Marina Rincon: “I aspire to influence the healthcare system so that patients around the world benefit”
Marina Rincon Torroella studied physical therapy but discovered that her true calling was healthcare innovation to change the world. She did the d·HEALTH Barcelona fellowship and, after a few years combining her work as a physical therapist with various entrepreneurial projects, she crossed the Atlantic and is currently working at the Mayo Clinic as a Special Project associate, coordinating internal quality and innovation projects. Additionally, she is collaborating with Barcelona-based start-up MJN Neuroserveis and managing her own entrepreneurial project at Weallare.Co. Her dream? “I aspire to create the best hospital; the place I would want my family to be treated. If I’m traveling and my mom gets sick, I want to be able to call her on Skype, see her and track how she’s doing on an app. This isn’t possible yet and I may not be the person to make it possible, but I want to be part of the process.”
From physical therapy to healthcare innovation: why did you decide to take that leap?
I studied physical therapy because I like the profession a lot, and treating patients. When I finish studying, I went to the Netherlands on a study exchange and I realized that there are other places in the world and that I could learn other techniques. There I realized that with innovation I could help people have new solutions for healthcare.
What brought you to the d·HEALTH Barcelona fellowship?
I came from an extremely clinical background and d·HEALTH Barcelona gave me a new, global perspective of the health care sector and the number of stakeholders involved. d·HEALTH showed me other realities, for example, how hospitals are managed, how to start a business in the healthcare sector, and, above all, how to design solutions that address patients’ needs.
What did you do after the program?
I went back to working as a physical therapist for two years, but after having done the d·HEALTH fellowship, I saw things I hadn’t seen before while working with patients. I realized that I wasn’t creating anything specific to address their needs. Plus, I was working with cancer patients and in palliative care and, when one of my patients died, I realized that life is short: I may not be here tomorrow. And that if I didn’t do what I really wanted, if I didn’t innovate and help my patients, I wouldn’t be happy. So, I saved up for a year to go out and work for my dream: to influence the healthcare system so that patients around the world benefit.
And to do that, you went to the United States…
I decided I wanted to go see and study other healthcare systems. I went to the United States to work as a volunteer at Johns Hopkins Hospital, so I could study the US healthcare system. I spent three months with a doctor who then went to work at the Mayo Clinic and I wanted to continue learning from him. I gave him my pitch about how I could help him and he offered me a new volunteer position, this time at the Mayo Clinic, for an additional three months. When I finished, I proposed staying on in a paid position.
While they were considering that possibility, I spent a few months in Barcelona working for MJN Neuroserveis. This is something I highly recommend: working at a start-up, because you learn what it is really like very quickly. And then they offered me the chance to return to the Mayo Clinic, where I’m working now.
What is your current role at the Mayo Clinic?
I try to improve the quality of internal and external processes at the clinic. It’s like creating little start-ups within the Mayo Clinic systems. We try to understand what sets us apart from the rest, what our unique selling point is, what we want to get across to the various stakeholders. You can’t explain the same thing to an insurance company and a patient, because the realities are very different: once again, it’s all about the pitch!
You’ve also founded your own start-up…
After finishing d·HEALTH Barcelona, my team and I continued working on the project we designed during the program for a couple of months. Later, with one of my teammates, we started the company Weallare.Co to design solutions tailored to the specific needs of each patient. Our first product is Silma, a glove that protects people who use upper-limb prosthetics. We’ve won awards from Mujeres Emprendedoras and Airbnb, and our next step is to take Silma to market and start developing a custom-made product for our first patient.
What impact did d·HEALTH have on your career afterwards?
I learned that the team is very important. d·HEALTH also taught me the importance of knowing how to pitch your project well. This topic fascinates me and, in fact, I think it is something essential in all areas of life and in the day-to-day of any job. In fact, at the Mayo Clinic my research colleagues often ask me how they can better explain their research to get the government’s attention and get grants. d·HEALTH also taught me not to fear failure. If you’re wrong, you learn and pivot your project, without the fear of being judged, because it’s a learning process. All of the work you do teaches you that the next time you fail you’ll be faster, more efficient.
This view of failure as a learning process is widespread in the United States. What other differences have you found between working in Europe and the US?
What surprised me the most when I got to the United States was that healthcare there is a business; it has the infrastructure of a business. I really like working in the United States because they are very effective and efficient. If you work and you get results, you can design your own career. In Europe we are less ambitious and we’re terrified of taking risks. In the United States, if they fail, they avoid making the same mistake again and try another strategy. They don’t regret; they learn and improve. The US labor market is always a race, which we don’t have here. And I like to run.
Willing to follow Marina’s steps? Join us!
Biocat has open the selection for students of its sixth Design Health Barcelona (d·HEALTH Barcelona) edition, a postgraduate program to develop innovators and entrepreneurs in the healthcare sector, with starting date in January, 2019. The 90% of the previous editions participants have found a job in the healthcare sector and 48% of them started their own business project.
Following the Stanford biodesign methodology, participants experience a full cycle of innovation. The fellows divide into multidisciplinary teams with graduates in science, design, engineering and business, and do a two-month clinical immersion in top hospitals in Barcelona to detect real unmet clinical needs on site that can be the basis for creating new products or services.
Throughout the program, participants experience a full innovation cycle, from identifying the business idea to designing and prototyping a viable solution and searching for funding. At the same time, they take on valuable knowledge in medicine, business development, design thinking and creative leadership skills from over 70 international professors from Stanford, Kaos Pilot and companies in Silicon Valley, among others.
More information about Design Health Barcelona (d·HEALTH Barcelona).