Administration & Operations, Advancement of EM

Reflections on Innovation & Entrepreneurship in Emergency Medicine

At ACEP 2019, EMRA’s Administration & Operations Committee hosted 3 leaders with a diverse array of experiences in innovation and entrepreneurship:

  • James Dahle, MD, a ground-breaking entrepreneur in physician-tailored personal finance who founded the White Coat Investor blog, books, and community on which countless physicians have come to rely,
  • Stephanie Gravenor, MBA, an innovative entrepreneur with a background in industrial engineering who is making waves in health care operations management through her new company, Medecipher; and,
  • Jesse Pines, MD, MBA, MSCE, a renowned researcher in emergency department economics who is working to transform health care payment and delivery models, catalyzed most recently by his new role as National Director of Clinical Innovation at US Acute Care Solutions.

Each panelist spoke about their unique story, illuminating how their personal journey drove their aspirations and ultimately fueled their success. Pines’ past as a Congressional intern in DC taught him how to never take “no” for an answer. Later, as a first-year resident, that same persistence in the face of skepticism led him to establish a massive, productive research enterprise. Gravenor had once felt hopelessly powerless when she saw her sister, who had been seriously injured in a terrorist attack, receive poorly coordinated care in a US hospital after transfer from a European facility; since then, she has vowed to fix health care systems in disarray. Dahle had become frustrated after feeling cheated by the financial services industry when he was sold woefully subpar investment and insurance products; he has since worked tirelessly to ensure that no physician repeats those same mistakes.

These personal stories were studded with invaluable lessons for residents and students in emergency medicine who are interested in leading change. We have distilled some of these ideas into the following pearls:

10 Keys to Powering Ideas and Accelerating Innovation 

  1. Embrace the power of collaboration (Pines). You can often find allies in overlooked places. Think outside the box to find others interested in supporting and building upon your ideas. 
  2. Translate ideas across disciplines (Dahle). If something works in one field, try to see if it works in another. For example, personal finance self-help books had been around for decades; however, the White Coat Investor was the first to make personal finance specifically pertinent to a physician audience.
  3. Transform your personal frustrations into change (Gravenor). Necessity is a powerful driver of change. Embrace challenging situations by asking, “How can I make this better?”.
  4. Fail fast and fail often (Dahle). Failing at something isn’t a sign of weakness. We will all fail. However, if you fail quickly and recognize that failure, you can pivot to try a new and potentially successful approach.
  5. Seek out and cultivate mentors (Pines). Look for people a few steps ahead of where you are. Reach out and ask questions. Be intentional about maintaining those relationships. 
  6. Don’t be afraid to mentor others (Gravenor). As we continue to venture forth in our careers, sometimes it can be easy to forget how far we have already come. Share with others the lessons you have learned, and pay your experience forward. 
  7. Convince naysayers with numbers (Gravenor). It can be hard to convince people to try your ideas on principle alone. Try to quantify the opportunity (or cost) of future directions to nudge others toward change.
  8. Stay ahead of the curve (Dahle). If you are continually innovating within your space, strive to be the first mover. If another party creates something promising, consider partnering with them (e.g. purchase equity in their company or idea) rather than competing directly.
  9. Don’t take “no” for an answer (Pines). If you have a great idea that you are passionate about, do not let a lack of support stop you from pursuing it. Keep looking for people who believe in what you are doing—you may have to ask a dozen people and look in unconventional places, but support is out there somewhere.
  10. Find your niche, but don’t stress about it (Dahle). Everyone finds their niche in different ways and at different times, and it may not be what you expect. It might be ultrasound; or, you may read about personal finance in your spare time and stumble upon your niche accidentally. 

*The above “10 Keys to Powering Ideas and Accelerating Innovation” are paraphrased based on the panel discussion at ACEP 2019 and not direct quotations. 

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