Third year business undergrad or aspiring anesthesiologist? You tell me.
The story of how I got involved with endotracheal intubation and the medtech industry
Blog post by ELP Student Anika Dholakia (Business Admin | Class of 2020)
If you asked me three months ago what I would be doing right now, the absolute last thing you would hear me say is: In the next week or so, we will be starting our clinical trials for Brio Device’s INT Navigator, an articulating stylet used for endotracheal intubation in adults.
As we continue the conversation, it may go a little something like this:
You: Hold up…incubation? What does it do? I’m confused.
Me: No, inTubation. When people need to be oxygenated – for example if you are undergoing a major surgery, the anesthesiologist needs to insert an ETT (endotracheal tube) so that you can still breathe with the general anesthesia. This device helps eliminate the issue many physicians have of “I can see it but I just can’t get there” by guiding the tube through manipulating just the tip through the complex human anatomy and inserting the tube in the trachea, not the esophagus.
You: Oh cool, so you’re premed then?
Me: Not exactly.. My medical experience/background is limited. My sister is in med school and I wanted to be a doctor when I was younger. I also have a few aunts and uncles who are doctors. I’m majoring in business which is actually why this internship is extremely applicable. Brio Device was founded in 2011 and this summer, the team is bringing the INT Navigator to market. This requires a strong business mindset as sales, commercialization, and understanding the customer are critical in order to be successful; especially in the medical device industry where the market of physicians is very different than the typical consumer goods market.
Hiking up the Huge Learning Curve
I learned a lot in regards to how doctors thought about the adult and pediatric market as well as the complex anatomy/terminology in regards to intubating. Here’s a sneak peek:
- For a few days I was telling people that Brio Device was focused on incubation. Once I realized how off I was and that it was actually intubation, I started to train myself that it was the word with the “T”. It is remarkable that after just a few months I can laugh at how I did not know the difference between intubation and incubation – two very different processes.
- In all my notes for the entirety of the first month, I had written “boujee” instead of “bougie”. A bougie is a tapering cylindrical instrument for introduction into a tubular passage of the body (Merriam-Webster). Boujee means “high class, elite, and rich” (Elite Daily). It was created off of the word “bourgeois” and was introduced in a song by rapper, Migos.
- Just recently (these are for those doctors reading) I learned the difference between a bougie and a stylet – a bougie is much longer, more rigid, and used as a guide for the ET tube whereas, a stylet is more malleable and inserted at the same time as the ET tube.
- When you think of neonates, do you place them into the pediatrics category? If so, don’t. They are extremely different and pediatrics is one of the broadest terms out there. Ages 3-5 is a completely different category from ages 6-8 as they require different size ET tubes. To fully understand the market, one must dissect these groups.
- An anesthesiologist is a physician who is trained in anesthesiology and is in charge of the anesthetist. An anesthetist is a nurse who is also trained in anesthesiology but requires an anesthesiologist to work in the OR (operating room) in most states. I heard both of them being used interchangeably so I thought I would do some investigation.
- If someone said: Would you prefer a reusable or disposable device, my immediate reaction used to be reusable as it is probably more cost-effective. However, once you consider the cost of sanitization and the risk of contamination, reusable may not be the way to go.
- Many doctors (not all) are archaic in the tools/devices they use. They use what they have learned and trained on and are not willing to switch to a device that requires a learning curve of some sort. Thus, medical devices are difficult to implement in such a stagnant industry.
What Allowed me to Learn in a Field I Had Limited Knowledge in
You cannot just learn by picking up a textbook written by an expert anesthesiologist when you have no knowledge of the complex anatomy itself. Or at least, I can’t. This is how I was able to learn throughout my journey.
- Patience. People are patient and willing to explain terminology and concepts. I was fortunate enough to have a whole team of people willing to help. In life, all you need is one person wherever you are to have that sense of patience. You learn with repetition and so, find someone who will not be frustrated to explain the same thing 2 or 3 times until it really clicks.
- Others believing in me. When talking to people outside the company, they are always curious as to what the device actually does. There have been multiple times where my boss or other employees have looked at me and said – you pitch it. Without hesitation, they are confident in me. In order to learn, you need to teach. It forces you to know what you’re talking about and truly understand it.
- Taking Initiative. In order to learn something that I had no previous knowledge in, I had to take the initiative to learn outside of work. I went to the Michigan Growth Symposium and recently attended a medtech meetup in Ann Arbor. Even though I was the youngest attendee, it was amazing that older individuals actually took an interest in speaking with me. I walked away from that meetup knowing more about the medtech industry, complexity of patents, and current innovations happening down the road from me. Who knows when I will have an opportunity to work in this industry again – therefore, I want to make the most of it.
The Key Takeaways That Everyone Should Consider in Their Career Paths
There are two pieces of advice that I give to you whether you are graduating from high school, just about to retire, or anywhere in between. Take these suggestions and I guarantee that you will learn and grow.
- Take the opportunity to go into a field you have always had interest in – whether it is an internship, lifetime career, or a one day workshop. I have always been interested in medicine and specifically, medical devices. However, as a business major, this is not a common field to pursue. By being a part of the Brio team, I have had the opportunity to work on something I believe in and want to have an impact on…which brings me to my next point.
- Do not work somewhere if you do not believe in the product or mission. I understand there are always other factors to consider – maybe the location or pay is really good or it has good work-life balance. However, those are tangible things you can probably get elsewhere. If you don’t believe in what you are selling then you are lying to yourself. Practice what you preach, as some would say. Not only will you be more motivated to do your job everyday but you will do better as the work will be more purposeful. You will succeed both personally and professionally.