Week 6 Review: Babson College, Boston. 16th – 22nd October

This week started off with Monday free from classes, so I took an opportunity to get a tour of the Boston Health Care for the Homeless Program (BHCHP), having met someone who worked there at the Hubweek Mass Challenge Pulse event. I’m planning to publish an article I’ve written about the Opioid and Homelessness Problems in Boston based on a Hubweek event I went to last week, and when I do so I’ll link to it here.

The BHCHP has a fascinating story – it was started in 1985 by Dr Jim J. O’Connell, affectionately known around Boston as the “Street Doctor”. For more about his work, I highly recommend this article in the Harvard Magazine. The BHCHP is one of 240 such centres throughout the USA and though they receive grants from the U.S. Health Resources and Services Administration (an agency of the Department of Health and Human Services), the bulk of the program’s budget of $51 million comes from third-party reimbursements (health insurance), with other revenue coming from federal, state, and foundation grants, pharmacy charges, and charitable gifts.

There are several parts to the centre. When you walk in the door, the first thing you notice is the discreet SPOT centre. This innovative area is for people with substance use disorder who use intravenous opioids (heroin etc) to come if they feel they are at risk of overdose (eg respiratory arrest and death). Shielded from view of  the main reception by large doors,  there are nursing staff, a bunch of reclining chairs, vital observation monitoring equipment and naloxone – I was told they have around 1200 interactions per year, with only around 50 requiring naloxone.

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The SPOT centre at BHCHP

Upstairs there are clinics and the 104 bed inpatient centre, for homeless people who are too unwell to return to the street or shelter, due to AIDS, cancer or other diseases. For more about the centre, see this Harvard Magazine article here.

Back to Babson

Later on Monday I headed into Babson campus to meet with two professors.

Prof Jean-Luc Boulnois is an engineer by background who has worked on a multitude of medical devices and products, including:

  • Quantel SA, a French company where he developed scientific and medical lasers first as staff scientist and later as Vice-President of Engineering
  • President and Chief Operating Officer of Technomed International Inc., a medical company specializing in non-invasive technologies for urology
  • President and Chief Executive Officer of Sometec, an innovative international medical device company in the area of non-invasive monitoring

It is immediately very clear that the patient is always his primary concern when it comes to medical devices – a viewpoint that really resonates with me. He also had a lot of valuable knowledge about partnering with bigger medical device organisations and the market danger of commoditisation in the medical technology market.

Prof Andrew Zacharakis is Professor Entrepreneurship and author of several books including “Entrepreneurship” – he was extremely helpful in providing a “sniff test” and sounding board for my entrepreneurial ideas.

The Glenville Stops

James Stuart – MD of Entrepreneurial Scotland – had just arrived in Boston so we headed out to a nice restaurant in Allston called the Glenville Stops – where the happy hour offering is $1 oysters! It was good to catch up with him and learn a bit more about his vision for Saltire.

Tuesday and Wednesday

On Tuesday and Wednesday we had a couple of interesting lectures on business psychology from Prof Scott Taylor, thinking about Change Management and Self Awareness.

Colette Grant spent the afternoon with us in Les’ class on how to handle a Board, giving us a lunch and learn session on her fascinating story of success, but not holding back on the scary moments where failure was a real possibility – those are the moments where the Entrepreneur is forged!

On Wednesday Evening, we had a dinner with the Trustees of the Saltire USA Foundation. The Saltire Foundation USA is an independent non-profit that supports Saltire Scholars and Fellows by raising funds and sourcing opportunities in the United States.  It has raised over $1.5million to support Saltire programs. There are some seriously big names on the board:

  • Helen Sayles, CBE, Former SVP, Liberty Mutual
  • Mark Bamforth, CEO, Brammer Biopharmaceuticals
  • Chris Cooper, COO & SVP, Amplify Energy
  • Peter Gibbons, EVP & Chief Supply Chain Officer, Mattel
  • Don Macleod, Former Chairman & CEO, National Semiconductor

I sat at a table with Peter Gibbons, who had spoken to us at lunch about his interest in Transformative change working at an extremely high level in both Starbucks and currently Mattel. One of the Trustees told a story about when they were interviewed by a certain VERY famous Entrepreneur in a certain space company.

The story went that the interview had gone well and come to an end, when our space entrepreneur invited the Trustee to ask any questions they had. The Trustee asked “What keeps you awake at night?”. The space entrepreneur looked pensively into the distance, and sat like that. 10 seconds went by. 20 second. 30 seconds. At 45 seconds, he stated “good question”, and proceeded to think for a further 45 seconds before answering!

Role playing

I really enjoyed our Thursday morning session with Tim Marken, our Sales Lecturer. We took turns to role play a conversation based on a business case we had read with the aim of reaching a pre-defined goal such as “Build Trust” or “Organise next meeting”. It was tough to control the conversation, but I found that my clinical communication skills held me in good stead for correctly gathering information, summarising discussion and guiding the conversation. This is one of those big areas where medical transferable skills are very powerful.

Canadian Visit and Walden Pond

From Thursday onwards, a good friend of mine – Graham from Toronto – visited. Graham and I first met in London when I started my Intercalated BSc in Anatomy there at King’s College London in 2009, and we’ve remained friends since, catching up a number of times on both sides of the Atlantic over the years.

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We had a good weekend, with the highlight for me being a trip to Walden Pond near Concord in the Western outskirts of the Boston area. Walden Pond is famous for inspiring Henry David Thoreau’s book “Walden” – he spent 2 years, 2 months and 2 days there in a cabin he built by hand – writing, playing music, meditating but also meeting with the local community of Concord. His book – which is now on my list of “things to read” is meant to be a beautiful meditative account of the effect of nature on the human.

Photos speak better than words, so this paragraph will be brief before I share a few. However I will say that there was truly something magical about this area – the crystal blue clearness of the water in which I swam twice; the incredible trees which due to the time of year were ranging from verdant to crimson red; and the weather which provided us with a seasonally uncharacteristic warmth.

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Weekly Review (to be completed!)

1. What do I have to work on the next few days?

  • Reading for classes
  • SMART grant award paperwork
  • Calls with several people

2. What deadlines do I have coming up?

  • End of Boston in just under 2 weeks 😦

3. Are there any new projects I have time to start working on?

No!

4. What went wrong over the past week? What lessons can I learn from that?

Over the past couple of weeks, I’ve made a lot of great contacts and taken their cards – but struggled to find time to reconnect with them. I think it is probably due to the time intensive nature of this course – and expect it will improve when I return to Scotland – but I need to think of a strategy for making time to reconnect with people I meet at networking events.

5. What went right over the past week? How can I make sure more of that happens?

I think I really nailed the balance between classwork, a company visit I organised myself through networking and nature-based fun to recharge the batteries. This is just an organisation exercise, and these weekly reviews should help me to plan well.

6. How well am I keeping up with all my duties and obligations?

Well!

7. What is coming up that I need to be prepared for?

I am doing an Emergency Department Shadowing day on Tuesday so I need to be ready for that.

8. What kind of help do I need?

I am starting to collate my learning from this experience to present to the Digital Health and Care Institute – as I go through parts, I may need to contact people I have met to help me capture the essence of healthcare in the USA.

9. Am I happy with where I’m at? What would I like to change?

Happy!

11. What are my goals for the next week? Month? 90 days?

  • Find out the similarities and differences between Emergency Department care – USA vs UK.
  • Make a good start on the DHI deliverables and catch up with Hugh and the other guys to discuss how my role will look when I return
  • Make the most of the last 10 days in Boston!

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