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Surgeon Turned Entrepreneur Harnesses Data to Improve Care

March 19, 2024
by Pamela Hartley

A career in the sciences was destined for Mitesh Rao, MD, MHS ’09, but his pivot into entrepreneurship was inspired and made possible by time spent at Yale.

Focused on ensuring their son’s success, Rao’s parents took turns trying to sway his career choice toward their respective fields—software engineering, his father’s field, and medicine, his mother’s profession. Ultimately, Rao decided he wanted to go to medical school.

Medicine drew him in like a giant magnet. In his senior year of high school, Rao pushed toward his dream of becoming a doctor by applying to an accelerator program through which he could earn both a BS degree and an MD degree in six years: the Penn State Accelerated Program. He was accepted into the program and looked forward to spending two years at Penn State and then four years at Thomas Jefferson University’s Sidney Kimmel Medical College. Once settled in at Sidney Kimmel Medical College, Rao discovered that he loved time spent in the operating room. Later, this inspired him to pursue a surgery residency at University Hospital SUNY Health Science Center, where he focused on trauma and critical care.

But a change of plans was around the corner—one that would involve a transfer to Yale. A friend sent Rao a notice about a prestigious fellowship and Master of Health Science degree opportunity at Yale through the Robert Wood Johnson Clinical Scholars Program. Rao had to investigate. What he saw at Yale when he visited impressed him greatly. He could not pass up the opportunity to come to Yale even though it would mean an interruption in his medical training and a relocation almost midway through his residency in New York.

In his application to Yale, Rao described an innovative idea he had about how to better integrate new technologies into care delivery systems. He knew there had to be a better way. During his early medical training, he had observed new technologies being introduced in the clinic, but they were disrupting, not facilitating, health care services and quality of care. He was determined to fashion improvements—through the effective application of data.

A Transformative Journey

When the good-news envelope from Yale arrived, Rao “hightailed it” to New Haven, where he continued his studies and training from 2007 to 2012. Reflecting positively on his two years as a Robert Wood Johnson fellow and master’s degree student and his subsequent three years as an emergency medicine resident at Yale School of Medicine (YSM), Rao notes, “My time at Yale was pivotal in shaping my future career. It made me think of what I could do beyond just clinical practice. I loved my time there.”

While a resident at YSM, Rao seized the opportunity both to focus on emergency medicine and to delve deeper into the space of care quality and innovation. The latter focus—specifically, concerning how data could be used to drive enhancements in quality, safety, and outcomes of health care service delivery—has been at the center of Rao’s career mission.

Following his medical training, Rao held executive roles, first directing health care policy research at Northwestern Institute for Public Health and Medicine, where he developed a national reputation as a safety and quality leader, and then serving as chief patient safety officer for Stanford Healthcare. Throughout this time, he kept seeing opportunities around data. But he knew he needed to find a way to apply data at scale.

“If it were to be built, I wanted to do it myself,” he notes. “I wanted to do it right … to really impact the lives of patients and the future of health care on a national level.”

From Surgeon to Entrepreneur

In 2018, Rao launched OMNY Health, a startup that provides health care data and insights for life science companies. The company’s name reflects its vision, as “OMNY” is a play on the word “omniscience.” Its vision was to create a national data layer that would allow researchers to “know everything.”

Today, OMNY supports a national network of customers (helping patients across all 50 states), employs more than 40 people, and has raised significant backing from venture capital and other investors. Rao and his team have built a platform that focuses on the patient while bringing value to stakeholders. He notes, “People join OMNY because they believe in the mission and see the good we are doing. They believe we can make a difference. It’s all about facilitating quality care and safety through the application of data. Data is a powerful tool.”

Rao notes that pivotal to his entrepreneurial journey was meeting fellow YSM resident Ryan Grant, MD, during his emergency medicine residency. Grant, who went on to found two startup companies, introduced Rao to his very first investor, Kevin Ryan, YC ’85, whose investment in OMNY was instrumental in getting the company off the ground. Rao adds, “I would not have had the extensive network and connections I did if I had not attended Yale.”

Pearls of Wisdom

How did Rao transition into full-time entrepreneurship without any formal business training? He dedicated himself to learning and secured incredible team members. “One of the keys to leadership,” he says, “is to find people who are better than you at things and then empower them.” He further notes that he is constantly learning … every day.

Rao encourages other physicians to become entrepreneurs. He believes that because physicians go through the pressures of medical school and residency and gain resilience in their jobs, this prepares them to tackle, not shy away from, a challenge. In particular, he believes that emergency medicine is an excellent training ground for entrepreneurs, as doctors in that specialty face so many challenging aspects of health care and have to deal with high-intensity situations. Like entrepreneurs, they must be able to think on their feet, in the moment.

Asked about his advice for YSM alumni who aspire to be entrepreneurs, Rao says, “Learn. There is a lot to learn. Immerse yourself. And engage with the Yale network. Lots of great entrepreneurs exist in the network. Don’t hesitate to ask people questions. Most want you to reach out.”

SPECIAL NOTE: Dr. Rao is an inaugural member of Founders Pledge at Yale School of Medicine and Yale School of Public Health, a unique community of startup founders who wish to support the missions of YSM and YSPH through philanthropy. If you are interested in joining, please visit

Submitted by Tiffany Penn on March 19, 2024