The City College of New York: Masters in Translational Medicine Program
Q+A with Lola A. Brown ’15, Founding Director
Q: What is your mission?
The Grove School of Engineering and the CUNY School of Medicine at The City College of New York have recently established a new master’s program in translational medicine. The mission for this program is to train engineers and scientists in the commercialization of medical technologies. The cornerstone of the curriculum is the development of a medical technology that will address a current clinical need. In line with College’s mission to provide access to the underserved, we would like to make these new medical technologies available to underserved and under-resourced clinics in the New York City area. We believe this would provide an opportunity for students to not only gain outstanding training in the development and commercialization of medical technologies, but to also be of service to their community by contributing to the improvement of health in the City.
Q: What prompted the founding of the organization?
In January 2015, Andrew Grove, City College alumni and former CEO of Intel, approached The Grove School of Engineering about creating a master’s program in the process of developing and commercializing medical technologies. With initial seed money from The Grove Foundation, we submitted the proposal to CUNY and received approval to create the masters program in April 2015, and after just 3 months had recruited our first class which began in August 2015.
Q: How did you set goals for the organization?
The goal was very clear from the inception of the program- to provide high quality training in the area of development and commercialization of medical technologies. Commercialization of medical technologies is much more than coming up with an idea- there are issues of market fit, intellectual property, cost analysis and regulatory affairs to consider. There is a lack of early stage professionals trained in all the facets of medical device commercialization, and our program fills that gap. Because we are actually developing medical technologies that are to be used by the public, it seemed only appropriate that we give back to our community in a way that gives them first access. We see this as another important goal of the program that will be developed more in the next 2-3 years.
Q: How do you measure the impact of programs?
We measure our impact by 1)our ability to develop medical technologies that improve a clinical need as defined by our project sponsor and 2)the number of patients that are able to use and benefit from the medical technology we develop.
Q: What have been the greatest challenges?
The program just started- our first cohort began in August 2015- and our big challenge right now is getting the word out about the terrific things we are doing. We think we have created a small groundswell, and are talking to the right people to gain some traction.
More specifically, we are trying to reach out to companies in the medical technology space (including digital health, medical devices, and wearable technology) and develop sponsorships for design projects and scholarships for our students.
Q: What fundraising strategies have you used?
I did a lot of prospecting, going around to meet people in the medical technology and higher education space in the City. I found a few people that were well connected and introduced us to individuals that ended up being strong advocates for us. Ultimately we had scores of meetings with people, talking about the program and explaining how they could get involved. We’ve met with patent lawyers, small startups, technology incubators, similar programs, economic development corporations, life science equity firms-anyone that was willing to meet with us! It was great to find out that almost everyone we reached out to was willing to meet with us, and we extremely interested in the program. Our philosophy has been to get the word out about what we are doing, let the program’s uniqueness speak for itself and allow opportunities and partnerships to grow from there. So far, that strategy has been successful.
Q: What fundraising strategy has worked the best?
Seeking an opportunity for people in the New York medical technology sector (and related fields) to meet and engage with our students and faculty, I hosted a reception at The Yale Club of New York in May where we brought in potential sponsors and donors to learn about the program. It was a terrific event- the students gave a presentation on the medical device they are currently working on, we showed a promotional video, and showcased our effort to build a makerspace where the students can build the prototypes. The event was very successful, and we are following up with the attendees to see how they might support us.
Q: Whatʼs the most critical lesson youʼve learned about nonprofit management?
The biggest lesson I have learned is that you have to be deeply passionate about the work you are doing to be even remotely successful. Similar to most nonprofits, our staff is very lean, which requires that everyone be dedicated and committed to the mission. Additionally, I have found being able to engage with people and talk about our organization in a highly compelling manner (which ties back into being passionate about the work) has resulted in support above and beyond the normal.
Q: What changes do you anticipate in the nonprofit landscape over the next five to 10 years?
In the next 5-10 years, I predict medical technology is going to experience tremendous growth. We risk the possibility of the underserved being marginalized and not benefitting from these discoveries. Our program can be a bridge by developing and providing access to most cutting edge medical technology to the people that need it the most, but often get it the least.
Q: How can others help support your organizationʼs mission?
Right now, we are still in very much in a growth phase and welcome help! We are actively recruiting students to apply for the program. We are a very interdisciplinary program and accept students with varied backgrounds including life science, engineering, and medicine. We are also actively looking for companies that are interested in sponsoring a medical technology project, as well as philanthropic organizations that can provide scholarships for our students. Lastly, we are seeking partnerships with underserved and under-resourced clinics in the New York City area to develop partnerships for offering our technology. Information about all of this can be found at www.ccnymtm.org
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