Want to build an impactful career in digital health? Meet Rock Health’s 2020 fellows

Behind the small but mighty Rock Health team is a group of digital health’s brightest emerging leaders. Through their work on various projects, our fellows extend Rock Health’s reach and impact while learning at the forefront of healthcare innovation. The fellowship program is designed to give future and up-and-coming digital health leaders an opportunity to deepen their knowledge base, widen their professional networks, and contribute meaningfully to Rock Health’s mission of making healthcare massively better for every human being.

To say our work wouldn’t be possible without them is an understatement. We’re incredibly grateful for the curiosity, dedication, and diverse skill sets they bring to the table—and are proud to have them at Rock Health. Although we aren’t in the office together right now, we sat down (separately in front of our laptops) with each of our current and incoming fellows to chat about their fellowship experiences, future plans, and advice to others looking to launch a career in digital health.

We’re looking for another Research Fellow to join us for Summer 2020! Learn more and get in touch.

How does your Rock Health fellowship fit into your broader career plans?

Fellows come to Rock Health from a range of professional and academic backgrounds, but everyone is passionate about technology’s impact in healthcare. Nimerta completed her Rock Health fellowship while pursuing her public health graduate studies as part of her MD/MPH program.

Some, like Alex, already had deep industry experience before joining our team: “I’ve worked in digital health throughout my career. I spent several years covering digital health strategy at Forrester Research and then moved into digital product development on the health plan and vendor sides of the industry.” Nina similarly brings a blend of healthcare and business acumen: “My background is in clinical trials, medical devices, and digital health. I started in academia, managing NIH-funded trials, and transitioned into industry when I decided to pursue an MBA at Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business to gain some real-world business experience.”

Other fellows work with us during their undergraduate studies. Eric shared how his academic experiences prepared him for the role: “Prior to my fellowship, I did research in immunology, health policy, and clinical predictive analytics. Those experiences helped me develop a general understanding of healthcare—who are the players and how do they interact? I also learned how to ask insightful research questions. I took intro courses in accounting and corporate finance, which helped me better understand some of the financial aspects of digital health venture funding.”

The fellowship program is a springboard to careers in healthcare and digital health. Incoming venture fellow Katie worked at Dropbox before moving across the country to start an MD/MPH program at Mount Sinai, where she leads the Diversity Innovation Hub’s student team and does research applying natural language processing to clinical notes. Next year, Kunal will be attending medical school at William Carey University College of Osteopathic Medicine. Of his time at Rock Health, he says it “educated me in various tools and therapies that can be used in clinics or by future physicians. Not only does this give me a step ahead in medical school, but it also expands my realm of thought when it comes to delivering treatment for patients or how to provide better and affordable therapies.” Elena completed her fellowship during the first year of her MBA program, and is preparing to head into a summer internship with our friends at Manatt Health. Sonia’s long-term goal is to “work on digital health solutions to bring healthcare where it is needed.” She shares that “with this in mind, I will be working at Accenture on their Strategy team to gain broader exposure and develop professional skills that I can bring back to the industry I am most passionate about.”

“I return to medical school in an unprecedented time that could be the inflection point for adoption of telemedicine and digital solutions due to the COVID-19 pandemic. I hope to employ these technologies and other digital solutions to help patients. Ultimately, I look forward to influencing and guiding the development of solutions that enhance healthcare and improve health outcomes at the individual and population level.”
– Nimerta Sandhu, Research Fellow

What was the most interesting or exciting project you worked on during the fellowship?

At Rock Health, our mandate is impact at the intersection of healthcare and technology, and we live by the mantra “build something useful.” Our fellows start building on day one (no coffee runs here). Eric remembers co-authoring the 2019 Consumer Adoption Research Report. “I loved the process of combing through data to unearth insights about digital health adoption that would influence how the field thinks about consumers’ view of technologies. That project helped me strengthen my skills in asking the most salient research questions, prioritizing my analyses, and presenting data in an effective manner.”

Our fellows often work on projects that support our corporate partners’ digital health strategies. Kunal says he “enjoyed working on the market scan about clinical trials. This project not only exposed me to the various tools being created to help clinical trials in patient acquisition and adherence, but it also showed me the need for such technologies.”

Elena looks back on the fast-paced weeks leading up to our Q1 Market Insights report: “We produced the Q1 2020 blog post as the COVID-19 epidemic was unfolding. The first iteration of that post looked very different from what was published as the economic and public health conditions changed daily. That was the most interesting project I worked on because it allowed me to take a very tangible, data-centered concept (i.e., analyzing funding trends in Q1) and apply a macro global filter for a holistic approach to reporting. I learned so much from the Rock Health leaders in that process.”

“I often joke that my Rock Health fellowship was my most important class at Haas. Every single project I have worked on at Rock Health has informed and bolstered my knowledge in other parts of my academic and professional career.”
– Elena Gambon, Research Fellow

Within digital health, which area(s) are you most excited about?

Digital health is a vast sector—and our fellows’ interests are just as broad as the technologies supporting the healthcare ecosystem. Alex is excited about “technology used to remotely deliver insights to clinicians in order to allow them to work at the top of their licenses. Technology has been a drain on clinicians’ time and energy for too long, so innovations that allow healthcare organizations to guide patients to the right level of clinical care and automate rote processes for clinicians are particularly intriguing.” Many of our fellows are interested in tech used to equalize care delivery. Sonia is “especially excited about the opportunity to equalize access for underserved populations through affordable digital solutions.” In their time at Rock Health, fellows come to understand the broader digital health landscape—and have the opportunity to dive deeply into their particular areas of interest.

“I’m excited about technology as a tool to scale access to care and improve outcomes for communities overlooked by traditional systems. Over the past few months, it has been incredible to see how quickly health systems have adopted telehealth and health insurers have shifted to reimburse it. I’m excited to see how this new market dynamic drives innovation.”
– Katie Hanss, Venture Fellow

What advice would you give to others who want to get into or advance their career in digital health?

As emerging leaders, our fellows offered advice for others who are looking for a way into digital health. Alex suggests “reading as much as possible about digital health and how we’ve arrived at the current state of healthcare technology. It’s great to bring a fresh perspective to digital health, but I’ve found it particularly useful to read up on how the digital health industry has evolved.” Eric stresses the importance of building a strong foundation of knowledge, but encourages others not to get held back by the details as they wade into healthcare. “A background in both healthcare and technology is useful. I found it relatively easy to ramp up since I had a basic understanding of how big stakeholders like hospitals and insurance companies work, and I had a feel for what technologies like machine learning can do.” Nimerta encourages people to be proactive by connecting with others in the community: “Read and reach out to people in digital health! Expose yourself to different perspectives and then think about the challenges and opportunities for new solutions.”