Social Impact Heroes: Why & How Mark Veich of The Deerfield Foundation Is Helping To Change Our World
It is okay to make mistakes… Making mistakes is a big part of learning. I have made mistakes before and sometimes have kept them to myself so I would not be embarrassed. But what I learned is that by making mistakes and asking questions on how to do better, is a great way to learn and improve for next time.
As part of my series about “individuals and organizations making an important social impact”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Mark Veich.
Mark Veich is the Executive Director of The Deerfield Foundation and joined Deerfield Management in 2020. He also serves as the President of the Advancium Health Network and interim President of CobiCure. Prior to Deerfield, Mark was Vice Provost of External Affairs at Weill Cornell Medicine, where he served as a member of Weill Cornell’s leadership team, as well as principal adviser to the Weill Cornell Medicine Board of Overseers and its Chairman.
Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?
I was born with several congenital heart defects and benefitted from science and healthcare throughout my life. Seeing doctors as a patient and working with scientists and engineers throughout my career has influenced the direction of my life and motivated me to make an impact for others.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began leading your company or organization?
I feel a lot of pride for our bold mission to cure rare and life-threatening diseases in children. It is really exciting to think about the opportunity to help shift the market so that every patient is afforded care. Our model is unique. By pursuing a non-profit structure we can develop solutions for children in smaller markets. Yet, we have the expertise and approach of a for-profit organization. When I was first introduced to Transmural Systems, a developer of percutaneous structural heart therapies, they shared with us devices that would replace three open heart surgeries of children who have functional single ventricle disorder. I thought, “Wow, we can really make a huge impact here.” Transmural Systems has the engineering but are limited in the amount of funding because FSV is a rare condition. CobiCure can provide funding for them to continue development, but also provide clinical trial input, regulatory help, quality systems help, and manufacturing advice. Today, CobiCure hopes to have its first device in children with FSV next year.
It has been said that our mistakes can be our greatest teachers. Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
I have made many mistakes both personally and professionally. In my opinion, mistakes are a great way to learn how to do better, persevere, form resilience and strength. Being able to work through those mistakes is really important in the learning process. I’ve found that cultivating our social support system of people we trust and look for guidance is a key facet to success. I am grateful to have a range of wonderful colleagues, mentors, friends and family that I can lean on and have open conversations with. Don’t be afraid to ask for guidance in difficult situations. Everyone needs a little help when keeping our goals in perspective. Finding resources within your networks can also be powerful in our growth personally and professionally. And spending quality time with my friends and family always keeps me motivated and energized.
Can you describe how you or your organization is making a significant social impact?
CobiCure’s mission is to cure rare and life-threatening diseases in children. Scientific and technological innovation for pediatric patients with rare diseases has long been hindered by challenges related to funding and access to the proper resources required to successfully bring a new idea to market.
Through our “venture philanthropy” model, CobiCure is providing a not-for-profit solution to these challenges. We partner with innovators in the space and give them access to potential funding, an ecosystem of industry experts, and leading-edge equipment and resources for therapeutic and medical technology development.
The motivation behind launching CobiCure is the idea that, if Cobicure’s team doesn’t try to advance these solutions, it is possible that no one will step up to address the severely underserved pediatric patient population. The broader societal impact of Cobicure’s efforts and bringing hope to children and their families are central to our mission and vision as an organization.
Can you tell us a story about a particular individual who was impacted or helped by your cause?
I have the great privilege of working with Dr. Andrew ElBardissi, a trained pediatric cardiac surgeon who leads private medical technology investments for Deerfield Management. With CobiCure initially focusing on heart and critical care conditions, Andrew has been a great mentor and in his role at Deerfield he sometimes discovers novel technologies that are not viable investment opportunities and have become assets within CobiCure.
Are there three things the community/society/politicians can do to help you address the root of the problem you are trying to solve?
Because pediatric rare disease patient populations are very small, they have not traditionally been prioritized by the public or private sectors. As part of our broader goals for CobiCure, we hope to bring together stakeholders across the pediatric healthcare landscape and ultimately serve as a catalyst for change.
Three improvements we hope to see in the future are:
Research: An increase in research and development of medical device solutions and other surgical or interventional tools that assist in the treatment of pediatric patients with rare conditions, with an initial focus on cardiology.
Awareness: Approximately 50 percent of patients affected by rare diseases are children and 30 percent of these children will not live to see their fifth birthday. Significant progress has been made to advance research and development initiatives for rare diseases, but there are still significant gaps. CobiCure is committed to raising awareness around congenital heart defects and other rare diseases that are not currently receiving the attention they deserve.
Collaboration: Key stakeholders across the pediatric healthcare space need to come together to address the R&D, regulatory, and commercial challenges and risks that have stunted participation and progress in pediatric care.
How do you define “Leadership”? Can you explain what you mean or give an example?
From my view, Leadership is about leading by example and not asking someone to do something you’re not willing to do yourself. I typically work in a Team environment where each teammate has a role that complements other teammates, where everyone is working towards a shared goal.
What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why. Please share a story or example for each.
- It is okay to make mistakes… Making mistakes is a big part of learning. I have made mistakes before and sometimes have kept them to myself so I would not be embarrassed. But what I learned is that by making mistakes and asking questions on how to do better, is a great way to learn and improve for next time.
- Share the work and the credit… There was a time that I thought doing everything by myself was the best way to move my career forward. I did not want to share in the credit for the work that I did. I wish I would have known that by sharing my work with others and giving credit where credit was due benefited us all. It gave us the opportunity to become more knowledgeable in certain areas, which led to more successful work overall.
- I wish I would have known that it is OK to ask lots of questions. Asking questions has been an unessential part of my growth as a business professional. Not one person can know everything, but anybody can ask questions of people who have relevant knowledge and expertise. These questions can help you grow as a person and learn about things that you are unsure of, which could be beneficial to your own development. So, ask lots of questions.
- I wish I had known that it is OK to say no. As a young person I never wanted to say no to taking on new tasks or exploring new opportunities. But sometimes it is important to respectfully say no and why you were saying no. Often no is a completely acceptable answer and will eliminate any uncomfortable situations in the future.
- I wish I knew that it was OK to change your mind. When I was younger and would make a decision, In that time it seemed logical that you would always stick with that decision. It seemed that I could never change my mind. But as my career developed, and as I learned from my mentors and other leaders that I worked with, I understood that opinions can change, thoughts on a particular subject can change, and that is OK. We should never feel bad that we think differently about something than we had before.
You are a person of enormous influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 😊
My hope would be that more people would choose careers in healthcare. Healthcare encompasses many different career opportunities: physicians, nurses, scientists, financial professionals, engineers, real estate professionals, administrators, and many other specialties.
Ideally, I would like these careers to be promoted within communities that may be unaware of the numerous opportunities’ healthcare has to offer. I would love to be involved in a program that helps those communities be exposed to the various aspects of health care.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
Work hard and be nice.
How can our readers further follow your work online?
This was very meaningful, thank you so much. We wish you only continued success on your great work!
Social Impact Heroes: Why & How Mark Veich of The Deerfield Foundation Is Helping To Change Our… was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.