Founder & Managing Director
Executive Director and Founder, Biomedical Zone,
Otolaryngologist-Head Neck Surgeon; Facial Plastic Surgeon
Distinguished Visiting Professor, Ryerson University
Adjunct Professor, University of Toronto
Associate Scientist, Unity Health Toronto
MBA, Oxford University
MD, Yale University
AB, Harvard University
Dr. Linda Maxwell is a surgeon, angel investor, entrepreneur, and businesswoman. Currently, she serves as the Executive Director of the Biomedical Zone, a hospital-based health technology incubator in downtown Toronto. The incubator provides clinical expertise and entrepreneurial resources to founders to accelerate product development. Her passion for advancing technology in healthcare has taken her around the world, including Canada, the US, the UK, and to multiple countries in Africa, all in the pursuit of improving the delivery of healthcare, lowering cost, and creating greater access. Over the last two decades, she’s experienced the impact of technology on healthcare as a clinician and businesswoman and researched new potential innovations as a scientist. In the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, she’s witnessed the industry’s uptake of technology increase as her peers recognize the benefits of technology for routine tasks and streamlining processes. She shares with our Program Manager, Sharon Mwale, about her journey into entrepreneurship which has been fueled by her genuine curiosity for life.
How has your professional and/or academic experience influenced how you approach entrepreneurship and innovation? Was becoming an entrepreneur part of your plan?
Physicians have various paths to innovation. For myself, I had a traditional plan for my career and stumbled into innovation and entrepreneurship later. As a first-generation Canadian, from a working-class household, there was an emphasis on traditional career paths – doctor, engineer, lawyer. I had an affinity for the sciences. So, after high school, I matriculated at Harvard, went to medical school at Yale and then moved back to Toronto to complete my training in Otolaryngology, with a specialization in facial plastic surgery. Up to that point, I had never thought about startups, and honestly, I don’t think I would have known what a startup was at the time. It wasn’t until I set up my own medical practice that I started to realize I didn’t know the fundamentals of business. I had no concept of capital markets and had never even taken an accounting class. I considered taking classes that could benefit me as a small business owner or doing an Executive MBA at a local university but ultimately went to Oxford for my MBA because I wanted to be fully immersed in the field of business. It was at Oxford that I was exposed to and became intrigued by the world of startups, venture capital, technology, innovation, and entrepreneurship. After graduating I stayed an additional year working on tech transfers and research commercialization at Oxford Innovation. I was able to apply my clinical knowledge and scientific background in a much more business-focused way.
From your experience, what has changed the least, regarding diversity based on race, gender, background, yet still has major impact on healthcare technology?
What I find hasn’t changed is representation among founders in this field – healthcare innovation and technology. Take my story as an example. I have accomplished a lot in my career thus far yet, I did not enter this field until after I was a practicing surgeon. Because I grew up in a small rural town with financial pressures, I had to find success traditionally before I could even think about exploring alternative, less secure, paths. Diverse and underrepresented founders typically are less likely to have the flexibility in their finances or their family circumstances to take on entrepreneurial risks. There are systemic barriers, particularly the control and deployment of capital, that significantly impact this dynamic.
What is your advice to women and what actionable steps can they take as leaders or aspiring entrepreneurs in the health & tech industries?
Choosing action over inaction may seem difficult due to a fear of rejection, failure or opening oneself up to judgement. Dwelling on the past, wishing, hoping, praying that things could have been different, often fuels inaction, which frankly may be the easier route but often has more repercussions. Today we choose action over inaction recognizing that there may be more to do but we are inspired by the possibilities of what may result!
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