Tell us about yourself!
I'm a practicing physician and a serial entrepreneur passionate about leveraging technology to help patients and providers. In my career, I've worn lots of hats. During residency, I founded Twiage, a secure prehospital alert platform that empowered first responders and emergency doctors to accelerate life-saving care. Today, Twiage is used by 911 first responders and hospitals around the country to identify patients with life-threatening illnesses and saves on average 14 minutes per patient during an emergency. I've also been passionate about leveraging technology within our healthcare institutions. I'm a published researcher at Harvard and previously served as Chief Innovation Engineer at Atrius Health, a $2B healthcare system, where I launched Telemedicine.
Most recently, I've been working to accelerate another amazing start-up: Verata Health. Verata Health an artificial intelligence company helping reduce administrative barriers to patient care. Verata's AI powerfully leverages the medical record to help doctors and nurses automate prior authorizations, helping patients get faster, better care. As Chief Medical Officer, I work with all of our clients and partners to deliver on our mission.
And last, but not least, I practice medicine. Most recently, as an urgent care and emergency department physician, I've been actively following the coronavirus pandemic and caring for patients affected in Boston.
How does your work positively drive health equity for all?
There are so many ways we can drive health equity every day, and technology can be a real force for good here. For instance, at Atrius Health, we envisioned Telemedicine as a way that busy working parents could access care without worrying about taking a sick day, and how patients who lacked reliable transportation could look forward to regular visits. At Twiage, we helped bridge the divide between rural communities and urban ones: when you're 20 minutes away from the nearest hospital, early, actionable information sent through Twiage helps rural Emergency Departments prepare resources ahead of time, shortening door-to-treatment times that will improve patient outcomes.
What were some difficulties you’ve faced and continue to face being a physician entrepreneur, specifically a female physician entrepreneur of color? Have you faced any barriers or discomfort that you have not seen your white male physician entrepreneur colleagues face?
I sometimes think of myself as an accidental entrepreneur. Certainly, medical school does not prepare us doctors for the world of business, much less starting your own companies! Starting my first company was by far the hardest thing I've ever done in my life. Many of the challenges I encountered stemmed from my own inexperience, but there are pervasive attitudes that continue to pose additional challenges to women and women of color.
For the entire history of venture capital, the start-up world has been dominated by white male venture capitalists and white male entrepreneurs. The result is that there is a dearth of successful role models that buck this trend, discouraging risk-taking from venture capitalists and entrepreneurs alike. Whether conscious or unconscious, there is a bias of what a CEO looks like. How a CEO should talk or act. And I think the very human mistake is made, that if you do not look like someone who looks like most of the other successful people you know or have invested in, you must be lacking that magical element. I cannot tell you the number of times people looked past me to one of my male employees to answer a question about the business model, or the number of times my appearance is commented on or discussed as a business asset.
Despite the efforts of good women and men to change the landscape, today, less than 2% of all venture capital goes to women founders. It's got to change. Every great company requires funding, and if you do not have access to venture capital, then your options to grow your company, hire talent, or compete in the marketplace, are limited. I'm lucky to have successfully raised funding, and have the battle scars to prove it, but I am encouraged by the growing number of investors and funds who are dedicated to investing in diverse founders. It's a step in the right direction.
Which historical figure (alive or dead) inspires you? How and why?
So many people inspire me. They show the strength of our human will, the goodness of our humanity. I love Marie Curie. She was a pioneer in every stage of her life. Denied entrance to traditional university because she was a woman, she went to become the first woman in France to defend her doctoral thesis, the first woman professor at the University of Paris, the first woman to win a Nobel Prize, and the only person ever to win two Nobel Prizes in two scientific fields. And while she poured her life work into her science, she also had a wonderful love, a happy marriage, and family with her husband, Pierre Curie. As a woman, she was underestimated, second-guessed, and even challenged that she could balance her wife and mother duties. She reminds me that we are not defined but what society expects of us, we have the power to chart our own path.
What advice do you have for an entrepreneurial-minded physician who’s interested in starting their own company?
Always follow your passion. Someone with your talent and ideas has a lot of opportunities--the best one is the one you are most passionate about. That matters a ton, especially when the going gets tough--and it will get tough. Don't let the how-tos daunt you too much--you'll be able to learn on the go. Read voraciously and network with other entrepreneurs. We're a very giving crowd, we tell it like it is because we've gone through it ourselves. And culture matters. A great company can be derailed by a bad culture. Think about it proactively, live it, and own it. It'll ensure that you surround yourself with people who will be committed to your values, and make the journey all the more worthwhile.
The American Medical Association and the Physician Innovation Network thank Dr. Yu for her participation in the AMA's 2016 inaugural Healthier Nation Innovation Challenge, in which Twiage won first prize. Her innovative and trailblazing work is appreciated and celebrated by our organization.