Entrepreneurship and Innovation in Public Health



hi my name is Greg Martin I was asked to speak at the Global Health next generation Network conference in Barcelona 2014 I couldn't make the dates and so basically instead of me being there in person we've decided to create a quick video and we're gonna put that up at the end of this talk the plan is all going well to have me available over cell phone to answer any questions that you might have anyway I'm delighted to be here in the sort of virtual sense of the word and I've been asked to talk about entrepreneurship in the global health space and first of all let me just say that I'm not an expert in this I know that there's people out there that have done research into this area that have done studies that have got all sorts of expertise and knowledge and insight into entrepreneurship and global health and there's also people that have been far more successful than me and getting startups off the ground and doing interesting things what I can talk about however is the fact that I've tried a lot of stuff some things have worked some things haven't worked there's been success there's been failure there's been me bashing my head against the wall it essentially along the way there's certainly been a lot of lessons learned and I think that's what I want to talk about today and I suppose even before I get going the number one lesson learned if there's one thing that I want you to take away from this talk it's this don't be afraid to fail if you've got an idea that might make a difference don't wait for everything to be perfect before you give it a bash you're never gonna have universal support for your idea you're never gonna have somebody just throwing backs of money at it you've got to roll your sleeves up give it a go and hopefully the right people will see your enthusiasm well believe in your idea you'll identify money and you'll be able to make the world a better place but very often you're gonna have a great idea you're gonna have a lot of enthusiasm for it you're gonna try and sell the idea to stakeholders and it's just not gonna take and if that happens to you don't be disheartened it might be that the idea gets traction at some future point down the line it might even be that somebody else picks up on the idea and they make it happen so if we go way back when I was a junior doctor this was about 1999 I was working in Pediatrics in a town called M Tata in South Africa and I noticed that a lot of the children would come into the clinic having already been to a traditional healer and at these traditional healers that often be given some sort of herb or traditional remedy so I had the idea of establishing a little Network some sort of platform on which to doctors treating patients could actually reach out to and communicate with the traditional healers and find out what it is that they're given so my first port of call was to speak to the superintendent of the hospital he liked the idea I spoke to the other doctors that I worked with they liked the idea and of course I got in touch with some of the local traditional healers and they loved the idea and for a brief time in a sort of ad hoc way we had some sort of relationship between the doctors and the traditional healer but the problem was and this is perhaps the first lesson learned from my failed ventures is that I didn't think about sustainability I didn't think about the fact that when I left that hospital and went on and then from there I went on to work at the Joburg gym there wasn't anything in place to keep those relationships going anything in place to keep that venture alive and kicking and so shortly after that of course the whole thing just petered away my next attempt at trying to get some new venture off the ground was this idea that I had of starting up an HIV radio station at the time I was working at the perinatal HIV Research Unit in Soweto South Africa it occurred to me that a huge number of mothers were coming through the antenatal services getting HIV tests getting HIV positive results I think at the time in sa' where – we were getting about 1/3 of all mothers were getting an HIV positive result but these methods weren't being given a lot of information about how to keep well and how to engage the health system this was in the early 2000s a lot of these women were not educated they didn't really know what HIV was they certainly didn't know what an opportunistic infection was or what anti retrovirals were or what it meant to be immunocompromised and so my idea was to start a local radio station which was specifically for hiv-positive woman of course anybody else could listen but we were going to target hiv-positive woman and ensure that they had a ready supply of good quality information about HIV my underlying idea was that you don't necessarily need to try and reach the entire population if you've got a small sprinkling of very well-informed woman you'll end up reaching a much larger community so my first step was to pitch the idea to the people that I work for and they were very happy with it and of course I ran the idea past people in the local community and they loved it and finally of course I needed to raise money now this was my first ever attempt at fundraising and let me say this fundraising can be a soul-destroying process I put together a small business pan and I think I must have sent that out to more than 200 funders most of them didn't respond at all of those that did respond most of those said that this wasn't part of their current strategy or they said that I was making this application in the wrong point in time in their funding cycle essentially the problem was it because the idea was genuinely knew no one was doing this it's also the case that funding agencies weren't putting out a call for proposals about radio stations in HIV it just wasn't being done at the time I was however lucky enough to get a response from the open society in South Africa we had a meeting with them and they were happy to give us money the problem was that their strategic objective at that point in time was to provide funding for us into the idea of radio content been used in the sort of fight against HIV in general and not to start up a radio station per se and the mistake that I made was that I got so excited about the idea of getting some money that I lost sight of my original vision and I got sidetracked and distracted and pulled away into the vision and mission of a funding agency and that happens very often and so we landed up doing a small research piece on radio content and HIV and it actually amounted to nothing now getting a radio station up and running had other challenges and I don't want to get into that I mean we needed to get licensing and there turned out to be just about impossible in South Africa but the lesson here is if you've got an idea and you've got a vision and it's something you really want to do and a funding agency comes to you and says look we're gonna give you money but we want to change what it is that you want to do if you really believe you were right about your original idea then stick to your guns it's nothing wrong with taking some money and doing something that's slightly eccentric from your idea if it's a stepping stone to you getting to your goals but don't lose sight of your vision on the radio HIV idea I lost sight of the vision and to my knowledge 15 years later they still isn't a dedicated HIV radio station at the same time is trying to start up this HIV radio station there was something else that is trying to get off the ground as well now just for a bit of context this was at a point in time when the South African government was not providing anti retrovirals for people with HIV I happened to be working in a research unit that was providing anti retrovirals for hiv-positive pregnant women a big challenge of course was trying to ensure that the woman that were given the drugs were actually taking the drugs every day so I made the suggestion that we send each of these women a text message every day reminding them to take their medicines the idea was that they'd get a text message every day saying take your medicines today they would reply to that message and if we didn't get a reply from a particular woman we would phone her up and ask her if there was a problem now I know that today this is reasonably commonplace but this was 15 years ago and at that point in time nobody was doing this I was struck by the fact that it was incredibly easy to do a friend of mine who is an engineering graduate put together a little widget you stack a SIM card into it connected to the computer you typed in a message and it would go to whatever cell phone numbers that you gave it and their replies would also come back and pop up on the screen and when I try to get this idea of the ground I've failed to sell the idea in other words I failed to get the right stakeholders and the right support behind the idea and of course since then a lot of people have done the sort of thing and in some cases it's been very successful in other cases not the important thing here is that this is an example of where it's okay hey to fail if it's a good idea and enough people know about it eventually somebody will do it and it'll work somewhere the next thing that I've tried and this infected work hard as I started a little charity called books for Africa this wasn't really about health it was more about literacy but I'll tell you about it anyway the problem that I was trying to solve here is that there were a lot of people out there around the world who I was sure would be happy to make a small donation to Africa for literacy but they weren't necessarily happy to give their credit card numbers out to some charity that they'd never heard of my books for Africa charity allowed them to make a purchase through amazon.com which is a site that of course they already trusted and they weren't concerned about the credit card numbers going awry they could buy a book for a child in Africa and put the charity's physical address as the delivery address for the book so it really did two things and facilitated the transaction but it also meant that the charity itself didn't really have any running costs the cost for the purchase and the distribution the supply of the books was all built into whatever it is that they paid on Amazon and the books came to South Africa and we simply distributed them and that worked really well and we eventually landed up partnering with rotary and they got involved with the distribution of the books within South Africa now you'll notice that as I described these various ideas that I had what I'm trying to do is frame them in terms of what the problem was that I was trying to solve and that's going to be extremely important if you want to get funding for your projects now the next problem that I tried to solve was one that I bumped into when I was studying at LS HTM one of the modules that I was doing in my masters was globalization and health and I became particularly interested in the subject matter and I remember wanting to read more and more about it and so I looked for a journal that published on globalization and health and couldn't find any so I thought well I'll start one so at that point I got the word out foreign wired I'm trying to start a journal and globalization and health this is exciting in fact most people that got back to me at that point in time said it's not a good idea it's never gonna work it's too difficult etcetera etcetera so on and so forth but anyway I kept trying and I kept trying to reach out to people and get some energy and excitement behind the idea and I'm interested I sent an email to Derek yak who at the time was the executive director for non communicable disease at the World Health Organization I'd met Derek briefly in Geneva a few years before then and he had given me his card and so I shot him an email saying hi dr. yack this is Greg Martin I don't know if you remember me but you know we met in Geneva two years ago this is my idea I think we should start a journal on globalization and health and Derek reply to the email literally within about five minutes of me having sent it saying fantastic idea I like let's do it let me know how I can help and so I approached by a MidCentral there a publishing company in London they agreed to meet with me and we've been publishing globalization and health for the last ten years and we've had papers downloaded more than two and a half million times now in order to start the journal we didn't have or need any money but I did want to raise some money to do some projects and so to get money for the journal this is what I did I found a fund at the Department of Health in the UK that I thought might be interested in funding us I went online and I researched and I found who I thought would be a decision maker within that organisation I found the organisation up and I said I'd like a telephone appointment with that person they gave me a time and a date but I had to wait six months for that phone call and when this particular person took the call they told me they were in a big hurry what did I want I've got five minutes I used that five minutes to talk about the vision for the journal where it is that I wanted to go what it is that wanted to do and of course this person turned to me and said look why don't you just make an application like everybody else and I said to her look I haven't got the time to make an application I'm working full time and running the journal part-time I need you to give me money so that I can hire someone to fundraise and to my surprise she said yes how much do you want and at that point I said I'd like fifteen thousand pounds I probably should have asked for more the next idea that I had was to create an online platform on which you could put an academic paper which we which would be translated into a number of different languages a person would read the paper in whatever their vernacular language was they could then make a comment on the paper and all the comments from wherever they were being made would be translated into all of the languages that the paper was being translated into in other words you could have a dialogue around a paper and each person would be reading and responding to that dialogue in their own language now to raise money for this idea what I did is I phoned someone that I knew was very interested in global health it happened to be a person working in a private company but they had lit I'm a generic social responsibilty spend they gave us money and we started this platform it didn't really work out and again it's a failed idea but I think there's lessons to be learned right we didn't do well enough was Network within the global health community of people that were vernacular French and Spanish speakers which were the two other language were two other languages we're trying to translate everything across into you it might also be that their day was slightly before its time because right now you could do the same thing with Google Translate and it would be much cheaper and easier to do my next venture was to start the global health YouTube channel now in this case I was trying to solve two problems the one was that the YouTube channel that the YouTube as a as a as a social platform in my opinion has been grossly underutilized in terms of its the the capacity to have to have an impact in the global health space the other problem that I was trying to solve was that I had moved to Dublin because I married an Irish lass and I wanted to continue to be connected with the global health dialogue but I needed to do it from home in Dublin without necessarily being physically present in Geneva where I had been previously and YouTube is a terrific social platform for that sort of thing and the YouTube channel has been doing really well I've had a lot of fun with it and I've met some fantastic people through it not least of whom have been the people that organized this conference in Barcelona there quite a few other little things that I've tried over the years and I'm not gonna get into now I'm actually currently involved with a startup that I'm expecting to launch in the next few days and as I said before I think there's a lot of people out there that have done things that are extremely exciting and perhaps much more impactful than anything I've done but what I'd like to perhaps leave you with is that a summary of the lessons learned and a summary of the perhaps the big things to keep in mind if you're thinking about being entrepreneurial in the global health space the first is don't be afraid to fail if you try something and it didn't work out it's not the end of the world you may need to try a few things before you bump into the thing that works the second is you've got to reach out to the right stakeholders if you try to do everything on your own you're gonna find it extremely difficult the third is that you need to try to clearly define what problem it is that you're trying to solve because that's probably the only way that you're gonna get funding the fourth is to have a sustainability plan in place your idea needs to be able to live beyond your involvement with it and finally when it comes to fundraising for your idea you need to ask ask ask and ask and one last thing if you have an idea don't be too rigid about it in other words get it out there talk to people let them make an input make a contribution and let your idea change and evolve off the back of what people tell you you might find that at the end point of a whole lot of discussion the idea itself is quite different but a much more powerful concept I hope that you found this useful stay enthusiastic be novel think creatively don't get disheartened focus on the goal always do your best and don't ever change take care

21 Comments

  1. kares21 said:

    It looks like Google Hangouts was discontinued. I was trying to see if I could schedule a time to speak with you, but to no avail. I know you must be very busy, but if there's another way to set up some time to speak with you please let me know. Thank you for posting these videos!

    June 26, 2019
    Reply
  2. Vitaly Samonov said:

    very nice video!

    June 26, 2019
    Reply
  3. Marise Gomes said:

    Fantastic video! Thank you Professor

    June 26, 2019
    Reply
  4. Marise Gomes said:

    The mediocre teacher tells.
    The good teacher explains.
    The superior teacher demonstrates.
    The great teacher inspires.
    — William A. Ward

    June 26, 2019
    Reply
  5. Sibiri SAMNE said:

    Thanks for this great contribution. Throughout it, I have gained insights that will refine the idea of my main project on public health field. I will need your assistance to quickly succeed.

    June 26, 2019
    Reply
  6. maira zafar said:

    My dad is looking for a job in public health. he has a masters in maternal and child health and he is a doctor. He worked as a physician for many years in Pakistan. Now he plans to settle in United States. He is already here but we are not sure where to start from. It would be great if there is anything you can help out with. Thanks !!!!

    June 26, 2019
    Reply
  7. Chijioke Nwosu said:

    Dr Martin this is so inspiring! I'm watching this in between working on my MSc Project by DL from LSHTM and I'm so glad I found your channel.

    June 26, 2019
    Reply
  8. Bhawesh Jha said:

    I really admire your ideas. I want to puruse masters in public.Thanks for sharing ur precious ideas.

    June 26, 2019
    Reply
  9. Asma Malik said:

    As a recent graduate in public health, I'd like to say you have really inspired me just as I lost hope in the job market. Thank you!

    June 26, 2019
    Reply
  10. Michael Epokor said:

    This is really a mind opener for all in public health to think beyond the normal practices

    June 26, 2019
    Reply
  11. Wamunyima Lifumbo said:

    I like your presentation, very informative, How i hope i can have more videos on all the public health courses.

    June 26, 2019
    Reply
  12. Emmanuel Benyeogor said:

    Thanks Dr Greg for this video. I do have an idea and will like to discourse it with you.
    Its about making Dr and nurses available at rural, hard to reach areas in Nigeria as volunteers. Don't know how to go about this.

    June 26, 2019
    Reply
  13. Sheila Pande said:

    It would be nice if the audio of these videos were available on your podcast, in order to listen on the go. thank you

    June 26, 2019
    Reply
  14. Bruce Lee said:

    Insightful and engaging. I loved it!

    June 26, 2019
    Reply
  15. Lucía Fernández Montoya said:

    Your talk was a big success at the conference and the hangouts questions session was fantastic! Thank you so much for contributing with this encouraging video! This is giving momentum our innovative spirit!
    The Global Health Next Generation Network

    June 26, 2019
    Reply
  16. j l said:

    Mr Martin,
    Does it matter if I go to online school or school on campus for my MPH? Some people say online school is not good! can you suggest me some schools please most preferably without GRE! I am currently working as a Registered Nurse in the States!
    Thank you for all your wonderful videos!

    June 26, 2019
    Reply
  17. Kris Ronsin said:

    This is the exact kind of guidance that many of us self-starters need to maintain momentum while working toward a goal or on our project! Thanks Greg, this was a great video and much needed  

    June 26, 2019
    Reply
  18. Anna E. Schmaus-Klughammer said:

    I am in health care (telediagnostics, telemedicine) since 2008 and everything you said is true. 

    June 26, 2019
    Reply
  19. Debraj Roy said:

    Interesting video! How about starting a whatsapp group to connect professionals all around the world??  It will ensure seamless content and real- time data ready to be interpreted! 🙂

    June 26, 2019
    Reply
  20. MARTINA EFEYINI said:

    Great video! "Don't be afraid to fail…Believe in your idea!" If you don't believe in your idea no one will. Keep the videos coming! I really appreciate your videos along with Dr. Racaniello Podcast/YouTube Channel because they give me the drive to keep pushing to achieve my career goals of become a vaccine researcher. I learn so much that will help me as an aspiring infectious disease vaccine researcher. You both do an amazing job!

    June 26, 2019
    Reply
  21. Global Health with Greg Martin said:

    Entrepreneurship and Innovation in Global Health lessons learned…. 

    June 26, 2019
    Reply

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