IFNY Event Recap: Women’s Health: Building Businesses to Break Boundaries

Thomas Coughlin, PhD Written by Thomas Coughlin
Published on 26 September 2019
4 min. read

On September 19, 2019, at Weill Cornell Medical College entrepreneurs and STEM professionals gathered for the “Women’s Health: Building Businesses to Break Boundaries” panel discussion. The event, organized by Innovation Forum New York in collaboration with the Office of Postdoctoral Affairs at Weill Cornell Medicine, started with four successful women entrepreneurs each talking about their journey.

The bustling crowd quieted as the first of the panelists, Marissa Fayer, spoke about her journey of starting a nonprofit and consulting company, HERHealth EQ and Fayer Consulting LLC, respectively. Marissa is very passionate about raising women’s health standards in impoverished countries, and her talk highlighted the importance of women entrepreneurs in the area of women’s health.

Then, the next speaker, Fran Strauss approached the podium. Fran is a proven Reimbursement & Payer Commercialization strategist and Market Access executive with expertise in genetic testing, molecular diagnostics, medical/mobile devices, personalized medicine and diagnostic laboratories. Fran has deep roots in biotech-entrepreneurship, and gave valuable advice for budding life science entrepreneurship in women’s health.

Scientists, entrepreneurs, and STEM professionals listen at the Women’s Health Forum with (from left) Amy Fan, Marissa Fayer, Fran Strauss, Janice Schacter Lintz, and Ashlee Wisdom.

Following Fran, Janice Schacter Lintz, founder and CEO of Hearing Access & Innovations, told the story. Janice’s daughter has hearing loss and as Janice and her family went through the natural progression of trying out hearing devices, she learned that only 1 in 5 Americans wear hearing aids when they need them. This is mostly because medical insurance plans did not cover hearing aids and the high price tag on such devices was prohibitive to many patients. From that moment, Janice vowed to make her home of New York City the model city for people with hearing loss. She transformed the hearing loss status quo in Manhattan by working to implement key technologies that improved the overall quality of life for the hearing loss community.

Women’s Health Forum with (from left) Amy Fan, Marissa Fayer, Fran Strauss, Janice Schacter Lintz, and Ashlee Wisdom.

The final keynote was Amy Fan, cofounder of TwentyEight Health. After working as a consultant at Bain & Company, she and her colleague started their own company to meet the needs of women ages 18 to 35 year old. TwentyEight Health’s mission is to create easy access to reproductive health to women with lower income. Their research found that 71% of women were frustrated by lack of information on women’s health and that 69% postponed going to see a doctor due to cost.

One main takeaway from the night was that innovations for women’s health need to be at the forefront of conversation for new entrepreneurial pursuits. As women are not only more than half the population, the panel stressed the importance of women’s role in making approximately 80 to 90% of healthcare decisions within families. The pivotal role  of women in family structure, together with the overwhelming unmet need, makes women’s health a prime space to create important innovations.

Scientists, entrepreneurs, and STEM professionals mingle at the reception following the Women’s Health Forum with Amy Fan, Marissa Fayer, Fran Strauss, Janice Schacter Lintz, and Ashlee Wisdom.

The collective audience leaned in when Ashlee Wisdom asked what the biggest obstacle to success is for women entrepreneurs. With a unanimous nod, the panelists agreed, that capital is the main barrier. However, the panel also agreed that an entrepreneur should press on in the face of difficulty. Janice clarified that, no matter who you are, if you have an idea there will always be initial disbelief, but it is important to harness the energy of what got you started on the venture in the first place. The panel concluded that for women entrepreneurs, “we need to keep pressing and pushing the envelope because these innovations for women are right there on the edge of the horizon.”




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