Unscripted | Episode 5

From Med School to Med Tech // unScripted with Dr Geoff Bocobo

Join us on a journey into the intersection of medicine, innovation, and personal growth with Dr. Geoff Bocobo on ‘Unscripted.’ Dr. Bocobo shares his unique path from physician to management consultant, the challenges of medical school, and the creation of a groundbreaking medtech startup. Whether you’re contemplating a non-traditional medical career or interested in the latest in medical technology, this episode is an inspiring look at forging your own path in the healthcare industry.

Published on
May 30, 2024

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Unscripted interviews physicians about common struggles they face in today’s world

Addisyn Uehling: Welcome to Unscripted. I’m your host, Addisyn Uehling. In this series, we have candid one on one conversations with physicians about common struggles they face in today’s world. On today’s show, we will be sitting down with Doctor Geoff Bocobo to talk about medical technology and innovation on this episode of Unscripted. Hey, thank you for joining us today.

Geoff Bocobo is a physician by training and currently working in management consulting

Can you kind of start off by sharing a little bit about you and your background?

Dr. Geoff Bocobo: Definitely. Addisyn, thanks so much for having me. I’m really excited to be on this podcast. so I’m Jeff. I’m a physician by training. I just graduated, actually, last year from the Jacobs School of Medicine up in Buffalo, New York. currently, though I am not in residency, I’m actually working in management consulting in Boston, Massachusetts. and as for a little bit about my background, I grew up in Philadelphia my whole life, well, right outside of Philadelphia. and then I went off to undergrad in Connecticut, Trinity College, where I studied neuroscience. my other involvements there were pretty varied, but I would say mostly track and field, where I actually ran for eleven years. And I culminated in my last four years at, Trinity. I was a sprinter and hurdler, so that was a really great experience at Trinity. and then from there, I actually did not go right to med school. I, took a few gap years, and then I went off to Boston, Massachusetts to pursue some research and other positions.

Addisyn Uehling: Awesome. Okay, so kind of what did you do during the gap year? And, like, why did you choose to take that time?

Dr. Geoff Bocobo: Definitely, yeah. So, during my gap years, it was three years that I was in Boston. I thought that I was actually going to graduate from undergrad and take on, ah, prototypical career path of taking a few years off, getting real world experience, doing research, and then taking the mcat, then going to med school. so I did do the research aspect. I was actually, working at Brigham and women’s hospital in Boston. I studied under, well, not studied, but I did research under the tutelage of this brilliant cardiologist scientist, where we studied a signaling pathway that was involved in both a cardiopulmonary and a musculoskeletal disease. and that really enabled me to think critically and creatively about how we can help bring drugs to market that can combat these diseases. but by first understanding how the disease processes actually work. So that was a wonderful experience. But, during these gap years, aside from the research in the evenings, my biggest takeaway became these evening courses I was a part of that taught me about healthcare innovation. specifically, there were a few that I took. One was called healthcare innovation and commercialization course. It, was being held at a medical school very near Brigham and women’s hospital. But this was an awesome experience, kind of learning about this paradigm of medical innovation that I had just mentioned, because coming from a small liberal arts school, that’s something that I didn’t really, know about. So basically, these courses, as I mentioned, they were held in the evening, about once a week. They would bring in a key opinion leader or a thought leader to actually talk to us about getting a technology from bench to bedside, or one aspect of getting a technology from m beds to bedside. And that was super interesting to me. actually, they had these lectures about once a week, and then after each lecture, we actually had networking events and dinners where we were able to talk with the speakers. but the most interesting part of this was halfway through the semester, because this was run by a school, so they were on a semester schedule halfway through the program, and halfway through the semester, they actually split us all up onto teams and assigned us a Harvard teaching hospital technology. And from that we worked closely with the inventor or the primary investigator, sorry, principal investigator of that technology, and basically pretended that that invention or that technology was our own, did market research, and that all culminated at the end of the program in delivering a mock pitch to real investors, and getting feedback. So that was a really, really cool experience. and that kind of sparked my interest in healthcare innovation at the same time as me doing research. but yeah, from there, I actually, it all culminated in, me ending up, me starting a company. It was actually a med device startup. So that was the culmination of my few gap years in Boston, kind of learning about health innovation, doing research, but then eventually starting a company.

Addisyn Uehling: Awesome. Can you tell us a little bit more about that startup? That sounds super cool, for sure.

Dr. Geoff Bocobo: Yeah, definitely.

CEO and CMO of startup met at MIT hacking medicine

to get to give a bit of background, the first two co founders of the startup, so the CEO and the CMO, so chief medical officer, not chief marketing officer. I’m sure folks know that, that’s the case, given this is more of a Healthcare podcast. but so the CEO and the CMO, they met at MIT hacking medicine. So what MIT hacking medicine is, is, kind of a forum and, you know, a hackathon where clinicians come together with, engineers, and so clinicians come forward with problems and potential. You know, they might have ideated on some solutions, but they really come together with these technical experts. So the engineers on the other side, and they meet and they kind of try to solution together. So the engineers kind of bring the technical background, the clinicians bring the clinical background and the problems, and they kind of solve things together. So the, the winners in 2019, I believe, were the CEO and CMO of my future startup company, of our future startup company, and they met there. And basically what they, what they were trying to solve was the CMO. So he’s a practicing hepatobiliary surgeon in Long island, and I think at times he practices in New York City as well, downtown. But, he found that patients, after surgeries, when they’re recovering with a Jackson Pratt drain or a surgical drain, basically it’s a drain that’s implanted into you after a complex procedure. And, as you heal after that complex procedure, the body disposes of excess fluid at the incision site or deep in the abdominal cavity. he found that after installing these surgical drains, at times because of the manual monitoring paradigm or the manual monitoring process, that these, drains are monitored with, so to speak, that is, by the resident team about twice a day, I believe, usually on a standard med surg floor, and then by nurses during shift change, which could be every eight to 12 hours of, course, if they’re changing, any of the other medical equipment in the room for the patient, then they might, check on the Jackson Pratt or surgical drain. But it’s not standard of care to always check on it, I believe. So what he saw was sometimes when these are manually monitored, there’s a delay in detecting complications, that could be arising, that the surgical drain could be indicative of. So, for example, if the surgical drain is just draining what we call serosanguinous fluid, that’s totally fine. That’s like a pink, fluid, not exudate. Yeah, pink fluid kind of flowing into the JP drain. and that’s physiologic, normal as the body heals. But if it starts gushing red, then that could signify bleeding. If the, volume in the JP drain kind of precipitously drops, or there’s no, flow of the fluid coming out of the patient’s body, that could signify that there’s a blockage in there, there could even be a bile leak. So, that’s all to say that that’s the clinical problem that the CMO came up with. but what the future CEO, the, engineer, thought a good solution would be. Would be to put biosensors in line with the surgical drain. So anytime there’s fluid flowing through a certain area into the drain bulb, we would know automatically in real time the composition of that fluid. So we put a, a multi spectral RGB sensor, which is a color sensor, and a flow sensor. So, in with that, in real time, we could detect, what the flow rate was, which would correspond to volume. So, like, how much volume is flowing into the JP drain, but also we could detect in real time the color of it. So if we see red flowing in there, we know that there’s potentially bleeding. If we see, you know, we could detect a bio leak, we could detect a blockage, et cetera. So that was the technology we were, attempting to bring to market at the time. I, should mention, give context. This was march of 2019, actually. It was interesting. This is right around the time I got accepted to medical school, when the company incorporated. So we incorporated in March of 2019, and from there, we were actually all working full time jobs. As I mentioned, I was in research. The CEO at the time, the engineer, he was working for another startup, CMO, obviously, practicing compatibiliary surgeon. And then we hired a chief technology officer, who would be the fourth co founder, and then that’s who he incorporated with us for as the four co founders. so from there, we, as I mentioned, we were all working full time jobs. So it took us about nine months of moonlighting to de risk this idea. And kind of, I spoke with so many, physicians, so many folks in the healthcare fields and healthcare adjacent fields about this idea and the potential solution. And, you know, got a lot of constructive feedback, but a lot of positive feedback was really what I received at that time, in that first nine months. and I kind of leveraged my connections at the research institution that I was working at, just, you know, saying, hey, I’m a pre med, and would, love to chat with you about this potential idea we’re working on, technology we’re working on. And so, physicians are, and mentors are always very, receptive to students coming to them for these matters. but anyway, long story short, 2020, in December 2019, I identified, a VC firm in Boston that might be a good fit. they ended up funding us in, January of 2020 for a seed round, or pre seed round is strictly what it’s called, if we want to get into technical definitions here. So pre seed round in January 2020, that enabled us to hire engineers, which allowed us to prototype this technology. and then from there, we did an animal trial in March of 2020. As we know what happened in March of 2020, things, went downhill with the pandemic from there. But, we got that data, I guess, right before the pandemic hit, which was great, because we were able to submit that data and get funding from the National Science foundation for their innovation core program to have a grant for customer discovery. kind of leveraged that, and we eventually got approved for a clinical trial. And then, you know, for me, as one could probably deduce, I was also in med school at the time, so I was pretty busy with medicine. So during this time, I was kind of slightly, slowly rolling off and, more into an advisory role and less into a true co founding role. So kind of as 2021 rolled around and my clinical rotations, which is the busiest year of med school, rolled around, I kind of slowly rolled off into an advisory capacity. and, yeah, so that’s everything about my, med tech startup that I co founded back then. Really, really great experience. And don’t, regret a thing about, that learning experience.

Addisyn Uehling: That’s super cool. That’s such an amazing accomplishment.

What was your biggest takeaway from Boston medical school experience

what would you say your biggest takeaway is from that time?

Dr. Geoff Bocobo: Yeah, from that time period in Boston? I would say. Well, one is, it’s interesting that applicants that don’t apply to medical school, sorry, yeah, that don’t apply to medical school, I think at their junior year of undergrad, junior year of college. It’s funny because they’re automatically labeled as non trads or non traditional. So that’s just interesting to me because, just because you’re not going to med school, right? Or. Sorry. Yeah, just because you’re not going right from undergrad to med school, your label is non traditional. I think my biggest takeaway from that time is that, you know, really just carve your own path. if you’re truly wanting to do medicine and you’re, you’re able to work hard, and put your mind to it, you’ll be able to get there. and it doesn’t matter if you get there immediately after undergrad or five, six, seven years down the line, after undergrad, you’ll eventually make it to where you work hard to, so I’d say carve your own path. I. Sometimes folks will think that it’s automatically better to go to under. To go to med school right from undergrad. And I think that that’s at a surface level. That’s true. Probably they’re probably thinking, not that they’re being narrow minded, but they’re probably thinking, hey, like, I want to go right from undergrad to med school. And that makes the most sense, m financially, monetarily, because, I’ll get an attending salary. Attending position is the label for folks in the audience that may be, you know, more junior pre med. It’s, the physician that is right after fellowship training, right after residency training. So folks might be like, hey, if I go right from undergrad to med school, I’ll get an attending salary, right, as soon as possible. So, therefore, this is the best decision. I think you can carve your own path for me. I loved learning about. I loved doing research, you know, first, firstly was, actually able to help bring a drug to market. it was released, actually, it was FDA approved a few weeks ago. It’s called sotatercept. actually, it’s called win revere now is what they relabeled it to. FDA approved by Merck and formerly acceleron. It’s basically a, It’s a drug for pulmonary arterial hypertension, which is a devastating cardiopulmonary disease that predominantly affects women, in that genetic, a pulmonary arterial hypertension type group one pulmonary hypertension. So. So that was, you know, helping with that effort was amazing because I’ve. Years later, I finally saw, I guess, the fruits of your labor for things I was able to help on. So research was amazing, and I really was happy that this, you know, created positive. Hopefully it creates positive impact down the line. And then, you know, learning about health innovation. If I just went right to medical school. Most medical schools don’t teach healthcare innovation, or, you know, blending business, tech and healthcare. So I never would have learned about that. So I think that, that folks should. Folks should know. And what I learned was that you carve your own path and you’ll. You’ll actually end up probably not regretting things if you’re. If you’re in a learning environment and you’re willing to kind of learn about the difference and roads less frequently taken.

Addisyn Uehling: Is what I’d say, awesome. That’s. That’s super important. kind of taking like, what you said, like the non traditional path. However, it’s not really non traditional. It’s just taking that little bit of time between school and for you, you learned so much, and it was actually so beneficial for when you then went on to medical school. That’s super cool.

Were there any challenges that you encountered going to medical school

Were there any challenges that you encountered going to medical school or kind of that transition time.

Dr. Geoff Bocobo: Yeah. I think one thing that was difficult for me was you’re kind of uprooting your life. And, this is, like, not a unique experience, but I do think it’s something that maybe is not talked about enough or maybe is just like, you know, just important to mention. When you go into med school, you don’t necessarily where you’re going to know where you’re going to go, unless you’re a superstar that gets into, like, all the great schools and you can choose where to go. for me, that wasn’t the case, I’ll be completely honest. I ended up going to, Buffalo, New York, and, you know, great medical school. I had awesome clinical training there. There was medical innovation nearby me, there were research opportunities. So I regret nothing about going there. And I was actually lucky enough to receive a partial scholarship to go there. So that was really nice. but so, so I would say a challenge that I had was uprooting my life from Boston to Buffalo after having previously, well, I guess not uprooted it, but having previously moved my life from college back home and then to Boston. So, like, kind of, you know, not that you’re losing your friend groups, but that you’re, you’re moving away from your established, you know, friend groups and your established city that you’re in. Right. So that was definitely a difficult transition period. going to a graduate program. I mean, definitely, as I mentioned, not a unique challenge, ah, to experience. So that’s one aspect I experienced, those challenging in my eyes. And the other aspect, that is definitely commonly experienced in med school, what is trying to drink out of fire hose is the amount of material you’re supposed to learn. So I thought that I could study in the way that I studied in undergrad during med school. So I made a not smart decision to, like, put off studying for my first anatomy practical until a few days before the exam. And that exam went very poorly. And I learned that for anatomy specifically, especially anatomy practical, when you’re actually working, in the cadaver lab, you need time, to learn what the anatomical structures are, and you can’t just brute force learn it in two evenings. so don’t do what I did or else your exam will go very poorly. maybe there’s some geniuses out there that can do it, but I think that if you’re a standard med student who’s still smart, you’re not going to, be able to do it in two days. Because I definitely wasn’t able to. So that was a big learning experience for me, that in med school you have to be studying a lot more than an undergrad. I was able to get it, under control with regards to kind of titrating how much I was studying. So like I was able to still cram for other exams, but for anatomy specifically, that’s like something for me, at least. I had to go in, you know, five, six, at least seven days in advance to kind of get comfortable with the anatomical structures that I would end up being tested on. On test day.

Addisyn Uehling: Yeah, for sure.

Were you involved in any other extracurricular activities during medical school

Addisyn Uehling: So what are. Were you involved in any other extracurricular activities during that time in medical school?

Dr. Geoff Bocobo: Yeah, for sure. So, there were a few, I think first year you’re meant to kind of learn how. How med school works. So I don’t think folks get as involved, but I was involved in a couple very, more lighter commitment roles. One was an awesome gala help plan. It was for, ah, the society of women surgeons actually in. And I think it’s in the buffalo, New York chapter, and, you know, helped plan that gala. And I think all of the, all of the donations and the ticket purchases went to, shelters for battered women. And I think that that was a really, really important donation point, to make, and a really great recipient for the funding that went to the gala. So, that was something I was involved in and that was a wonderful evening and a wonderful initiative, as I mentioned, addition m to that. I was, what’s called an EMR superuser. That’s what it was called at med school. I know that that probably might not mean a lot might not mean a lot to some folks. but basically electronic medical record, electronic health record. we were undergoing a transformation or a change, transition, I guess, from current, electronic medical record systems to, getting kind of one interoperable system in western New York called, it was called the glimmer initiative, but one interoperable system under cerner. and so I was one of the cerner super users. And what that is, it’s basically I get trained early in using cerner specifically, so then I could help out, the clinicians that may not be as comfortable with transitioning to a new technology. So that’s what the EMR superuser program was during my first year, and then in my second year, I think that that’s when folks take on a bit more responsibilities. Again, this is going to sound like a lot, but it’s actually not as much as you think, these are fairly, like, commitments, aside from the admissions committee. But, during my second year, I was on admissions committee, which, honestly, it was a really great experience. I loved learning about students that were applied to my med school. that was, about one admissions committee meeting per month. And I think I had interviewed, like, five candidates, five, six candidates a month. So it wasn’t a huge time coming. It definitely was a significant one. but that was a great experience. And I loved kind of chatting, about candidates with the faculty members because, you know, I was a student represent, represent representative on that admissions committee. other than that, I was part of the global health interest group. actually, what’s. What it’s really called is the global medicine student ambassador group now, I think, or those are two groups that are discreetly tied together. And then Asian Pacific American Medical Student association was my other involvement there. That was more like, those are more like fun groups that planned a few events here and there. This was my second year was also during the pandemic, so that probably helped on a time, time scale, like temporarily, because I was doing a lot of. We were doing a lot of remote things. And then finally, I was part of a leadership program for the rest of med school called the Jacobs students, I think Jacobs student leadership track. And basically you work on a project, a slow burn project between your second and fourth year of med school. and, yeah, so, that was a great experience, too. I got to work closely with a mentor that really nurtured my love, for healthcare innovation, I guess. So I think that was probably my favorite extracurricular activity. And these do sound like a lot, but most of these were only, like, a couple of hours a week, tops, I would say. Yeah.

Addisyn Uehling: Ah, wow. That’s still a lot, though, because I feel like med school is a lot to begin with, and then you add all of these things on top of it. Do you have any tips on how you found work life balance, how you find that?

Dr. Geoff Bocobo: Yeah, definitely. that’s. Yeah, that’s an important question. I think that. So sometimes those extracurricular activities they do, it is another commitment. Right. As you just mentioned, which is a very valid point. You know, you have to study for this anatomy exam, but you also have to prepare for this event for that you’re holding, you know, let’s say a global health event. Sure. That’s definitely the case. but one could also argue that you’re using a different part of your brain when you’re studying. You’re kind of just trying to understand a. The pathophysiology of this disease, or you’re trying to brute force some anatomical structures into your brain, and that’s kind of flexing one muscle. one. One brain muscle, but another brain muscle you can flex or, like, kind of another area of your brain you can use could be related to, you know, if you’re interested, genuinely interested in planning those events and you like, event planning or you like, kind of doing the marketing materials for those events. I think that that could be a quasi break from studying, I would say so kind of, just saying that taking a break from studying can take many forms, manifest in many ways. So that’s one way it could manifest, manifest in the classical ways. And these are ones that I did, too. So, you know, going to the gym, that’s definitely a great one. and then, also, you know, if you just want to, like, sign off for the night and get drinks with your friends, I think that, you know, these aren’t necessarily work life balance tips, but these are ways that you can keep sane when you’re studying a lot, kind of going to the gym, getting drinks with friends, and, like, working on other activities. So another activity I should mention is, you know, I was working on my startup during part of this, so it would be nice if I could study for 3 hours in the evening and then put an hour into the startup as opposed to doing four hour studying. For me, varying, the topics keeps me interested and keeps me less, like, kind of keeps my brain less dull and kind of bored about what I’m doing.

Addisyn Uehling: Yeah, for sure. so it’s kind of almost like an enjoyment thing. I love that. It’s like using a different part of your brain. I’ve never. I’ve never heard anyone say that. I think that’s so important to think, you know, it’s not always. It’s different for every person. Right. And that the relaxation and choosing what you do and making sure you enjoy is totally still work life balance, you know?

Dr. Geoff Bocobo: Sure.

For various reasons, I ended up choosing to go into management consulting

Addisyn Uehling: so kind of what does it look like now? Did you choose to go to residency, or did you choose to take another path?

Dr. Geoff Bocobo: Yeah, so, I definitely took an unorthodox path. I, decided to pause my clinical training for now. I definitely want to go back to residency in the future, but I actually, for various reasons, I ended up choosing to go into management consulting.

Addisyn Uehling: Awesome. So kind of. Are you happy with that decision? Why did you choose that and kind of what played a role in that decision?

Dr. Geoff Bocobo: Definitely, yeah. so I guess the reason that I chose that, it was almost, like, semi inadvertent, because I stumbled upon this consulting opportunity during my third year of med school, I think, when I was on outpatient internal medicine. And so that’s basically, you can think of that almost like a family medicine clinic. So the hours were a bit lighter, and I basically decided to throw my hat in the ring because I love the intersection of business, technology, and medicine and what consulting is. Obviously, it’s a business, that helps other businesses, and sometimes they help in the healthcare field. And a lot of what is, a lot of what businesses are adopting now is, say, genai. So it has to do with technology. So I thought consulting is a really cool mix of what I just mentioned, healthcare, business, technology. so seeing that, I just, like, threw my hat in the ring and then eventually got an interview and kind of took it more seriously from there. So, for me, it was kind of an invert that I didn’t, I didn’t decide to, go to residency, at the moment, because I want to go in the future. But then it was also a personal decision, because there’s some factors, with regards to my family, I needed to know what I needed, to be sure of what city I was actually going to live in for, the next year. And I got the offer in May of 2021, I think, for the management consultant firm that I’m working for now. So that offer being in Boston, that allowed me to know that I would be in that city, and that was important for personal reasons with regards to my family. yeah, so I would say that. And then I think another reason that I decided that it was okay to kind of go through this unorthodox path, because as we know, you know, maybe 100% of med students at most med schools go right to residency, and maybe it’s still in the 90% at some institutions, I think, like Stanford, because that’s near, Silicon Valley. Some of them go into startups and other things like that, other pursuits like that. So I think that it’s a little less than 100%, but as we know, most go right into residency. So, for me, another thing that helped me decide that it was okay to kind of go into consulting as opposed to go right into residency, which is the common path, is this community I’m part of called MD plus, and it’s basically a community of aspiring physician innovators. And in that community, there are people that have worked in venture capital, there are people that have worked startups there are people that have gone to residency and still worked on startups or people that have not gone, to residency. So being a community, that’s, you know, I think it’s 3000 strong right now. that really helps me know that there are other people interested in these career paths, non traditional career paths, unorthodox career paths, but also that there are people that actually do these, because not all 3000 of them are doing these career paths, but they’re at least interested in it. but there’s at least a fair amount that are interest or that are doing it too. So, yeah, for me it was really, interest plus personal reasons, plus knowing that there’s other folks that are also going down this career trajectory.

Addisyn Uehling: So our audience is mainly made up of residents, fellows, newly attending. what would be the main thing that you want them to take away from our time together today?

Dr. Geoff Bocobo: Yeah, definitely. I would say it’s kind of a, theme that I had alluded to before. It’s really just to be yourself and carve your own path. I think that folks, ah, should not be scared if they’re interested in taking gap years, if they want to, you know, take that research year, during med school or during residency, or go work for that startup, take a year off, go work for that startup during med school or residency or after, or while you’re in attending. Because a lot, from my perspective, a lot of what clinical medicine is going to kind of adopt in the future are these technologies that these startups are working on. And, even these venture capital firms are interested in, that’s what the technologies will be in the future. So I think that not being scared of following your passions and following your interests is what I would say is, most relevant for the audience today.

Addisyn Uehling: Yeah.

Addisyn Uehling takes a deeper look into medical technology and innovation

Awesome. Well, thank you so much for your time today and I really appreciate you joining on, for sure.

Dr. Geoff Bocobo: Thanks, Addisyn.

Addisyn Uehling: I’d like to thank doctor Jeff, thank you for joining us today as we took a deeper look into medical technology and innovation. I hope our conversation today has shed some light on non traditional medical careers and new advances in medical innovation. Stay tuned for more discussions on important topics in the medical field, and one way to do that is to like and subscribe so you’ll never miss an episode. I’m your host, Addisyn Uehling, and we’ll see you next time on Unscripted.