I am honored to be one of the first graduate alumni from UT Health San Antonio School of Biomedical Sciences to have been selected in the Scientist Mentoring & Diversity Program (SMDP) as a MedTech Scholar. I first heard about this program from Dr. Teresa Evans, who shared the Medical Device SMDP program announcement with me. Then, I was nominated to apply by Dr. Andrea Giuffrida-Vice President for Research at UT Health.
The SMDP program is a one-year career mentoring program that pairs ethnically diverse students (Master or Ph.D.) and early career researchers with industry mentors who work at companies in the medical technology, biotechnology, and consumer healthcare industries. Companies include Johnson & Johnson, Amgen, Millipore Sigma, Merck, Abbott, Pfizer, B-Braun, Medtronic, Edwards Life Sciences, among many more.
With their mentors, Scholars attend a 5-day training session to learn about career opportunities in industry and receive career development coaching. They also visit one of the largest biotech conferences in the world: Bio International Convention if they apply to the Biotech SMPD Scholar or one of the largest medical device business development meetings-MedTech for MedTech SMDP scholars.
For my program, I traveled to Philadelphia back in September to attend a two-day workshop on the medical device industry and then three days at the international MedTech Conference. The first day of the program, we participated in a reception where we were able to meet our fellow scholars and some of the mentors in the program. Later that evening we had the opportunity of meeting Josh Ghaim, Ph.D., Chief Technology Officer, Johnson & Johnson Consumer Companies who gave the keynote for the night about the importance of diversity in science and technology. The following day, our training day, we were at one of DePuy Synthes facilities. Here is where each scholar was introduced to their mentors. Mentors come from top executive and leadership positions at their companies. I was very fortunate to be paired with Dr. John Pracyk, MD, Ph.D., MBA, Worldwide Integrated Leader for Medical Affairs in Pre-Clinical and Clinical Research for the Spine division of Depuy Synthes. During the training session, we had a full day of workshops on how the industry works, how they select candidates and the transition between academia into industry.
The following days, preceding the MedTech Conference we had a site visit at Pennovation, a technology incubator for the University of Pennsylvania as well as the new home for JPOD@Philadelphia from Johnson & Johnson, an accelerator for the development of early-stage healthcare solutions from Philadelphia’s life science ecosystems. In addition, we also visited the American headquarters for EMD Performance Materials, a subsidiary of Merck KGaA, the world leader in liquid crystals, their technology is in smartphones, laptops, flat-screen TVs and tablet PCs around the world as well as the production of color pigments for vehicles, cosmetics, plastics and many more products.
The next three days, we attended the MedTech Conference, where we had the opportunity to meet several CEOs and top executives for the top medical device companies in the world. During the conference, the SMPD staff would schedule pop-up mini-meetings at different locations throughout the conference center where we had the opportunity to meet directors for B-Braun, Edwards Life Sciences, Director of Regulatory Affairs for J&J, and in a separate meeting, I had the opportunity to meet Alex Gorsky, the CEO of Johnson & Johnson.
Overall, the SMPD program is an excellent opportunity for graduate students considering careers in industry, the most valuable asset from the program is the opportunity to be mentored by top executives and leaders in the industry for an entire year and the network of past SMDP scholars and mentors through the SMDP portal.
To any diversity graduate student considering a career outside of academia, I highly encourage them not to miss the upcoming deadline for the Biotech and Medical Device SMDP programs, and find a faculty member or past alumni of the program to nominate them. The application deadline for both programs is April 1, 2019, and more information can be found here.
This article was written by Rafael J Veraza, MPH, PhD.