Health Tech: Maya Said On How Outcomes4Me’s Technology Can Make An Important Impact On Our Overall Wellness

Luke Kervin, Co-Founder of Tebra
Authority Magazine
Published in
15 min readApr 28, 2022

You need to be very, very clear on the compass of your company. What value are you bringing to your audiences? For us, our compass is being patient-first. This means that we’re willing to walk away from real business deals if the direct value to patients is not there. If a business relationship does not directly benefit patients, it’s not aligned with our core value of being patient-first.

In recent years, Big Tech has gotten a bad rep. But of course many tech companies are doing important work making monumental positive changes to society, health, and the environment. To highlight these, we started a new interview series about “Technology Making An Important Positive Social Impact”. We are interviewing leaders of tech companies who are creating or have created a tech product that is helping to make a positive change in people’s lives or the environment. As a part of this series, I had the pleasure of interviewing Maya Said, Founder & CEO of Outcomes4Me.

Maya Said spent the last 20 years working in healthcare, primarily in the pharmaceutical industry with a focus on increasing innovation and access. An engineer and scientist by training, she strongly believes that technology combined with early patient input can address many of the gaps patients experience in navigating the healthcare system. Her conviction that technology-based solutions that empower patients can lead to better outcomes led her to create Outcomes4Me.

Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series. Before we dive in, our readers would love to learn a bit more about you. Can you tell us a bit about your childhood backstory and how you grew up?

I grew up in Damascus, Syria–the middle child born to a family of doctors. Both of my parents are medical doctors. Medicine is a common thread amongst my family on both sides–both of my grandfathers were also physicians. In Syria, I grew up in the French education system, and when I finished high school, I was planning to go to France to study math and physics, subjects I had always been passionate about. I had never even visited the United States. But, the summer after my junior year of high school, my uncle, who is also a doctor and lived in Cleveland at the time, was visiting my family in Syria. He said, “If you really love math and physics, you should apply to MIT in the U.S.” This was the summer of 1993, so it was pre-Internet. I had never even heard of MIT. My uncle told me it was very difficult to gain admission, so I decided to apply just for the challenge. I like challenges.

At that time, the SATs weren’t offered in Syria. I had to travel to Lebanon to take them. Since I’d gone to the effort of taking the SATs (without any preparation!), I decided to apply to schools in the U.S. beyond MIT. I submitted applications to Harvard, CalTech, and Stanford as well. I aimed high, because I really didn’t think I would end up going to school in the U.S. and so I had nothing to lose.

In March of 1994 (pre cell phones and email), I got a call on our landline at home from somebody at Aramex (which is similar to FedEx or UPS in the U.S.). They said, “You have an overnight, express package waiting for you.” When I got the package and opened it, it said, “Welcome to the MIT Class of 1998!” The U.S. higher education system was so unfamiliar to me that I originally thought it meant I was admitted but wouldn’t be able to start until 1998. When I finally realized that it was for admission starting in the fall, I immediately thought, “I’m not going.” I really didn’t think I wanted to go, but then my uncle in Cleveland who understood the system in the United States kept on telling us that this experience would change my life. Finally, with the support of both of my parents, who are incredible people, and the support of my great uncle, I made the decision to go.

In Syria at that time, it was very rare for a 17-year old, particularly a woman, to travel so far away from home for college without any support system. But I give my parents immense credit: they were excited for me and encouraged me to take the leap.

When I took the flight to the U.S., all by myself, for my Freshman year at MIT, it was my first trip to the U.S. ever. Cambridge was so different from the U.S. I had imagined. From what I had seen in TV shows and movies, I envisioned the entirety of the U.S. looked like Los Angeles. English was also my third language, and I’d never attended all of my schooling with an English-language curriculum, so I had to quickly adapt to a classroom setting in English. Again, it was a challenge.

My time at MIT during undergrad is what led me to pursue engineering rather than medicine. My parents were both busy physicians growing up, and my childhood was very stable, which is very important for a child; however, it was so stable they made it seem like medicine was too stable to fit my nature, and I wanted a career that would require a different type of problem-solving.

I’m always searching for the next challenge, and the next opportunity to discover something or transform the way we do things. So, I jumped into MIT and into a career in science and engineering without a long-term plan. It was open-ended, but I ended up creating consistency along the way, and it’s been the greatest adventure of my life.

Ultimately, I earned dual undergraduate degrees, two Master’s degrees, and a doctoral degree–all from MIT. I didn’t set out to earn this many degrees, but I am inherently very curious and I like to explore new things and then make the most out of them. I ended up with a career strongly aligned with my familial roots of healthcare, working to improve innovation and access.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began your career?

I worked in the pharmaceutical industry originally because I saw the disconnect between how science was rapidly evolving in academia and how slowly it was permeating the large pharma industry. This was in the early 2000s when the Genome Project was completed and everyone was talking about rational drug design and targeted therapies, but when you saw how large pharma conducted research at the time, it was still using the approaches of the prior decades. I thought science was not the problem but the management of science was, so I got interested in the management of science and helping accelerate the translation of scientific advances in academia to innovation in industry. Innovation in pharma has had tremendous impact; drug discovery has changed countless lives. I had reached a position where I was leading global access and policy for oncology at Novartis. And, I came to realize that we can have all of the innovation in the world, but without it reaching the patient where they are, we won’t be able to cure or even alleviate disease. There’s a real gap in terms of enabling value-based care. Patients don’t always understand how treatments are being given or how they can access the treatments they need.

That became incredibly clear, personally, when I became a patient for the first time in my life. I had a health scare that was serious enough to require surgery and the need to navigate the health system for 6 months. I believed during my pharma career that I was patient-focused, and then the first time I became a patient myself, the experience was overwhelming and frightening. It carried a lot of emotions, and it wasn’t as serious as a disease like cancer, so I can’t even imagine what a cancer patient goes through. And that experience is what led me to create Outcomes4Me, a platform that is empowering cancer patients with personalized, real-time, evidence-based information that can influence treatment options and help patients have informed discussions with their care teams.

The majority of people who enter healthcare are well intentioned and want to focus on the patient, but while the patient is the consumer, they have no power, because they don’t decide or pay the large part of the bill, and the focus ultimately shifts to where the power is. At Outcomes4Me, we want to shift that equation and meet people where they are not only in their clinical diagnosis, but where they are physically and emotionally. If someone has cancer, it becomes a continuous part of their life. But, currently, the healthcare system is set up so that they can only interact with it episodically, not continuously. We’re changing that dynamic and putting patients first.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?

The strongest influences on my life and career are my parents because seeing what they achieved and how they raised us is what gave me the drive to be successful. They pushed me and my siblings to always excel but they also created the space to let us be who we wanted to be. They are my role models and I will be indebted to them forever.

I have also had a number of mentors throughout my career. One of my mentors is my PhD advisor, Professor Al Oppenheim. I met him when I was an undergrad at MIT, and he’s the one who opened my eyes to engineering and signal processing and saw potential in me. His mentorship really changed my career. Instead of pursuing medicine, I decided to first pursue research and bridge the world of engineering and biology. He helped me identify my passion for creating something out of nothing. Another mentor is my former boss at Sanofi Dr. Elias Zerhouni (former Director of the National Institutes of Health); he helped me appreciate the history of medical innovation and what it takes to truly drive change and impact. His belief in me and seeing him in action made me–and continues to make me–a better leader every day. I have been fortunate to have them and many others as mentors who not only truly believed in my potential, but more importantly pushed me and continue to push me to achieve it. I believe that the learning journey is never over, and to be successful it’s important for me to foster mentorship for myself–and provide it to others–as I navigate my role as a startup CEO.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

When I was 15 years old, my grandfather passed away suddenly. We were having dinner at my grandparents’ home, and later that same night my grandfather went into a coma and never woke up. That situation made me realize that life is very precarious, and it can disappear quickly. That experience influenced many elements of my life, and most importantly taught me to never take tomorrow for granted.

I had a similar experience when I was completing an undergraduate research internship in Palo Alto. My advisor was very healthy, in his late thirties, and an active runner. One day he woke up and couldn’t move his toe. Very quickly he was diagnosed with cancer–neuroblastoma–and tragically he passed away within six months.

This is what drives me. Tomorrow isn’t a given–and we have to help patients today. They need our help gaining access to treatment.

You are a successful business leader. Which three character traits do you think were most instrumental to your success? Can you please share a story or example for each?

  1. Curiosity: My entire career path has been a journey that I took because I was curious and I love adventure.
  2. Impatience: I always want to do things right now. I have a sense of urgency that has helped me to build a business. I like to keep a high tempo.
  3. Relentless Drive: I get excited very quickly, but I’m also very self-motivated and love challenges so I retain that sense of high energy with every task that I tackle and when it gets difficult, the challenge energizes me more. I don’t take no for an answer and I always wonder “why not?” I like to fluctuate between strategic thinking and tactical growth. This helps me create links from the smaller details to the bigger picture and vice versa. It keeps me grounded, which is very important.

Ok super. Let’s now shift to the main part of our discussion about the tech tools that you are helping to create that can make a positive impact on our wellness. To begin, which particular problems are you aiming to solve?

As consumers, today we have a lot of power when it comes to our finances and other issues of consumer choice, but that’s not true when it comes to our healthcare. In most instances, we are not the primary decision-makers when it comes to our own healthcare. Providers are often making the decisions, and often insurance companies–chosen by our employer or the government–are paying the bills.

But any business model that focuses on having the patient pay is a failed business model. We are, and will always be, free for patients to use. We started our company supporting patients with a single disease, which is breast cancer. We support patients who are just diagnosed or in active treatment.

For those just diagnosed, they’re experiencing a loss of control. They want a sense of hope, but they need to understand how their life might change and how they can manage it, to take back control. To really achieve this, they would need infinite time with their providers. But not only can providers not offer unlimited time, patients aren’t necessarily emotionally ready to consume that information when they first learn they have cancer or at the time they are with their provider. When they are ready to consume information, patients often resort to a simple Google search, which puts the burden on the patient, as the user, to find the right information. They have to know what to search for (e.g., their cancer status or any genetic mutations that exist within their cancer type that may be relevant) to find it. Additionally, patients don’t typically know what is relevant for a particular cancer. Even if they did, they’re not equipped to parse out if what they’re finding in their digital search is relevant to them today, in the future, or at all. And they can’t easily discern if they’re reviewing scientific, proven material or an anecdote. This only adds to the confusion a patient may be experiencing during a very difficult time.

At the same time, it’s clear there are vast disparities of care that exist. Providers on the whole cannot keep pace with the innovation that is underway from a treatment perspective, given its immense volume, but that’s particularly true in community health settings.

How do you think your technology can address this?

We are providing a personalized, evidence-based technology experience to empower patients with the information and tools to manage their care. We want to help patients navigate their diagnosis by shedding light on relevant health information and treatment options. We are the only direct-to-patient breast cancer app to integrate with the National Comprehensive Cancer Network® (NCCN®) Clinical Guidelines, the authority on cancer care. This means that when patients share their medical histories and records with us securely, we’re able to provide personalized treatment options based on NCCN Guidelines®. We can then provide patients with information not only about approved treatment options, but also about clinical trials relevant to the stage of a particular patient’s disease, and also based upon their location and access to care. We can also help patients surface their potential need to receive genetic testing to better understand what treatment options are available to them. Essentially, we facilitate access. We aim to help improve patient outcomes by helping to inform the patient and augmenting and supporting the patient/provider relationship.

Can you tell us the backstory about what inspired you to originally feel passionate about this cause?

As I mentioned, my own experience as a patient spurred me to originally found the company. But my experience also coincided with the diagnosis of my friend, who learned she had advanced-stage breast cancer when she was only 38 years old and was not yet designated for routine screening. It was her own advocacy that helped lead to her remission, and I realized how that form of advocacy was necessary throughout the treatment journey for cancer patients.

How do you think this might change the world?

We’re creating a mechanism to generate new data, and to ensure more voices are heard. Public opinion changes policy, and data informs public opinion, which is central to what we’re trying to do in healthcare. We’re going directly to patients and creating a platform where we help patients access the right information to have a proactive approach to their care, wherever they are in the world. At the same time, we’re able to collect and analyze the data around access to treatment options and the benefit/quality of life tradeoff of the various treatment options. I believe that the combination will help us to truly democratize healthcare because we can start surfacing the issues. Resources are created for where the power is. Today, the patient has no power, yet there is no healthcare without the patient. We’re on a mission to change that and put back the power where it belongs in healthcare, in the patients’ hands.

We also believe we’re filling a critical need for providers. It is impossible for providers to keep pace with the rapid advances in treatments and the vast number of clinical trials launching–but we know that their primary goal is to help patients. Taking care of patients who are very sick is very, very difficult. Even unconsciously, it can be very emotionally draining for providers. We can help providers “give more” to their patients when they otherwise couldn’t, through personalized, Artificial Intelligence (AI)-driven technology.

Keeping “Black Mirror” and the “Law of Unintended Consequences” in mind, can you see any potential drawbacks about this technology that people should think more deeply about?

We’re giving patients a voice. The conversation in healthcare has long been about patient-centricity, but is the healthcare system ready to truly walk the talk? We want patients to take part in the decisions that impact their health, and we’re empowering them to make it a reality.

Here is the main question for our discussion. Based on your experience and success, can you please share “Five things you need to know to successfully create technology that can make a positive social impact”? (Please share a story or an example, for each.)

  1. You need to be very, very clear on the compass of your company. What value are you bringing to your audiences? For us, our compass is being patient-first. This means that we’re willing to walk away from real business deals if the direct value to patients is not there. If a business relationship does not directly benefit patients, it’s not aligned with our core value of being patient-first.
  2. Have a deep understanding of the power–but also the threat–of the technology you are bringing to market. You need to actively assess “the flip side of the coin” so that you can proactively manage to address any issues. For example, when you focus on machine learning (ML) as part of your technology, you’re using ML based on a training set. But what if the data set is based upon a non-representative population? You can’t do that, and certainly not in healthcare. It’s better not to actually train the model.
  3. Focus on a long-term, sustainable business model from the outset. Most technology doesn’t have a positive social impact because its business model doesn’t allow for it.
  4. Transparency has to be a core principle. We are entering into a social contract with our users, who are trusting us to review their medical information and help to match them with potential treatment options. To establish trust, you need transparency.
  5. Be resilient. There will always be curveballs that lead to struggle in business, in particular in healthcare where the technology is archaic and there are many misconceptions about regulation and compliance. And it is certainly safer to take the easy path or give up and say it’s not possible. But I want to have a big impact, and that does not happen if you take the easy path or if you give up too quickly. Resilience and determination are critical to entrepreneurship.

If you could tell other young people one thing about why they should consider making a positive impact on our environment or society, like you, what would you tell them?

When you see the impact you can have on people’s lives, it transcends everything else. It creates a legacy you can be proud of. I believe people should do what they are most passionate about. For me, the acid test has always been, “Would I regret not having tried?” When I was first thinking about starting Outcomes4Me, I could not contain my excitement about the idea. I still feel that way. As with many things in life, being a business leader is not always rational and instead it is driven by emotion.

Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would like to have a private breakfast or lunch, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them. :-)

I would most like to meet with a person who has been through multiple diagnoses of cancer and who has beaten multiple odds and hear their whole story. An inspiration.

How can our readers further follow your work online?

On Twitter at @DrMayaSaid and on LinkedIn.

Thank you so much for joining us. This was very inspirational, and we wish you continued success in your important work.

About the Interviewer: Luke Kervin is the Co-Founder and Co-CEO of PatientPop, an award-winning practice growth technology platform. PatientPop is Kervin’s third successful business venture. Prior to co-founding PatientPop, Kervin co-founded and was President of ShopNation (acquired by Meredith Corporation) and was the first executive hire at StarBrand Media (acquired by POPSUGAR).



Luke Kervin, Co-Founder of Tebra
Authority Magazine

Luke Kervin is the Co-Founder and Chief Innovation Officer of Tebra