Alumni Spotlight: Michael Velez
On becoming a “Doctorpreneur”
Michael graduated from the Master of Translational Medicine program in 2017, and is currently Chief of Staff at Aidin and Physician-Mentor at The Cedars-Sinai Accelerator.
Describe your experience in the MTM program.
When I learned about the MTM program, I had only just started down my desired career path: to become a “Doctorpreneur.” I decided that to make an impact beyond clinical practice, completing this program before medical school would equip me with both a deeper understanding of the innovation landscape across health systems and an expanded repertoire of technical skills. The program’s cutting-edge coursework and world-class mentorship expanded my understanding of all the components — from intellectual property to regulatory strategy — required to bring new ideas to fruition in the healthcare industry. I knew that I didn’t just want to practice medicine, but rather help improve patient care on a larger scale. My capstone project involved prototyping and patenting the Lamprey: an atraumatic — or causing minimal tissue injury — suction-based laparoscopic grasper that would reduce surgical complications and cut costs. Between my multidisciplinary cohort and our distinguished professors and mentors across both the UC Berkeley and UCSF campuses, I found myself more excited, inspired, and motivated every day!
What is your current position?
As a physician working at Cedars-Sinai in Los Angeles, I recently stepped away from clinical medicine to support and mentor health technology companies that partake in the Cedars-Sinai Accelerator program. Ultimately, I joined an Accelerator company, Aidin, as their Chief of Staff. Aidin is a case management platform which optimizes the process and outcomes of patient transitions. The software allows case managers to drive the discharge process more efficiently — reducing length of stay — which translates into more revenue for the hospital and helps patients choose the best quality post-acute provider. As the Chief of Staff of a rapidly growing post-Series A startup, I wear many hats and perform many functions. While my priority is to unburden the CEO & COO, I also lead special projects ranging from developing an online training program for our software users to supporting new client implementations and Go Lives across major health systems.
What aspect of your success do you specifically credit with your time at the MTM program?
At a time when I was struggling to find guidance and mentorship around a nontraditional career path in medicine, the MTM program and communities that came with it opened my eyes to the world of possibilities for an aspiring physician-executive within the health innovation ecosystem. Between the skills I cultivated to continue my health design work in medical school, my exposure to cutting-edge technologies, and the diverse network of industry leaders I built throughout the program, I can easily credit my experience in the MTM program as being a pivotal step toward where I am today.
What advice do you have for students/young adults who plan to pursue a career in this field?
If your gut is telling you to take the chance on translational medicine/research, do it! Growing up I wanted to be an inventor, but life guided me toward a career in medicine. Ultimately, I found a way to weave both my passions into one, no matter how many people doubted the non-traditional path along the way. When faced with doubt and ambiguity, I like to remember that just because someone is driving the other way, doesn’t mean they are going in the wrong direction. Before doubting your own direction when comparing your life to others, remember that everyone is on their own life journey, with unique goals and perspectives that dictate their destination. As you traverse the road less traveled, if you look hard enough, you will always find like-minded individuals to learn from and collaborate with along the way.