Four Lessons I learned From Launching the Wharton Digital Health Podcast

Contributor: Rohan Siddhanti, WG‘19
To learn more about Rohan, click here.

 

podcast-4209770_1920.jpg“This is Rohan Siddhanti, and welcome to the Wharton Digital Health Podcast. It’s a podcast where MBAs can connect with the alumni community about the latest trends, company initiatives, and jobs available in the payer/provider, digital health, and investing spaces.” That’s been the podcast introduction since it was launched in October 2018. Over 2,000 listens later, the podcast is going strong with new incoming student leadership and many guests in the pipeline.

As I am graduating, the new podcast leadership will be rising second years Lora Rosenblum, Arpan Parikh, Scott Lever, and Jason Peterson. If you’d like to be featured as a guest, please contact WhartonDigitalHealthPodcast@gmail.com. 

After interviewing Wharton alumni in the healthcare space, here are the top four takeaways so far:

#1 - The MBA does pay: the Wharton healthcare community was integral to the career of every podcast guest. 

While seasoned graduates likely already know this, younger graduates often opine they’re not sure the MBA will pay off, though our guests beg to differ. None of their stories would be possible without a strong connection to the vibrant Wharton healthcare community. 

A classic example is podcast guest Grace Bell, WG‘17, who asked June Kinney to introduce her to Sachin Jain, the CEO of CareMore. Sachin responded immediately, and Grace was on a flight later that week. Separately but related, Sachin is now a top healthcare influencer on LinkedIn and posted our podcast episode of Grace, generating hundreds of listens, a definite highlight for our podcast group! 

Another story of the Wharton network paying dividends is podcast guest Vidya Murthy (WEMBA ‘18). Mike Kijewski, WG‘12, was in the process of founding a company, and contacted Vidya; she had worked in the medical device space and was starting her executive MBA at Wharton. During the two years while Vidya finished her degree, she and Mike kept in touch, bonded by their mutual interest in medical device cybersecurity and, of course, their Wharton degrees. She came on full-time, and the company just finished Y-combinator as part of the Spring 2019 cohort. 

#2 - The Penn healthcare community has a deep bench in early-stage and venture-backed company leaders. 

While Wharton is perhaps typically thought of as more of a services and large-company place, there exists a growing plurality of those who are working at or investing in growth stage start-ups. 

Our first guest, BA Sillah, Penn MD and WG’17, is an investor at an early bio-tech/pharma fund in Philadelphia. His fund and others constantly come across Penn alumns either as entrepreneurs, investors, or researchers. Additionally, the University of Pennsylvania recently put aside $50M for spinout firms, as successes include Spark Therapeutics (in acquisition by Roche for ~$4.8B). 

The pipeline for podcast guests has continued to grow, which has given us visibility into where alums are. Wharton has entrepreneurial alums in Director or above level roles in the spaces of home care, behavioral health, medical device, managed care, big data/analytics, real-world evidence, chatbots, and venture/incubator/accelerators. 

#3 - You do not have to be in the Healthcare Management (HCM) Program to be welcomed into the Wharton healthcare community.

HCM continues to build on its reputation as being one of the most inclusive communities at Wharton. 

I am not in the Wharton Healthcare Management Program, but I never found that to be a barrier. Several of my job opportunities came from current HCM students, HCM alumni were more than willing to chat with me for this podcast and other conversations, and HCM resources such as people or classes were even available as long as I made the right case.

The same was true for podcast guest Imran Cronk (Penn ‘16 undergrad). He hustled his way into Wharton graduate healthcare club events and took all the healthcare classes he could, all as an undergrad. Upon graduating, HCM alumn Bernie Zipprich, WG‘16, helped him land his first job. Later, Cronk took on HCM alumn Samir Malik, WG ‘13, as an advisor to his company, which has now scaled to 25 states. 

#4 - Most early stage/growth companies do not have a dedicated pipeline for hiring MBAs, but welcome the talent at the right price.

All of our interviewees have said they don’t actively go out and seek MBAs, but rather welcome it when an MBA comes and knocks on their door. Because of the high price MBAs often command, it’s hard to justify them unless there is a very strong strategic fit. 

Companies that are actively acquiring capital look for MBAs with a specialized skill set and/or particular knowledge of a market. Another common request for MBA talent is individuals who can identify market fit and pricing, determining which products to push forward first and how. Growth stage healthcare start-ups tend to not want ‘pivot-ers,’ or people who are trying something completely new. They would prefer experience. Lastly, summer internships are often not on the table, as the overhead required outweighs the benefit to the company. 

Some of our published episodes include:

  1. Mamta Patel, WG‘14 - leads Operational Excellence Team at Flatiron (bought by Roche for $1.9B in April ‘18) (link)
  2. Imran Cronk, Penn‘16 - Founder and CEO of Ride Health (seed stage start-up now in 25 states that helps get patients to appointments) (link) 
  3. Lauren Post, WG‘14 - Director of Account Management at Grand Rounds (healthcare navigation company, raised $100M+) (link)
  4. BA Sillah, WG‘17 - Militia Hill Ventures, a Philadelphia-based life sciences venture capital firm (link)
  5. Grace Bell - leads Specialty Operations at CareMore ($1B+ independent subsidiary of WellPoint, risk-bearing care provider, growing fast) (link)
  6. Kristen Coletto - member of Strategic Partnerships team at Aetion (real-world evidence platform that counts 8 of top 15 Pharma as clients, raised $70M+ from Flare, NEA and others) (link)
  7. Mike Kijewski, WG’12, and Vidya Murthy, WEMBA‘18 - CEO and VP of Operations, respectively, at MedCrypt, a Y-Combinator backed cybersecurity company in medical devices.(link)
  8. James Chaukos, WG’17 - Co-Founder, CFO, and Recruiting Lead for Cricket Health, which has raised $24M+ from Oak, First Round and others to tackle kidney care. (link)

Every business school can do a better job of decreasing the information asymmetry between growth-stage companies and MBA job applicants; Wharton is no different. Because of our distinguished healthcare program and vibrant community, we have an opportunity to highlight our leaders and ideas and get students excited about the latest trends and job opportunities. We hope you’ll give the podcast a listen and look forward to your feedback! 

Contact Rohan at:
rohansid@gmail.com
cell: 703.795.4488