Interview with Master of Biotechnology Enterprise and Entrepreneurship Alum Armando Salim Muñoz Abraham
What was your background before coming to Johns Hopkins? Did you complete the program as a full-time or part-time student? I was born and raised in Mexico. After obtaining my medical degree at the Universidad Anahuac medical school in Mexico City, I applied for the Master’s Degree at Johns Hopkins with the idea to have a background in Biotechnology and all that it entails before pursing further specialization in surgery.
I completed the MBEE as a full-time student since I was planning to apply my master’s knowledge in a University setting doing research and then apply for surgery residency.
What were your career objectives and have they changed since pursuing your MBEE? Before the master’s degree I intended to apply to neurosurgery residency. However, after completing the MBEE, I found a position as a postdoctoral research associate in Transplant Surgery at the Yale University school of Medicine. There I was able to do basic and clinical research, and developed new technologies in collaboration with the Yale School of Engineering. We also collaborated with the Yale School of Business with the idea to establish a startup company in order to bring one of our technologies to the market. Within one year of research at Yale, I was able to apply all the knowledge from my master’s degree since I was working with new technologies, tech transfer, developing business plans, applying for grants, among other things. At that time, I realized how passionate I was toward transplant surgery and the potential for innovation in the field. Now my career objective is to become a pediatric transplant surgeon that can bring innovation in many areas of the field to help address unmet needs in transplant bringing together the skills of a surgeon along with the skills from my master’s degree.
Why did you decide to pursue your MBEE? The field of surgery requires continuous innovation. The new ideas require extensive knowledge not only in science but what it takes to bring that idea to the patient, and that alone entails knowledge in patents and law, regulatory affairs, marketing, business, tech transfer, and industry. I wanted to have the mindset and skills that are required to understand the field of biotechnology in its entirely before further specializing, so that as a young physician scientist I could start developing my own technologies directed to unmet needs in my field, and become an entrepreneur that can bring significant changes to medicine.
How do you use your MBEE in your everyday work life? It definitely created a major change in my life and career. I can tell that my mindset definitely changed with what I learned and applied during the masters. The way I approach projects and seek opportunities is different to what we physician are usually trained for. Now, I understand better that what is important is to look at the big picture and always tailor your efforts towards technologies or discoveries that can create a change and impact the world, instead of focusing on what one personally believes is the best. Also, now I understand the resources and multidisciplinary effort that are required to develop a technology. I try to get involved in projects that allow collaboration between different disciplines since this is the key for ideas to become a real successful product.
Would you do anything differently from your time at Hopkins? I think overall it was a great experience. The program offers a wide variety of courses that allows the student to tailor their masters according to their field of work or study. This has definitely promoted skill formation. Looking back at my time with Johns Hopkins, I don’t think I would have done anything differently.
Are there any aspects from the program that stuck out to you as particularly helpful in relation to your success? Yes, particularly tech transfer. I believe it is very important for scientist to understand that research needs to be focused on addressing unmet needs and looking out there to figure out what the market is looking for. Now I try to look for opportunities for development were other people are not looking at or things that really impact the health of the population. I touch this last point because the social entrepreneurship course also impacted my thinking and training in many ways. Following the example of visionary people that have created impact in health in underdeveloped areas by establishing enterprises with the commitment to help the people by involving the community is something that really attracts me and eventually I want to become a social entrepreneur, an agent of change.
What do you see yourself doing after your pediatric surgery research? I will continue my training as a general surgeon, to eventually become a pediatric transplant surgeon working in an academic center doing both surgeries and research. Along with this, I want to become a social entrepreneur and create technologies that can be brought to the developing world to aid the poor in countries such as my beloved Mexico.
Did you have a favorite course or professor? In particular, I really liked the tech transfer, finance in biotechnology and social entrepreneurship courses.
The majority of the MBEE program is online, how did that affect your experience with the program? It didn´t really affect my experience. I think I got the best from both worlds (onsite and online). The program is flexible in that way.
What was your experience like as an international student? My experience was unique. The program director, coordinators and staff were always very helpful and they really are great mentors. They are devoted to give advice not only related to the masters but also related to the future of your career, as well as to facilitate your life in the United States. I was able to make a lot of friends as well since there are people from all around the country and the world doing this master’s degree. Now I have friends and former classmates all across the US and the world and we are still in communication, and I am sure that in the long run I will establish projects with them.
What is your advice to current or prospective MBEE students? My advice to future student would be to take advantage of the flexibility and wide variety of courses, the expertise of the professors and the available opportunities to develop your career. Johns Hopkins is always looking for getting the best training for their students and the master’s degree will give you the tools and skills to further succeed in your career in the field of Biotechnology.
The MBEE is a great program for physicians, scientist, lawyers, marketing experts and many others interested in developing a career in biotechnology.
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