And, We’re Off! PULSE@MassChallenge Launches Women in Digital Health

By: Nina Kandilian

Zoë Barry, CEO of ZappRX and YiDing Yu, Co-Founder of Twiage

On February 22nd, PULSE@MassChallenge launched Women in Digital Health with a morning filled with discussion and ideation at Optum. While a majority of healthcare decision makers and professionals are women, there is still a significant underrepresentation of women in leadership roles in the industry. This statistic along with the current societal climate, we knew we couldn’t wait any longer to launch this exciting effort. The initiative is focused on providing female digital health entrepreneurs and innovation executives with resources, content and a supportive community to help them continue to develop the skills and confidence to lead.

At PULSE, we have the privilege of creating content for multiple community events throughout the year, but this event format was a bit different. We started off with an enlightening panel discussion with a mixed representation of women in the digital health innovation scene. Zoë Barry, CEO of ZappRX represented the entrepreneurial voice in digital health. She discussed a series of hacks that she leveraged as she was building her company, one of which was around building her company’s technology. In the early days of ZappRX, she searched high and low for a technical co-founder and was unsuccessful. Looking back, she mentioned that not finding a technical co-founder was a blessing in disguise. With the help of a family and friends round of funding, she was able to hire an experienced team of developers to build out her product faster and better than if she had gone with a greener developer.

Naomi Fried, PhD and CEO of Health Innovation Strategies and former Chief Innovation Officer of Boston Children’s Hospital talked about the importance of resilience and pushing your agenda as a female entrepreneur or executive. Terri LaRoche, VP of Technology at Optum also added that confidence is a key facet of resilience and it is our responsibility as women to coach each other as we climb the ranks.

As an emergency physician, Jennifer Joe, MD, was frustrated with challenges in healthcare delivery which led her to combine her passion for medicine, community and technology. She founded Medstro (A social network for physicians) and is the Editor-in-Chief and founder of Medtech Boston, a digital health publication in Boston, MA.

While we had an incredible panel of female speakers, we also had an equally talented group of women in the audience and wanted to hear what they’re looking for from this effort. Here’s a recap of a few themes of our discussion:

  1. Women want to help each other. In fact, much of the group wants more opportunities for mentorship, coaching and relationship building for all career levels.
  2. “Just Ask Day”. A day where women could ask for what they need, without being judged.
  3. Speaking Opportunities. Women want more opportunities to speak at events and on panels. One attendee recommended being adamant about letting event organizers know where there isn’t good gender balance at an event or discussion. Organizations like Innovation Women are looking to fix this problem.

As I watched these women discuss their ideas I noticed that they are so passionate about learning. They want to grow, succeed and help each other. In fact, as they worked together to identify challenges and opportunities, it was hard to hear at times. They were so driven to help one another and the passion in the room was electrifying. Digital health needs more female entrepreneurs and executives and with this amount of excitement and passion. I cannot wait to see where we go from here.

Have any ideas around content or collaboration or want to get your company involved? Please send Nina Kandilian, Program Manager of PULSE@MassChallenge, an email (nina@masschallenge.org).

Nina Kandilian

Senior Program Manager
PULSE@MassChallenge