Blog Post

Healthcare Upside/Down: Team Is Everything

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ECG’s radio show and podcast, Healthcare Upside Down, offers unfiltered perspectives on what’s working in US healthcare and what’s not. Hosted by ECG principal Dr. Nick van Terheyden, each episode features guest panelists who explore the upsides and downsides of healthcare in the US—and how to make the system work for everyone.

Growing up around the world, as I did, had its benefits. I was born on a different continent to parents who were from both from different countries and cultures. I’ve also lived in multiple countries, experienced numerous cultures, and had the opportunity meet so many people across the world who share similar ideals but differ in so many incredible and intriguing ways.

Joining us on episode 44 of Healthcare Upside Down is Julien L. Pham, MD, MPH, nephrologist and founder of Third Culture Capital (3CC).

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This makes me a “Third Culture Kid”—also known as a global nomad, cultural hybrid, or cultural chameleon. Those multiple inputs have given me an expanded worldview and help me function effectively across national, ethnic, and organizational cultures.

So when I read a recent report titled Assessing the Clinical Robustness of Digital Health Startups in Journal of Medical Internet Research, which produced a “clinical robustness score” for over 200 digital health companies, I was not surprised by the low level of performance in these companies. To produce a successful clinical solution, a company needs to engage clinicians and build a diverse team that has a global worldview.

Dr. Julien L. Pham is the founder and managing partner at Third Culture Capital (3CC). On episode 44 of Healthcare Upside Down, he separates the realities of clinical entrepreneurship from the hype and shares the secrets of a successful venture. Here are a few excerpts.


“It’s important to engage everyone. Engage the individuals who are on the front lines and have been frustrated for years about inefficiencies, or perhaps have solutions that they dream of but may not have the time or the expertise to turn into a commercial product. And that means clinicians, and not just physicians but nurses, physical therapists, etc., who really understand the pain point. And sometimes even more importantly, we need to engage with [the person] who I believe is probably the least engaged stakeholder—the patient.”


“The way innovation is most successful, in my opinion, is to work in teams—to have clinicians who advise, and may sometimes lead and found companies, but also engineers who help design and provide certain solutions that are more efficient. And have businesspeople who can figure out the path to making a business sustainable. It should be a team approach where everybody works together to improve outcomes for patients.”

The culture of entrepreneurialism.

“Culturally speaking, it’s important to have a dream and vision but also to be reasonable about what you want to do. There are definitely some cultural differences and nuances that you need to understand about entrepreneurship, clinical care, and being able to navigate those languages. To me, that’s what makes a clinician entrepreneur a wonderful asset, because in their hearts, they want to help patients, and they want to do something good. They have this dream, but they also live with the reality of being a businessperson and knowing that it’s not always ideal. So, culture for us [at 3CC] is central to how we think about innovation.”

On the podcast, Dr. Pham expands the leadership qualities that drive successful innovation.

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Edited by: Matt Maslin