If you don't have that inner voice egging you on, it's pretty easy to get discouraged and quit," Dr. Meyers said.

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