ASU workshop teaches health care pros how to disrupt their field, launch new ventures

Monday, August 24, 2020

The path to entrepreneurship looks different for everyone but there are some universal steps that can be taken to get to your destination faster. At Arizona State University, the Health Entrepreneurship Accelerator Lab serves that exact purpose for health-related ideas.

It provides resources, programming, executive education and continuing education unit opportunities to not only the ASU community but anyone in the community at large with aspirations to start their own health-focused business. 

Their most recent offering, a Health Innovation and Entrepreneurship Workshop, was designed to meet the needs of current health care practitioners. This is a group that is able to see the problems in their field but may not have the tools or background to create solutions.

“We launched this program as a direct result of the health community telling us they needed this resource,” said Clinical Professor Rick Hall, director of the HEALab and senior director of health innovation programs at ASU’s Edson College of Nursing and Health Innovation. 

Originally, the two-day workshop was scheduled to take place in the spring and in person but with the onset of the coronavirus, plans changed. The workshop was moved to August and took place virtually. 

What didn’t change was the curriculum, which was focused around a few key topics.  Participants discovered ways to identify problems, ideate solutions, develop business models, find funding opportunities and navigate legal issues.  In addition, participants also earned six hours of continuing health education credit through ASU’s Office of Interprofessional Continuing Health Education.  

“We worked in partnership with Coplex and the Maricopa County Medical Society in order to provide meaningful resources and experts. Our goal for the workshop was to present participants with valuable information and insights from our panelists and keynote speakers who have been in their shoes,” Hall said.

One of the keynote speakers was Lisa Porter. The ASU nursing alumna is the founder and creator of JobDocs, an app that lets users upload, organize, and share job-related documents and certifications.

Lisa Porter, Nurse Innovator | Founder & CEO at JobDocs | MSN-RN-FNP | Entrepreneur

Lisa Porter, Founder & CEO, MSN-RN-FNP

She says health care professionals have constant exposure to problems that exist, adding that they are problem solvers at their core and seek out careers in the medical field because they want to make things better.

“As providers, we have so many skills that cross over to entrepreneurship. Those skills include our ability to ask questions, seek out alternatives, use strategies to meet goals, collaborate with teams, and seek out experts that help us meet goals for our patients. These are also key characteristics in business, both in product development and in creating ventures,” Porter said.

Drawing those connections and pointing out all of the learned skills they already have that will serve them well in business is an important message for Porter to share. So while starting any new venture can be daunting, these individuals are already well equipped to take the leap.

Her goal in sharing her own entrepreneurship experience with her colleagues and peers at the workshop was to encourage those who might be sitting on a great idea to take the next step.

“I hope they took away some inspiration and felt empowered to move forward with their innovative ideas around products, services, and technologies that create valuable solutions to have a positive impact on patients, caregivers, and improve processes that benefit the health care industry.”

Participants also heard from Dr. John Shufeldt, a man who has literally done it all. The physician, lawyer, pilot and W. P. Carey School of Business MBA graduate is a self-described change agent and multidisciplinary entrepreneur. He’s founded several companies over the last 30 years including the successful and innovative NextCare Urgent Care. 

For him, being able to speak to fellow providers with entrepreneurial aspirations at events like this is not only rewarding but inspiring.

“I love the quote from Descartes about the ability to see a little further by standing on the shoulders of giants. Sharing the knowledge I’ve gained, the mistakes and successes and the incredible journey helps me to reenergize knowing that in a small way, I was able to provide some degree of lift so that they too could see over the horizon,” Shufeldt said. 

Dr. John Shufeldt, MD, JD, MBA, Founder & CEO

Dr. John Shufeldt, MD, JD, MBA, founder and CEO.

And while Porter wanted to shine a light on the skills providers already have, Shufeldt highlighted the idea that through this journey, entrepreneurs will discover skills and traits they never even knew they had.

Of significant importance he says are the traits of persistence, humility and humor. 

“The ability to persevere against the odds, when things do not go as planned is of paramount importance. Having the humility to take risks and the sense of humor to laugh at yourself when things go wrong will increase both your chance of success and of keeping your sanity,” he said. 

From inspiring keynotes to breakout sessions full of concrete steps and action items, participants gained valuable insights throughout the workshop. And each person received a resource guide featuring information on funding opportunities as well as companies and organizations to connect with as their venture develops.

It wasn’t all learning and no play though. There was dedicated time for networking on both days, another important element of innovation and a great benefit for the more than two dozen people who enrolled in the workshop.

“Whether you’re connecting with people who are just starting out or who have multiple companies under their belt, every experience is relevant and provides a more realistic view of what it takes to be an entrepreneur. I was inspired by the content and curriculum we were able to deliver and I know this experience will be a catalyst for some great health care ideas to come to market,” Hall said.

The Health Entrepreneurship Accelerator Lab (HEALab) is an interdisciplinary initiative between Entrepreneurship and Innovation, Edson College of Nursing and Health Innovation, College of Health Solutions, and New College of Interdisciplinary Arts and Sciences, with a co-working space on the Downtown Phoenix campus and additional programming on the West campus and ASU Online, with a mission to provide an array of resources for innovators who are interested in bringing their health-related business ventures to market.