This summer, Thomas Heslop signed on for a remote externship with Boston-based venture capital firm RallyCry Ventures, managed by Paragon One. As a “pre-med” student, getting work experience in finance seemed like a disruptive career choice to make, but the Howard University senior sees immense value in taking an unconventional learning route. Since writing this article, Heslop was selected for a second Paragon One-managed remote externship, this time with Facebook.
By Thomas Heslop
The traditional road to medicine is a straightforward path.
Four semesters of general biology, one gruesome year of organic chemistry, one monstrous MCAT, and scores of other prerequisite courses mixed in. Quite frankly, while there’s room for improvement (and that's a conversation for another day), this formula works and allows for the standardization of knowledge among pre-medical students that enter medical school.
It is only during the summer that we have a chance to do some exploring.
The usual recommendation is that pre-medical students utilize their summers to work in academic and clinical research spaces. I went a different route - but it doesn’t mean I want to hang up my future white coat!
With the unexpected emergence of COVID-19, many pre-medical students - myself included - were left without a research opportunity for the summer. I thought it would be an interesting time to pursue a remote externship, outside of the traditional medical space and had the opportunity to do so through a non-profit called The Opportunity Network, which partnered with Paragon One.
I enrolled for an eight-week remote externship project with RallyCry Ventures, that was managed by Paragon One, which mentored students, provided training for the project and organized webinars and check-in meetings.
Here’s why working on a remote project for a VC firm was the best decision I could’ve made, and why other students should consider non-traditional work opportunities too:
Heading into the externship, I had prior experience working in laboratory spaces.
Researchers are routinely required to use problem-solving, research and presentation skills. With that in mind, I believed my prior experience would make my time with a VC firm easier -- I was wrong.
While there were similarities, the approach to problem solving in business settings is different from science ones.
With the training support provided by Paragon One, I built on my Excel skills and pitch creation; both of which are transferable skills useful in any industry. By the end of the externship, I stopped viewing problems solely as a scientific researcher, but also looked at them as a venture capital analyst. This was extremely important to me, because I believe healthcare providers with broader perspectives are better equipped to find creative solutions to problems in their field.
A key task I was given as part of my remote externship with RallyCry Ventures was conducting research on startups that could be worth investing in. I viewed this deal-sourcing exercise as an opportunity to learn more about healthcare and scientific research companies. My work on the project opened my eyes to new innovations in the medical landscape. This ranged from powerful new medical software, physician-aiding medical technology and even companies striving to expand healthcare accessibility.
While we learn about the fundamentals of medicine in academic settings, sometimes there is a lack of insight on new emerging breakthroughs. As a physician, it is important to keep up with the progress made by healthcare companies, as they stand to shape the future of healthcare.
With my startup research, I now have a portfolio of companies I've found with promising future potential. These will allow me to engage in meaningful conversations with future medical school admissions counselors and my academic peers.
More importantly, my work with RallyCry Ventures has given me the methodology to continue to look for more innovative healthcare companies in the future. With this, I can aim to incorporate their products into my work as a physician to improve patient care and outcomes.
Healthcare-related products and services are numerous and the industry is a fast-growing one. There are multiple ways a student can contribute to the future of healthcare, without having the title of RN, MD or PA. From software engineers designing new medical software, to marketing professionals that brand cutting edge treatments and even healthcare-focused finance companies that raise capital to turn medical projects into reality.
For many students, there is a belief that the only way to enter the medical world is by becoming a nurse, physician or physician assistant. However, through my experience as an extern this summer, I’ve found that to be completely false.
The capacity to work in medicine is, quite frankly, limitless.
I am extremely grateful that I took a leap of faith in myself this summer. That leap has allowed me to expand my outlook on an industry that I love and cannot wait to be a part of. With the tools and training I absorbed under the guidance of RallyCry Ventures and Paragon One, I am definitely even more prepared for my career as a physician. If you’re a student who is still wondering if there are any benefits to undertaking a non-traditional externship in your field--let my experience be proof. If you do take the leap, make sure it’s with an amazing company like Paragon One.