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The next wave of physician-entrepreneurs

Yale Medicine Magazine, 2021 Issue 167

Recent medical school graduates Rohil Malpani, MD, '21 and Marley Windham-Herman, MD, '21, MBA, reflect a growing trend at the Yale School of Medicine (YSM): they bridge gaps among medicine, business, and technology.

Both Malpani and Windham-Herman came of age during a moment in which emergent technology was unusually accessible, making business opportunities plentiful. Studying at YSM helped guide them toward designing devices with an eye toward patient care.

Windham-Herman’s inspiration came from his father’s interventional radiology (IR) practice as a kid. “You can see people’s lives being saved,” Windham-Herman said. “Going from being aphasic, paralyzed on the table from a stroke, to being completely normal five minutes later because their physician was able to reach inside the artery and grab the clot out with a small wire.” His mother works in family practice with addiction patients. The result is a composite interest: Windham-Herman is focusing on device design in IR as well as on a groundbreaking pharmaceutical to treat addiction.

Malpani, the child of two doctors in Kolkata (Calcutta), India, remembers waking up to use the bathroom at three in the morning and seeing his father in a suit and tie leaving for the hospital to treat a patient’s heart attack. “He worked relentlessly but with purpose and joy,” Malpani said. “He was very happy with what he does; and I thought, if such a job, such a life was possible, I wanted it too.”

In a blog post, Malpani wrote about another influence on his career: “It was through my mother that I came to understand the all-encompassing profession of medicine.” A family physician and Ob/Gyn in India who takes a holistic approach to her patients’ well-being, Malpani’s mother empowers women in a patriarchal culture and helps them with everything from nutrition to personal finance. Malpani matched to the University of California, San Francisco, for radiology, and plans to complete a fellowship in IR.

Windham-Herman elected to pursue an MBA along with his MD, as he wants to understand those areas of medicine that overlap with business, economics, and administration. Like his father, he has chosen to practice IR, with a focus on technology: “I think being involved, being capable and competent of engaging in entrepreneurship or in industry in a collaborative way is going to be a huge driver of clinical change in the field,” he said. Windham-Herman anticipates changes as radiologists increasingly become coordinators and communicators within the health care system, going beyond diagnostics and moving further into treatment. In March 2021, he learned that he’d matched at UC San Diego for its integrated IR program.

During medical school Windham-Herman started a medical device company called ReCore that features an image-guided procedural tool for biopsies. ReCore is working to deploy in lower middle-income countries to deliver effective procedures rapidly and with a minimal amount of equipment. Windham-Herman designed them to be affordable and accessible with a systems-wide approach. He is also building on his mother’s work with addiction by investing in a plant-derived substance called ibogaine, a naturally occurring psychoactive compound that has psychedelic and anti-addictive properties. Ibogaine is a drug that targets some underlying neural correlates of addiction and mental illness.

Malpani too is interested in device design; he was the leader of the medical innovations group while at YSM, and also served on the Society of Interventional Radiology’s Biodesign and Innovations committee. He is a prolific organizer of contests and hackathons. Ultimately, he’d like “to be able to help a lot of people through device design,” he said, “but also work directly with the people I’m helping through my research and medicine in general.” The first stage he calls the back end, involving research; and the latter the front end, the actual delivery of care, working with patients one on one. “In general, I’m trying to make a difference in people’s lives.”