Know Scrubs Podcast Episode - Dr. Daniel Novinson's Journey Through Health Tech

By: Andwise Team

Published: Dec 11, 2023

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Listen to the the podcast episode here.

Dr. Daniel Novinson's Journey Through Health Tech

Dr. Verma: I'm so happy today to be joined by Dr. Daniel Novinson. He's actually the first of our physician guests from our Andwise Medical Advisory Board. Daniel, thank you so much for your time. I could never do anyone's story justice, so I'll let you introduce yourself and your own journey briefly. 

Dr. Novinson: I attended Stanford for undergrad as a public policy major but switched to medicine. Later, I pursued a master's in public health at Emory, completed med school at UCSF, and did a primary care internship. I've been in health tech, specifically in growth and marketing, most recently at Doximity. Breaking news, I'll be joining an early-stage Series A AI clinical trials company in about a week. My career's common thread is making a meaningful impact on human health at scale.

Dr. Verma: That's really awesome. Thanks for sharing. When you were a medical student, did you know you wanted to do this kind of work? Or did it evolve as you went along and during your internship? 

Dr. Novinson: My journey and some heart-rending stories made me realize that repeatedly hospitalizing a patient for alcohol use disorder wasn't improving their health. It became clear that we needed systemic change, and while health tech can't solve everything, it's where I felt most passionate and comfortable, which played a significant role in my choice.

Dr. Verma: Yeah that's a great point. When you were at UCSF, how did you carve out this path? Being in San Francisco, did you find that the environment of being in an innovation hub helped? Or were you too busy to get involved with that as a medical student and you figured it out afterwards?

Dr. Novinson: I've developed internal mottos like "keep swimming toward the energy" and embracing the uncertainty. In medical school, I was focused on memorizing things like the Krebs cycle, but prior experiences in global health at CDC and the state department were formative. I later had the opportunity to participate in global health rotations at the CDC, both in Atlanta and Micronesia. The key is to keep moving forward and create opportunities along the way.

Dr. Verma: Yeah, that's amazing. Can you recall your beginnings? Did you attend meetups or reach out through cold emails or warm introductions? What advice do you have for someone looking to enter the health tech field without prior knowledge?

Dr. Novinson: I'm open to talking to anyone, so feel free to reach out for assistance. There are companies like VCs that can help you find opportunities in health tech. Utilize platforms like WellFound (formerly AngelList), Y Combinator, or Rock Health to efficiently explore multiple job postings. When pursuing a role you're excited about, try reaching out to someone directly, as getting through the initial contact hurdle can be significant. Bet on your ability to explain your skills, even if they don't perfectly align with the job description, and aim to have conversations with people who can help you internally. It improves your chances.

Dr. Verma: That's awesome advice. Thanks. Have you discussed financial wellness with colleagues and friends who, like you, were focused on medical training, and do you believe that doctors often overlook this aspect of their lives until later in their careers?

Dr. Novinson: The primary financial advice I'd give to physicians is that their salaries, averaging around $300K, generally cover their needs. It's crucial to spend wisely, such as cutting unnecessary costs like subscriptions, as these savings accumulate significantly over time. Additionally, consider long-term investments in the stock market, particularly in funds like VTI, and stick to your investment strategy for the best chance at solid returns. Remember that financial wisdom typically peaks around age 53 or 57, and while mistakes are part of the learning process, decades of accumulated experience play a vital role in shaping your financial decisions.

Dr. Verma: Yeah, that's awesome advice. Thanks. I noticed your extensive writing for Doximity, particularly on OpMed, and the surveys involving thousands of physicians. Have you ever used a financial advisor in your personal journey, or are you self-taught? 

Dr. Novinson: For most people, paying a 1 percent fee to a financial advisor can add up significantly, considering the substantial incomes of physicians. Self-teaching can offer a good implicit rate of return, as you learn through experience and gain exposure to financial strategies. However, it's essential to assess your own financial situation and consider whether the benefits of self-management outweigh the potential mistakes. There's no one-size-fits-all approach, and some may choose to work with a financial advisor for a period to gain knowledge. 

Dr. Verma: Given your long-term experience and involvement in the core team at Doximity, I'm curious to hear your insights on the issue of physicians leaving the workforce, especially during the pandemic. Many factors like administrative burdens, loss of autonomy, and consolidation are discussed, but it seems that financial stress and the desire to move away from trading time for money are prevalent concerns. Can you share your thoughts on this topic and your observations on what's happening in the field?

Dr. Novinson: I see it as more of a moral injury than simple burnout, particularly for myself. We constantly assess these factors internally. Physicians, while fortunate to earn relatively high incomes, face increasing rates that may not fully keep pace with inflation, as highlighted in one of our articles. These past few years have been economically turbulent, making it crucial to explore ways to make money work passively. Additionally, managing costs effectively becomes essential. In essence, it's about striking a balance between income, expenses, and passive income strategies amidst these changing economic conditions.

Dr. Verma: Have you used budgeting tools like Mint, YNAB (You Need A Budget), or Personal Capital, or did you manage your finances by manually reviewing your accounts?

Dr. Novinson: I'm highly quantitative, so I manage my finances using a detailed 12-tab spreadsheet that tracks my salary, my wife's salary, our portfolio, and various expenses. However, people should use the method that works best for them. It's not about not spending, but rather minimizing unnecessary expenses. Additionally, it's essential to maintain perspective and be generous to service workers, as many of us physicians interact with people who don't earn as much. It's okay to cut costs with corporations like Comcast or JP Morgan, but not at the expense of those providing essential services.

Dr. Verma: Thank you for your generous offer to talk to anyone about what's thinking about getting into health tech. Thank you so much for your time. Is there anything else that we haven't covered or that you'd like to add for people that are behind you in their career trajectory?

Dr. Novinson: The internet and remote work have lowered the barrier to entry, providing more autonomy and opportunities. It's important to take responsibility for finding your own path, whether it's offering telecare, running an Etsy store on weekends, or pursuing other ventures. This shift represents a departure from the structured, prescribed paths many have followed in the past.

Dr. Verma: Yeah, absolutely. So thanks again, really appreciate you, your time, your contributions. And it was really awesome to have you as the first guest. 

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