Teaching Doctors About Running A Business

The fields of science and medicine employ some of the most highly educated and hands-on professionals in the world. So you might scratch your head when hearing one expert call for training medical researchers on how to do their job more effectively. But the training isn’t more of the technical sciences; it’s an appreciation and understanding of business and entrepreneurship.

Scientists, medical researchers, and physicians are excellent at proposing ways to cure illnesses and overcome medical problems. Helping people, after all, is what drives so many in the medical profession. But as David Shaywitz says, medical training largely ill-equips doctors and scientists to translate their ideas into solutions and products that are viable for patients in the marketplace.

Too often, it seems, the training of doctors ends where the academic mission often seems to–with publication. Anything beyond that tends to be viewed as irrelevant and intellectually derivative at best, and vaguely (or not so vaguely) corrupt at worst. To make a discovery is noble; to see it commercialized is vulgar.

In other words, the pinnacle of success in the medical field is to innovate and invent. But that achievement is tainted when the practical, business side of medicine enters the equation.

Meanwhile, those of us who could benefit from medical discoveries wait in the balance. We aren’t exactly signing up to get surgery in a lab or get a prescription from a PhD lab researcher.  We need businesses to see potential in these products – and a way to sustain the costs of bringing them to market – in order to gain access to them in our doctor’s offices and hospitals. Finding a cure for cancer, for example, may be a brilliant medical breakthrough. But it doesn’t save any lives without the wings of a pharmaceutical company that will work to put it in the hands of prescribing physicians and, ultimately, their patients.

The good news is that connecting the worlds of medical research and commercialization is not unchartered territory. Shaywitz cites several doctors who have already begun to navigate these worlds successfully and, with education tweaking, there is great potential to grow an appreciation of entrepreneurship.

Shaywitz, Chief Medical Officer of DNAnexus, a health data management company based in Mountain View, Calif., notes that the goal of teaching the appreciation of medical entrepreneurship is not with an eye towards making everyone in the field into entrepreneurs. Citing serial entrepreneur Steve Blank, Shaywitz writes:

The goal of teaching entrepreneurship isn’t to persuade every basic scientist to become an entrepreneur– ‘most would be terrible at it,’ he says. He hopes to pick up a few individuals who identify with the mission, but mostly, he hopes to impart a broader appreciation for how ideas that are often developed in academia find their way to market.

For the success of those who dedicate their lives to helping people through science and medicine – and for the betterment of humanity that relies on their success – we are hopeful that an appreciation for the business of medicine will translate into more viable drugs, treatments, and technologies.

Read Shaywitz’ entire article in Forbes.

How Journeyman Electricians Were “Gifted” a Second Chance to Succeed

Second chances are easier said than given. But that doesn’t mean there are no second chances. In fact, one electrical engineering firm decided that it was going to invest in second chances, and since then, business has snowballed.

For the Weifield Group in Denver, Colo., it was an evolution, and then, ultimately a conscious decision by the company’s owners to create an environment where people were involved in something bigger than themselves.

Why? Not just because it generated a lot of work, but because it was the best way to take advantage of “God’s gift” of leading a profitable business.

“God gives you different ‘giftings’ and if you have that business gifting and you can excel within business, you can capture a big audience,” said Karla Nugent, chief business development officer of the Weifield Group. “Being in that position where you can have an area of influence and affect people positively is powerful.”

“The construction market can be a rough trade,” said Seth Anderson, CEO of the Weifield Group. “We decided, ‘Hey we can do this, we can do this better. We can provide the quality. We can provide a good place for the employees to learn and develop new skills.'”

Becoming a journeyman electrician takes four years of training to complete. Weifield decided to start an apprenticeship program that lasts up to four years. That includes 40 hours of work per week and health insurance.

For many of Weifield’s 300 employees, that kind of on-the-job training has been a lifesaver. Many of its apprentices are ex-felons or recovering addicts who truly needed second chances. Being an ex-felon often makes it difficult to find decent work.

Not every company can afford to provide this kind of intensive and expensive on-the-job training. But for Weifield, it enabled the company to raise its skills and provide solutions to serve its clients, and it raised its business game to the next level.

Now that the company is flourishing, Weifield is expanding its outreach to help charities and community organizations, not just run a company.  Nugent said the growth is no surprise even as it keeps changing.

“We’re all blessed with all these talents, you know? How do you do something that’s bigger than build a building?”

The story of the Weifield Group is part of a new documentary called “To Whom is Given,” which looks at business owners’ faith-based decisions to help the common good. Learn more about the Weifield Group and “To Whom Is Given.”

Online Educational Games Change Principles of Learning

If you’re lamenting that kids are not getting a practical education any more, take heed, technology is leading young people in entirely new directions, with online games that teach kids everything from how to save money in virtual piggy banks to how to run multinational airline scheduling and pricing operations.

TPOH will leave it to readers to try out some of these games to determine their value, but the simple fact is that young people are no longer beholden to classroom models for learning. Simulations, interactive play, and augmented reality offer new ways of problem-solving and development exercises.

The University of Akron, for instance, provides links to all kinds of study materials in the form of games that test not only kids’ motor skills, but math, technology, economics, U.S. history and government, and many other topics.

Most of the games can be played online though some are meant to be app downloads. Many of the games the university lists are for grades K-6, but some of the games on personal finance and entrepreneurship target grades 7-12, which is important if schools are not going to make finance classes mandatory.

Thousands of resources are available online for teaching financial education to young people.  Economics-Games.com provides gaming-based lessons on microeconomics, industrial theory, and of course, game theory. These are higher-level concepts, and the demonstrations would make any college-age student sit up and pay attention.

Even the U.S. Mint has interactive games, including one that teaches youth about the branches of government. It’s a study tool that forces students to consult the Constitution when they get lost. What could be better than that?

Many of the online economics games offer business simulation strategies, and many are targeted at building collaborative efforts with thousands of players at a time. Some sites are agenda-driven, like trying to teach the value of alternative energy or cooperative farming. A lot of them, surprisingly, are free.

In all, it’s a brave new world out there. Students are learning in ways that many parents and older generations may never understand. So put on your virtual reality headset and hang on for the ride.

Mississippi Barriers to Opportunity Broken By Entrepreneurial Hair Braider

Melony Armstrong did not grow up financially disadvantaged, She didn’t suffer an accident that left her disabled. She didn’t make any poor decisions that ended her up in the criminal justice system.Hair-braider Melony Armstrong

An African-American girl growing up in Mississippi in the 1970s, Armstrong went to college and had a successful career in the field of psychology. She was a model for living the American dream.

But when she decided to strike out on her own, Armstrong confronted enormous, institutional barriers to opportunity that she never expected — state and municipal bureaucracy so entrenched that it became nearly impossible for her to open and own a small business.

The barrier was “a direct result of how our state and local governments regulate what people do for work and how those barriers slam the door to opportunity for many people in  a very real way,” she told an audience in Washington, D.C., attending an AEI Vision Talk.

Armstrong, who grew up having her mother and grandmother braid her hair every weekend, part of a rich cultural heritage that dates back 3,000 years, wanted to become a professional hair braider and took the logical course of action in that direction — training under a master braider and practicing for six months on a mannequin.

“I dreamed of becoming an entrepreneur and opening and running my own hair braiding business. The dream got my adrenaline pumping,” she said.

But when she finally felt ready to employ her new talents, the nightmare began. Armstrong found that the state Board of Cosmetology required that anyone who wanted to become a natural hair braider had to take 1,500 hours of cosmetology school and had to pay the state more than $10,000 for the license.

The requirements were “going to all be in an area that literally had nothing to do with hair braiding.”

To obtain a license to teach hair braiding, part of Armstrong’s long-term business plan, would require an additional 3,200 hours of classes.

“I could have become licensed in all of the following occupations in Mississippi. Here we go: emergency medical technician-basic, emergency medical technician-paramedic, ambulance driver, police officer, firefighter, real estate appraiser, and hunting education instructor,” she said. “Not just one of those occupations, but all of those occupations, I could have (done) them all and still had 600 hours left over.”

Working her way through the labyrinth of state government, Armstrong learned that the state Board of Cosmetology, which made up the licensing requirements and granted the licenses, was comprised of practicing cosmetologists.

“What this meant for cosmetology schools is that cosmetology schools would be guaranteed students, right? Once they were guaranteed students, then basically these students became captive customers, and so anyone wanting to do this, there was no way that you could get around it. You had to go to a cosmetology school, you had to take the training, and you had to pay for the training in order to become licensed.”

Armstong said she had to make a decision: either give up on her dreams or fight the status quo. “I decided to fight back.”

Getting wind of Armstrong’s predicament, the Institute for Justice took up her cause and filed a lawsuit on her behalf. This meant weekly, and sometimes thrice-weekly trips to Jackson, the state capital, which is seven hours round-trip from her hometown of Tupelo.

Years later and facing down some incredible odds, including trying to explain hair-braiding techniques to male lawmakers and being challenged at one point about whether hair braiding could raise the risk of HIV, which it cannot, the state legislature overturned the elaborate requirements, and the governor signed the new law. Now, the only requirements for hair braiders in Mississippi is to pay a fee, register with the state board of health, and abide by basic health and sanitation guidelines.

That was in 2005. Today, over 3,000 people are registered hair braiders in Mississippi, and Armstrong has taught hundreds of individuals how to braid hair through her school, Armstrong Academy. She has also opened up Melony Armstrong Coaching and Consulting.

“There only needed to be one tweak in the law, and that one tweak in the law has affected thousands of women in Mississippi,” she said, adding that regulatory hurdles have also been eased in Alabama, Arkansas, Texas, and Utah as a result of the change in Mississippi.

So what is the lesson that Armstrong shares from her experience?

“I think we need to take a serious look at the regulatory walls that are barring entrepreneurs from making an honest living. … We owe it to our citizens to pay attention to these laws that do nothing but keep entrepreneurs out,” she said. “America was built on the backs of entrepreneurs. I think many people would agree that we need entrepreneurs. Entrepreneurs made America great, and if we could do it in Mississippi, we can do it across the nation.”

How an Ex-Con Found His Self-Worth and Paid It Forward

Every once in a while, the security we feel is shattered by a hard truth, or an interaction with someone who takes us out of our comfort zone for better or worse. Bryan Kelley is one of those people.

Sentenced to life in prison for murdering a man in a drug deal gone bad, Kelley was released after 22 years. Why?

Could be what he discovered behind bars — a path to redemption and an opportunity not only for his own rehabilitation and recognition of self-worth, but also the ability to help numerous others as well.

Kelley took the lessons of self-actualization that he learned during his long days and nights incarcerated and figured out a way to implement them, becoming a leader in an entrepreneurship program that helps ex-offenders successfully re-enter society.  The Prison Entrepreneurship Program combines a rigorous classroom curriculum, one-on-one immersion training, and a web of real-world resources to deliver results that not only improve communities where felons return, but create healthy, productive, and transformative changes that enable these ex-cons to realize their self-value and live their accountability to others.

Kelley recently came to Washington, D.C., to tell his story for the AEI Vision Talks, a series of lectures by top scholars, political leaders, and policy-makers inside the Beltway as well as business owners, practitioners, and influencers around the nation. These lectures offer fresh perspectives on key areas of public debate and policy.

The discussions focus on practical solutions, based on real-life experiences. For Kelley, he has experiences that many people don’t wish on their enemies. It’s enough to make you shift in your seat when you’re an audience member at his lectures. But in searching for actionable solutions, Kelley found answers that turned around what could have been a meaningless life in prison into a positive impact that touches families of ex-prisoners, area businesses, and the larger community.

Watch Bryan Kelley’s Vision Talk and see if he can teach you anything. At the very least, it will make you look at life a little differently, or perhaps count your blessings.

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