The Future of Health Technology, with Candice Hughes
Episode 76: The Future of Health Technology, with Candice Hughes
Candice Hughes, CEO and Founder of Hughes BioPharma Advisors, has had an entrepreneurial spirit engrained in her from a young age. Coming from a family of entrepreneurs, Candice’s business mind was working even in her early years. As she developed her career, she was able to integrate two of her passions: biology and business. In this week’s episode, Candice talks about networking at every stage of your career, the importance of holistic health for women and the future of health technology. She shares some of the latest innovations in health tech and we’re excited for what’s to come.
00:00 Speaker 1: Welcome to the Ellevate Podcast: Conversations With Women Changing the Face of Business. And now your hosts, Kristy Wallace and Maricella Herrera.
00:13 Kristy Wallace: Hello and welcome to the Ellevate Podcast. This is your host Kristy Wallace, joined by my co-host, Maricella Herrera. Hi Maricella, how's it going today?
00:22 Maricella Herrera: Hey Kristy, it's going great, busy.
00:25 KW: It is busy and you've been especially busy 'cause you've been doing some of our podcasts this past few weeks. Right?
00:32 MH: I have, it's been so much fun. It's really great to get to know some women who are doing amazing things and are really inspiring. And our guest today especially, was amazing to interview her because she's been a longtime Ellevate member. I've emailed with her back and forth for years. I've seen her at events and, I had never had the chance to actually sit down one-on-one with her and talk a little bit about her career journey and her story. So it was a lot of fun.
01:02 KW: I cannot wait to hear your conversation with Candice Hughes because I know it's gonna be exciting and inspiring, and that's where we get so much out of all of these conversations is hearing from different women with different backgrounds and career paths and perspectives, and learning how they got to where they are today. And I think at so many points in my life earlier on in my career, where I was trying to understand what was next and who I wanted to be and where I was going, I wish I had a resource like this to turn to, to just gain inspiration from those stories.
01:38 MH: Yeah, it's great. It's such a wealth of knowledge, inspiration, advice, honestly. It's amazing. So yeah, I had a great conversation with Candice. She is the CEO and Founder of Hughes BioPharma Advisers and she knows so much about healthcare. And we spent some time talking about innovation, which was also fun.
02:01 KW: Fantastic.
02:02 MH: Hey Kristy, you have some news for us, don't you?
02:04 KW: I'm here with my 4-year-old daughter Morgan, and I've got a burning question for her. Morgan, whose squad is it?
02:14 Morgan: Mommy's squad.
02:17 KW: And it's also our listener's squad, because this month of September, we have a great, great offer. If you join Ellevate Network, a community of thousands of high-achieving professional women, committed to closing the gender achievement gap in business for themselves and for the fellow members that's getting more women into positions of leadership, on boards, making equal pay, getting into politics, all those areas where gender parity does not exist, we are here to change that. And we want you to join us, be part of our squad. So if you join Ellevate Network in the month of September using code, 'your squad', you'll get 20% off membership, and we really hope you do. I'm looking forward to meeting you. So what is the poll for this week?
03:04 MH: Well, we asked our members, "What do you think is the number one driver of innovation?"
03:11 KW: Oh, fun, fun, fun. I'm trying to think what my answer would be.
03:21 KW: So I would say it's... But I know this isn't one of the answers, but it's personal connection. When we're trying to solve problems for ourselves that then have a larger implication to the greater world, but it starts with your passion for that.
03:41 MH: So what we got from our members was 29% of them said, "It was company cultures." So I think it's that interaction, which is funny because another 29% said, "It was diversity in teams and companies." Again, that interaction between different perspectives.
04:00 KW: I guess, it goes hand in hand. You have a company that really values diversity, and then that can create a culture that fosters innovation...
04:08 MH: I'm gonna play devil's advocate on that because Uber, I would say, is a very innovative company; however, it does not value diversity or did not. I don't know about now.
04:17 KW: Truth. Truth. Interesting. Okay.
04:22 MH: 20% said social changes, so what's happening in society; 15% said technology, and 3% said globalization.
04:30 KW: Yes, globalization. Interesting. Well, that is one of my favorite polls we've had recently. I love talking about innovation, so that was fun and I am excited now to get to your conversation with Candice. I do wanna quickly say for any of our listeners, if you enjoy listening to these stories as much as we do, we would love it if you'd share it. Share it on social media, share it with your friends... Share it on social media, share it with your friends, and the ever, ever important rate and review us. If you are a listener of podcasts, you hear how important the reviews and the ratings are towards helping us gain recognition and gain exposure. So anything you could do, we would greatly appreciate it and I don't want to delay any longer until you start listening to this great interview between Maricella and Candice. Thanks.
05:39 MH: Welcome Candice, it's so great to have you here for the podcast. You've been a longtime member. I've seen you at some events and I know you write quite a bit for Ellevate.
05:50 Candice Hughes: Yes.
05:51 MH: It's always amazing to have women that contribute so much to the community to be here and share their stories. So I wanna start by asking you a little bit about your background. I know you're in science and in healthcare, but what drew you to that? When did you know that that's where you wanted to go? We hear so much that girls and women are not so much into the STEM fields and to science or technology or other of these things. When did you know that you wanted to go down this route?
06:25 CH: Well, thanks very much for having me, first of all, and I'm really happy to talk to everybody from Ellevate about STEM and science, and my background, and how I got here. I really learned from an early age that I was interested in science and STEM. So my story that I like to tell is when I was in the fourth grade, one of my teachers gave out fossils as little gifts to all the students and as soon as she handed it to me, I was just overwhelmed saying, "Oh my gosh, this is 100 million years old, and here I am holding this fossilized seashell and think of all the places that it's been and all the changes that have gone on in the Earth over that period of time." And it was just for me, just like a light bulb moment of, "This is so awesome and amazing that I just really have to learn more about it and have to study the field of science, and eventually biology is what I got into. And it really sparked from... I think largely from that one moment. One thing that I always tell people is, if you're a teacher, just realize that you can absolutely make such a huge difference in somebody's life. So teaching and business mentoring, those can really be absolutely life changing experiences. For me, it was.
07:54 MH: So neurobiology. Why neurobiology specifically? [chuckle]
08:01 CH: Sure. That was one of the things that I evolved into. I started out with the initial interest when I was young in biology, but then I started reading, even when I was pretty young actually, reading about psychology and the mind and how the brain works, how people think, because that's sort of the seed of consciousness, what makes us who we are. And it was kind of a black box, it's still in a lot of ways a black box so that we learn more every day. But for me it was a new frontier and I thought, "Okay, I wanna take on the big challenges." So I wanna understand what makes people who they are, how they think, how they function, and how they work together. In order to understand all those kinds of things, then I had to learn about the brain. And so that's what led me into going to get my PhD in neuroscience so that I could learn as much as I possibly could about that field.
09:09 MH: So you were doing your PhD, you were in research, and then you moved into a business career. What made you decide to make that move?
09:19 CH: Well, I was in the research and I enjoyed a lot of aspects of the research. I really liked, as I said, finding out new things and writing papers about them and talking to people about it. But I got to a point in my career where I realized that I was working very long hours, as people may or may not know for science, that a lot of the times I was in my career, I was working 100 hours a week. And so it was difficult to envision how can I have a life outside of work and how can I have a family and that sort of thing. And I realized that as I got older that that was becoming more important to me, and also it was challenging. In science I think it's a unique field where you can work, but you don't actually get a salary for your work. Being a researcher in any field is one of the few fields where you can be hired for a job, but it doesn't come with a salary and you have to go out and get your own salary through grants.
10:27 CH: So through a combination of those things, I decided that I wanted to segue into business because I thought that I could... I could make more of an impact, I could be able to do some things that I couldn't necessarily do in research, like running a company and understanding how to get products or therapies or treatments out to patients. So I decided that I really wanted to be more on that end of things, getting... The end part to getting things, the patients. And I could also help myself at the same time by having maybe a higher salary and maybe a job where I could accommodate the other family life that I wanted. So that was part of what spurred me to leave although I do still love science and I love the innovation part of it. But just for me personally, I made that decision to make the switch.
11:33 MH: Were you interested in business before? Like, was it sort of that still in the back of your head somewhere and you were like, "I'm marrying these two things I really like together and... "
11:45 CH: There was always some of that in the back of my mind because my family had a family business, it was actually started in 1893.
11:57 MH: Oh, wow!
11:57 CH: So it was a very long business that ran for five generations of our family. And so I had already been around people who are entrepreneurial, running a business. I heard from my grandfather about different challenges that he would face. And so it was always in the back of my mind that maybe that's something that I could do or that would be interesting. But initially, I really wanted to pursue the science first. But then later, I started saying, "Well, maybe we could put those things together and create a company of some type." At the time, I didn't have a strong focus, but I was thinking that the two could be married together, and maybe create something that would help other people, and that would be satisfying for me.
12:49 MH: What do you think were the biggest challenges? You talked a little bit about the challenges in science and in that part of your life. What were your biggest challenges when you were actually starting your business?
13:01 CH: I think one difficult thing that women face when they start businesses, and I also faced it, is you don't have a lot of experience, although I was lucky that I had some idea from my family. So one, that's part of it, and then also the financial support that you might need is very lacking. So, for my first company that I started in 2005, because it was a consulting firm, I didn't really need a lot of capital to start that company. That was, I guess, maybe lucky or a good choice that I chose to go into that, and I was able to become profitable and financially successful within a couple of months after starting that business.
13:50 MH: That's huge.
13:50 CH: Yeah, that was... And in fact, I ended up making 300% more income than I had been making as an employee. So I wondered, "Why did I wait so long to start that company?" But I did, then later create a startup where I was developing an app for kids with ADHD, and that was in 2013. And that company did require capital to start it, and I had to go out and talk to angel investors and venture capitalists. And so when I started that company, then it was a lot more evident to me how tough it can be for women to go out and raise funding that they need. So I think that could be discouraging maybe or maybe it can be like women just feel like it's hard for me or I'm afraid to do it or maybe not enough confidence to do it. So I definitely think that's one of the roadblocks that women can face depending on what kind of company.
14:55 MH: So many questions I have from all this. Why did you not start it before? Was it because a little bit of that fear of taking a risk?
15:04 CH: I think there were a couple reasons I know why I started it, and one is that I got into a point in my career where I was really needing to grow to the next level. I had been in my... That career, which I was working in medical education and marketing for biopharma companies as an employee for 10 years, and I had covered the gamut of all kinds of things that could be done in that career. I had reached a management level, and I just felt like I wasn't moving forward any longer, and I didn't see an opportunity to move forward at my company that was a very small company, and they didn't have any openings at the next level for me. So I felt that I wasn't going to move forward there, so then I just thought, "Well, why don't I take things into my own hands, and just move forward myself? Because I'm confident, I know what I can do, I know that I can move to the next level."
16:07 CH: And it dovetailed also with things that were happening with my family, with my son being old enough that he was still in school, but I could find care for him and so on. So everything came together at that point in time, both personal and business. And then I was able to just take that leap, and I resigned from my job, and started the company. And as I said, I was very successful. So I was very pleased that [chuckle] I made the decision although at the time, it is scary and you start thinking, "Am I making the wrong decision?" And I did have some family members that were unsure. People get worried, they're saying, "Oh, you're quitting your job. Is that really a wise move to make?" So you do have this doubt that can come up in your mind. But finally in the end I just said, "I have to listen to myself, and know what I'm ready for, and what I feel I can do." And maybe I'll fail, because there's a possibility. But even if you fail, you've learned something and you move on from there. So I decided to just take the leap.
17:17 MH: I love that. It's huge. It's important to be able to try. And if you fail, like you said, you learn something. It's interesting, I've been working through our... We do a survey every year on our member successes and what they've been doing, and I was just working through the responses from all the business owners, a few days ago. And it's interesting to see that the group of women who are starting more businesses, at least in the Ellevate community, are in their 40s. And I do think it's because you're at a point in your life with everything else where you can actually take that leap, which is great to see. And going back to the money, that is one of the biggest roadblocks, it was the funding. Some of them said also the marketing, and I do think it's more about that growing your business and putting yourself out there and going to make those asks. What advice would you give them? Like, you were out there, you were asking for the money. What advice would you give to someone who's fundraising?
18:18 CH: Well, I think for fundraising, you have to really clearly explain what it is that you're offering, the value that you're offering. You have to show that you understand the market, you understand the customers and that you have a really well thought-out plan. And then I think the other really key aspect, which again, can be a roadblock for women, is that you need the connections. You need that network of people and somebody to step in and say, "Hey, I believe in this person. I support this project or company and then I'll lend my name as a supporter or endorser." And I think that's another really difficult part because women don't have as strong of a networks usually as men, and they don't necessarily have a network in business that would be able to provide that kind of support. I think if we, again, through networking, mentoring and working together, and it's key at every stage. So people I think, often think of mentoring or networking, maybe at early in their career, but you really need to be out doing it at every single stage of your career.
19:31 MH: Yeah, well, we're huge on that. But it's true. I had not thought about that. A lot of people talk about the sponsor inside the companies, but you do need that, sort of sponsor too outside when you're starting your own business, someone that will vouch for you, someone that will help you. Talk a little bit about your current company. You talk a lot about total health, what do you mean by that?
19:56 CH: Total health is really a holistic view of healthcare. So what I've been advocating for, especially recently, although I had the idea quite some time ago, but it wasn't the right time, but now there is a number of changes that are happening in the marketplace that's making this holistic view more possible. So the way I see healthcare is right now, we have a fractured healthcare where all the industries are very siloed. We have insurance companies, we have pharma companies, we have medical device companies and startups, and all these different groups, and yet they do some collaboration, but it's really at a kind of low level, I would call it. Whereas, what we're going to need in the future for healthcare is to really have what I call the total healthcare, where everyone is collaborating to create this sort of streamlined health solution.
20:52 CH: And we have to start looking at health from birth all the way to end of life, and we need to look at it as not just black and white, I'm healthy or I'm sick, but we need to look at it as, "Hey, I need to have good nutrition, I need to have fitness, maybe I want to have some kind of alternative health situations that I'm interested in," a chiropractor or acupuncture or whatever it is. But I think we need all those sort of woven together in a much more streamlined solution for people so that they can have care throughout their life rather than looking at it in little fragmented bits, like, "Oh, I, now I'm sick, I'm gonna go see the doctor and I'll take some pills for this week and then I'm done." And I don't think about my health for another year or something like that, till I get the flu and...
21:47 MH: That's me. And that's no lie. [chuckle]
21:47 CH: Yeah. So I think if we look at it in that kind of spectrum situation, that's really ultimately, I think it's gonna make people healthier. And it's also, I think, more fitting with the way people's minds think right now. So especially the millennial generation is much more interested in looking at health in that whole way. And we have all these digital tools now that we can use. We've got fitness watches and so on, but the companies are really still kind of behind the ball on that. And yet I think they're gonna be forced to move forward just because of the way the market's changing and what people want is changing.
22:37 MH: So it's interesting, it's definitely something, but I could... I can see how it would be beneficial to see healthcare in a more holistic approach, and continuously. I have to admit that I had not been to a doctor probably in like five years until last week, and I didn't even think about it. Like you said, it's like, if I'm sick, if I'm not, but honestly, it makes total sense to start thinking of things a little bit more holistically. And it's interesting that you said that about the millennial generation, do you think women are... Have certain concerns on healthcare that probably we're not thinking about as we should?
23:18 CH: Well, I think there's a couple things with healthcare that are really key for women. One is, women are the main decision makers and often the main users for healthcare. So they make 80% of the healthcare decisions, and usually they're doing that for their whole family. They're encouraging their spouses to go, their children, they're taking their children to the doctors. Often parents, they may be caring for older parents or other older relatives. So they're kind of the hub for healthcare, and a lot of that responsibility falls on them. It's time consuming, being... Having it all fragmented it makes it harder for them to deal with taking care of the health for the whole family. And the other aspect is that some of the proposed changes for healthcare laws have potential strong, negative impact for women. And I don't wanna delve too much into that. I know you're sighing and it... And it is just a tough subject, but it is something I would just say, we should keep on...
24:22 MH: It's important.
24:23 CH: Yeah. It's important, and we should keep it on our radar to make sure that whatever decisions are made for policy, that it doesn't take away things that are really key for our health. That's all.
24:35 MH: It's absolutely an important discussion. My sigh was... Its just I can't believe we are still having these discussions. I have to admit to... I'm not American. I was not born here. I moved here seven years ago, and I still do not understand anything of your healthcare system. At all. So talking a little bit about this though, what changes can we expect to see in the coming months or years even as consumers, particularly with the discussions that are being made both legally, but also innovation?
25:09 CH: Yeah, I think the innovation in the digital health or health tech, it can be used... Either term used. But I think that's going to just really continue to explode. It's already been very bubbly and vital changes going on in that area. I think a lot we're just at the tip of the iceberg right now. So a lot of it's been in non or lesser regulated areas like in nutrition and fitness, but we're starting to see some really interesting medical devices or health tech in terms of monitoring of the heart rate, monitoring of rhythm in the heart, there's even an app that you can use to screen for skin cancers. So all these really cool... I just get really excited when I see these things and they're so really amazing that we have this kind of stuff now, but I think we're gonna just see more and more and more of that. And it's happening not only just in the direct health, but behind the scenes in the back office. Doctors are finally starting to use software to book appointments, to communicate with patients, and that health always lags in digital... In the digital age. But I think it's finally starting to get to the point where the companies are getting an understanding of it, the regulators are starting to understand it, and I think we're just gonna see that continue to explode.
26:45 CH: So that I think is going to be one of the big innovation areas that we'll see. But we'll probably also see other innovation and merging of industry. So we'll start to see more alternative care becoming more mainstream. We may see fitness merging more into health, and I think all these things are going to start to come together. And for the companies, I think we're gonna see much greater and deeper collaboration. So there's been small amounts of collaboration where they'll reach out for a specific project or product, but I think to do well in that kind of market, the companies are going to need a lot more collaboration.
27:31 MH: Why does health lag in the innovation space? Is it because of regulations or is it something else?
27:37 CH: I think it is largely due to regulations, it makes the whole industry very conservative. And I think we see that both in the finance and the healthcare industry.
27:47 MH: That's true.
27:48 CH: Yeah, because both of them are highly regulated, and so I think it makes the larger companies quite risk averse, and for that reason that's causing a good space where smaller companies can come in, who might be a little bit less risk averse and saying, "Hey, I wanna be that innovative company and push the envelope and take that risk and see where we can go." Now, having said that, you do have to respect the regulations and you'll have to work within them. But I think there's a space that's between being super conservative and being excessively risk taking that you can operate and have some innovation going on. And for me, that's the exciting space, the innovation spaces where I wanna be, because it's dynamic, it's constantly evolving and it's closest to the science and research kind of things.
28:50 MH: That's what I was gonna say. [laughter]
28:52 CH: Yeah, so that's why I really enjoy that space.
28:56 MH: Yeah. Do you think we will see more of these digital services that are aimed at women specifically, especially if we control 80% of healthcare decisions, which I had no idea but makes total sense.
29:11 CH: Yes. I think we will start to see more of those for a couple of reasons. One is, I think the overall market's moving that way, but I think it's particularly useful for women because we are so busy and we have so many different things that we're doing, not just our career, we're trying to juggle our families and maybe volunteer commitments, just lots of outside commitments. And so I think it's... And now we're getting more used to using digital too. So I think between all of those things, digital is something that women are going to find as sort of a godsend, it's really gonna be saying, "Well, I wish I'd had that earlier," because like you said, if you can just go on there and click and make your appointment, and you don't have to try to find a quiet moment in your office to go make a phone call to a doctor. A lot of offices, because they're open space, it's hard to get a place that you can make that call, and you don't really want everyone listening into the details. So I think having that access is definitely important for women to be able to A; fit with their schedule and B; fit with their lifestyle and everything that's going on.
30:30 MH: Yeah. Well, this was really great. I'm really glad that we got to chat today. Thank you so much, Candice, for coming in. As I said, I always see you at events. I read your articles, but we never actually had a chance to sit down and talk. So what better way than on a podcast? [chuckle]
30:46 CH: Well, thank you. Yeah, I really enjoyed being here and meeting you. It's always good to hear about Ellevate and what's happening here because I have gotten so much out of the group, and I'm always telling people about it and recommending the group whenever I go somewhere. So, I'm happy to be here.
31:08 MH: I love that. That's great. And also, I'm gonna give a quick shout out to Jennifer Whitter who you work with, because I love the fact that we have so many of our Ellevate members working together in different aspects. So I just wanted to give a little shout out to Ellevate women helping other Ellevate women.
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