Naji Gehchan: Hello, leaders of the world. Welcome to spread love in organizations, the podcast for purpose-driven healthcare leaders, striving to make life better around the world by leading their teams with genuine care, servant leadership, and love.

I am Naji, your host for this podcast, having the pleasure to be joined by Dr Jennifer Kherani. Jen received her M.D. from Duke and subsequently completed her residency training in emergency medicine in the combined Cornell/Columbia program at New York-Presbyterian Hospital, where she served as Chief Resident in her final year. Until August 2022, she served as Head of Clinical Safety at Loxo Oncology.  Jen is also a founder of Summus Global, a subscription-based healthcare advisory company aimed at restoring the human connection between patients and healthcare providers. Jen is currently serving on the Rye Country Day School (RCDS) Board of Directors and is a member of the Medical Committee, the Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) Committee, the Education Committee and the Marketing and Communications Committee. She also serves on the DukeNY Board of Directors, serving as Co-Chair of the Nominating Committee as well as member of the DEI Committee, the Women’s Impact Network (WIN) Leadership Counsel and as a mentor on the Reimagining Medicine course.

Jen, it is such a pleasure to have you with me today.

Jen Kherani: Naji. Thank you so much for having me. It’s a pleasure to be.

Naji Gehchan: Can you share with us first your personal story from med school to emergency medicine, then entrepreneurship, biotech, pharma. What’s, what’s in between the line of this incredible journey you had?

Jen Kherani: Yeah, it’s a little bit sinuous, admittedly. Um, I, you know, I was born on Long Island and in New York and had been local here pretty much throughout my entire life. Um, my parents, it’s funny, my, my dad was a policeman. My mom. Started a business when she was, you know, when I was five years old. So I remember it being, I was very little, um, and just remembered the dynamics there.

Like neither of them had had the opportunity to go to college afterwards. They had us very young. Um, so we lived a very fun life. My mom, I think she was 23 when she had me, and my dad was not much older and so I sort of started out. Just having fun with things and not really thinking about them too much.

And I think that, you know, came full circle later on. I do think that it has helped for me. Um, so I, I went through my education, not really taking it too seriously. I mean, I, I did, I did what I had to obviously to get through it, but, um, I didn’t think of things as probably deliberately when I was, when I was younger.

I just sort of, any endeavor that I did, I tried to do it very best I could. And. It sort of started working out. I mean, you know, at one of my first jobs it was working at a restaurant. I became a manager when I was 16, and then I, you know, went to to college in undergrad and joined the the Panhellenic and then became the president of the Panhellenic.

And most of the things that I did, I just tried to do what I enjoyed and. Threw myself into them. And when I graduated undergrad, I didn’t actually know that I wanted to be a doctor. I was not a pre-med undergrad. And then when I finished, I moved to New York City and I kind of flip flopped into a few different jobs.

And as I was doing it and trying to find my direction, I happenstance on a medical trip that went down to Guatemala and it was a trip that. It had multiple groups that traveled down together. One was a medical group and they would go out and create sort of a virtual clinic into in, in these communities that were local down there.

Another would go into the hospital and they were doing clef, lip and pallet repairs. And then the third group, which is how I ended up there, was it was a group that was going down for community service and just, Building an orphanage or building a playground or trying to do something for the community.

And as I went to this, um, I did get time to go into the hospital and into the clinic group and spend some time sort of crossing, you know, into, into the different subgroups that were there. And when I did, um, you know, I, I remember very vividly there was a young man who was about 18 years old and he came in with the bandana across his face, um, almost like, like a classic bank robber style and.

You could see when he took it down, he was, he just very, Malformed mouth and oral and, you know, his palate was also malformed and he life. But, um, ultimately they did the clef lip and palate surgery. And I just remember handing this gentleman a mirror at the end of it and the, the look in his face, I mean, you could tell that his whole life was going to turn around right there for him.

And, you know, in his mind and. I, I don’t know. That kind of captivated me to the point where I got home and I did the same thing. I said, Well, you know, that’s it. I wanna do medicine. And so I went and I took both back courses at Columbia and I worked in a lab during the day and ultimately ended up in medical school.

And I was that medical student that whatever rotation I did, I, that was what I was going to be. I wanted to do that. I wanted to be that, you know, it’s, I loved surgery, I loved pathology, I loved ob gyn. I loved everything. Um, and so when I got down to it, I, I sort of danced around and I, when I picked my specialty, um, I had taken, like I said, some time off in between undergrad and med school.

Um, I had met my husband, I got married in med school, and I knew that I wanted to have kids, and so I. Took everything. The fact that I loved everything and I, I had all this energy that I wanted to put towards things, and I also wanted to have a family. And so that spun into me choosing emergency medicine, you know, for so many reasons.

And I went into it and I, I loved it. It was fast paced, it was strong team building. I, you know, again, I could do what I loved, become a leader, teach, um, you know, teach both patients and med students and residents and that I absolutely loved. Um, And then I finished that and, and when I started practicing as an attending, I also simultaneously as planned, became a mom, which impacts everybody a bit differently.

But in those moments, I, I finally figured out that the only thing that I loved more than being a doctor was being a mom. And so my kids started to factor very heavily into my decisions. And so I was working part-time in the emergency room. Um, I started, like you said, Sumas with my husband and another friend of ours, and.

That company sort of took off on its own. It started off more slowly and as I was doing those two things, Locko sort of found me. Um, they had needed a physician to run their hotline to try and find patients and match them to their clinical trials. And so I took a chance, decided to try it, and pretty much never looked back.

So, Medicine, entrepreneurship, and, you know, industry sort of all found me at the same time. And I was fortunate and lucky enough to sort of grow all of those things at the same time. And again, because of the same, I, you know, passion to just do things well, uh, you know, if you love them, just throw yourself into them.

It sort of took off and went in the right directions and, and kind of led me to where I am.

Naji Gehchan: Thank you, Jen, for sharing your story and, uh, and how you, how you led and been there. Uh, it’s something you talked about as being a physician, how you lead team, how you develop leadership teaching, and also you have high pace.

So, um, you know, I, I kind of relate to this in my training and frequently we get this question about. What is it different? When you joined biotech, you obviously were dealing with life and death practically, really every day. Uh, so how did you. How did you think about this? Uh, did did it feel so different or was it a different stress?

But it’s still, patients can’t wait, obviously in our industry neither. Right. So I, I’m interested to get your perspective on it.

Jen Kherani: It was, you know, to your point, it was very different. And I think the reason that I had patients with the difference, because I didn’t leave clinical . I loved my patients, my time with them, my relationship with them.

Um, but I started to start, you know, I started to think about the fact that I wanted more longitudinal relationships with them. And so I, you know, there was a part of me that was kind of dancing and dabbling into looking for something else. And then, like I said, my kids came into it when I started industry.

I think because I s. You know, I was ready. I took the leap, but I did miss that patient interaction and I thought it was, it was more invisible to me at first when I started industry. And I think that was hard for me to adjust to. I enjoyed it. I knew what I was doing was making a difference in theory. Uh, you know, you’d start these trials.

Our philosophy, Naloxone was always to help every single patient. If there was a patient, legitimately, one of them was in the middle of Vietnam and we figured out how to get them drug and how to get them, you know, onto a, a single patient protocol. And we did that for every single patient. And sometimes you got the stories returned to you, but many times you didn’t.

And that was the hardest. Adjustment for me. Um, but I think my husband was very pivotal and he would always remind me of that. He would say, You know, it’s, it’s invisible, but your impact, what you’re doing, how you’re touching patients is not as tangible to you. Um, but it is nonetheless there. But it took some reminding and then honestly that.

I think what I, what also sort of landed me in this place of, of comfort that I really enjoyed and and loved about industry was all the people that I was surrounded with. Not that it’s not the same in, in medicine, it is, but so much of it was new to me at the very start. I was switching from emergency medicine to oncology, from, you know, clinical work to, to clinical trials and, you know, industry and all of it was so different and new to me, and I just loved the pursuit of learning.

And so I think that that kept me very captivated even through that for a rough patch of adjustment where I missed that clinical interaction with patient.

Naji Gehchan: Yeah, we definitely share this. And it’s, uh, you know, the impact that we bring in the industry, the scale. I’ve always talked about the scale, what you’ve managed to do throughout your career in the industry, obviously had a huge scale on the number of people you’ve touched.

Uh, any learning specifically from a leadership standpoint leading in emergency medicine? Like you read so many cross-functional groups and leading in the industry, did you take any, you know, key learning from, from one to the.

Jen Kherani: It. I think, yes, I’d say what carry over the most is the same philosophy, meaning, you know, I always, there’s a couple of quotes that sort of linger in my head whenever I’m doing something in life and, and one of them is always, you know, no job is too small for a big enough person.

And the idea of when you’re building a team, get in there with them. Lead by example, you know, sort of walk the walk that you are talking, um, and no matter where you are in life. That always served me in the emergency room. Everybody always knew that, you know, if they needed anything. It wasn’t that I was not going to do it or too busy, I would always find the time, make the time, and get in there with the team.

I think I carried that over to industry again because I had so much to learn. If anybody needed help, sort of my hand flew up because I needed to learn it anyway. Um, and I needed to meet them and I needed, and eventually that evolved into my foraying into a leadership position because I started to work with everybody and know them and, and be in it with them.

So I think that that skill translates to both. Um, and then having some energy. VR obviously brings on its own, um, but the personalities in industry bring it on as well in a different, you know, it’s a different flavor. Um, but everyone is working their hardest just to make, you know, to get the end goal accomplished.

Naji Gehchan: You also founded a startup, so you’re also an entrepreneur by heart. You love what you do with, with your energy too. Uh, and this startup has a big aim of restoring human connection. So I really picked up on these two words cuz I feel they are so powerful. And specifically between patients and healthcare providers.

Can you tell us a little bit more about it and what you’re, what you’re trying to do?

Jen Kherani: Yeah, so Sumas Global, I started that, um, along with my husband and like I said, a friend of ours, all of us had gone to Duke. Um, and it really started over a conversation about the state of healthcare. And again, it sort of spawned from one of my, my at least involvement.

It spawned from one of my interactions again with a patient where this. Elderly woman had come in at around two or three in the morning by the time I saw her. You know, the ER goes, I dunno how long she had waited. And her triage complaint was, she didn’t know what to take when, and she came in with these bags full of medicine and she had all these redundant pills.

Pills that were expired. She didn’t know what to do with them. She had no primary care doctor for a time. And it just sort of, to me, struck a chord as to how broken this system is, where you, it’s all breaking down. You don’t have a primary care physician to act as the hub and spoke, or you know, the hub for your wheel.

Um, and a lot of people are getting lost. I think they’re losing guidance. Everything is very sort of metric driven, and it is not, it’s not driven by that connection, that human connection that you have. Have with your, um, you know, your physicians and on the physician side, I think sometimes, you know, particularly with certain specialties, it’s, it’s sort of survival of the fittest because they have to make ends meet, they have to make enough to run their office and pay their office staff.

But what they’re gonna reimbursed is not, you know, they’re gonna reimbursed for tests that they run. They’re not getting reimbursed for their time that they’re educating their patients. And so their patients end up down these rabbit holes of not understanding. So anyway, our endeavor was to bring that back.

And so what it is, it’s membership based. Um, and we typically try to get employers to buy it as a service for their employees. And if you have a, it is not, we’re not necessarily treating patients. It is a medical education platform, you know, first and foremost. And so, If someone comes in with a new diagnosis, many times it’s cancer.

Just, you know, oncology tends to be one of the higher d types of diagnoses that patients have or, you know, members come in with, um, if they have a new diagnosis and they just want to understand it and they just want time with a physician, that is exactly what it is. So we have sim as physicians that are in-house and they curate the, the experience, meaning they collect all of the information that the patient has to date.

They walk them through it. They say, Have you gotten this test? That test? What results have you gotten? And not dissimilar to how it was in the er. Collate all this information and create a summary for the specialist. And then we have a specialist platform. Some of it is an entire hospital, like you can, you can pick any hospital at Duke or a couple of other institutions, Sinai and, and you can talk to any doctor in that network.

Other times it’s individual physicians who have. Signed up and it’s a glass marketplace, so there is a cost for that physician’s time. And that, you know, typically is covered by, if your employer offers this, um, it is covered by your membership up to a certain number of encounters a year. And you can use them for yourself, for your family members, friends.

You can gift them, give them away. And so if you come in with this new diagnosis, the specialist will sit with you. We’ll look at everything that has been, you know, collated in terms of information, and we’ll give you an A to Z interpretation. Your diagnosis where they can guide you what they think is coming, what are the big sort of mile markers that you will go through?

You know, so if it is an oncology diagnosis, okay, you are currently getting this regimen, these are the things that you should think about, these are the tests that I would think about getting for you. Um, and it is just meant to be a sort of holistic conversations so that the patient or member, whatnot, when they leave, knows exactly what they’re going through and what to.

Naji Gehchan: This is definitely a big need. So I’m, I’m really eager to see how you keep on growing this organization. Okay. I, I wanna factor this entrepreneurship journey in on top, you know, of the ER and being in biopharma. Like anything between these three, uh, that you felt kind of helped to one another, any trait of leadership you felt helped you out and you think anyone who wanna build today, companies from, from biotech, because you also.

You know, building a biotech from very early stage into kind of later stage and growing in a big company, any key threat you felt as a leader? So you had the one on being present with your team? Yeah, for sure. Anything, Anything else you have in

Jen Kherani: mind? I think. I think the greatest thing is to, to move with passion.

Meaning, you know, if it is something that bores you, it’s, you know, you can do it, but I don’t think it’s ever going to get you to a level where you’re going to engage to make it the success you wanna get it to. So choosing something that you’re passionate about and then being a yes person, you know.

Every single day. Like I said, you know, when I first showed up to Locko or to the, you know, biotech, every single thing that had to be done, every task, I never said no. And even if I didn’t know how to do it, I just said yes. And I sort of decided in my head that I was going to figure out who I had to ask, what I had to read, what resources I had to go to, um, to make it happen.

And that never let me down. It was. An endeavor that sometimes is quite frustrating, but always left me more enriched on the other side. And I think no matter what you’re endeavoring to do, be it industry, um, you know, entrepreneurship, when you throw yourself into it with that energy and with that sort of yes attitude, you’ll always come out enriched.

And sometimes it’s to learn what not to do , and that’s okay too. Um, but that has always served me well, uh, regardless of my, you know, my.

Naji Gehchan: I love that. Uh, I will move now to a section where I will give you a word and I’d love your reaction to it. Yeah. Okay. . The first one is leadership.

Jen Kherani: Hmm. My reaction has been, or is, um, something that, you know, I, I sort of still strive for at every.

Minute it, it’s something I never assume is going to happen. It’s something I always yearn for and I try to put my best foot forward. But, you know, leadership is something certainly to be earned. Um, and I hope that I can do it and respin it no matter where I go. But I do recognize that that sometimes takes some time and some listening and learning.

But I hope to always be someone who people can look to as a leader. What about d e and I? Hmm. It’s funny cuz you mentioned at the beginning during my bio, you know, I sit on the DEI committee for both Duke New York and for the Right Country Day Board. And I, when I first went into it, that was another thing that I accepted kind of out of nowhere saying, Well, I, I’m not entirely sure what this means, but I.

I have been stretched in so many ways for just learning what DEI means truly. Um, you know, there’s sort of become buzz words, but when you’re really learning how to create an environment that is inclusive, that is diverse, there are things that are subtle, uh, or there are subtleties to that. And a lot of it goes back to it’s almost the same organic roots as a yes attitude.

You kind of have to park all of your preconceived notions at the door when you walk in and be open to learning the smallest amount from whomever comes in. And even if your initial reaction is, No, I don’t believe that, or I don’t think that, or I don’t agree with that. It’s the process of letting it happen and listening because I think that, you know, if you start to craft, and the other P portion of that is learning how to craft.

Environments and meetings that truly do facilitate grabbing the right people in. You know, if you’re always putting the same ticker up for, for what’s going to be discussed, you’re always gonna get the same crowd organically. So it’s, it’s trying to break through that ceiling and, and getting the room to be a truly, um, all inclusive and equitable sit, you know, situation for people to be sitting and for them all to feel comfortable in their discomfort.

Um, and just listening to one another, um, you know, with a common task or I, we have found that, you know, having common tasks to start and spark discussions, um, is a good starting place. But it’s been, it’s been another learning journey for me, one that I am really, really enjoying. Can

Naji Gehchan: you share more about the last piece, the practice that you’re, uh, that you mentioned that’s gonna help.

Jen Kherani: Yes. I mean, one of them, I’ll talk, you know, very, um, uh, objectively about a meeting that’s coming up. This one’s for Duke, New York. But the tasks that are set forth are very objective, but it is meant to sort of spark and, and spawn ideas that bring people closer together and have each other sees perspectives.

So the task is to read the Constitution. It is. Unbelievably short as compared to what you would think, you know, you think it’s this long scrolling document. It’s not an apropo of what’s going on in the real world today. You know, we only have a limited number of amendments to it. Um, it’s structure and it’s utility is limited based on when it was written, which is hundreds of years ago.

And so the task is to read it, to get everybody in the room and to write an amendment that you think speaks to something. That is important to you that you feel was left out of the Constitution in its initial inception? It’s, I’m still in the middle of it. I haven’t written my amendment yet and I still haven’t actually finished it, reading it even.

Um, but it’s a fun, it’s a really fun task. Um, And the last one was a book read. So a lot of it is just to get people out of their comfort zones and to stretch them. So to go in there and listen to how other people feel the constitution fails them, should open a box. That’s very interesting. I think for, you know, for the broader group,

Naji Gehchan: sure. What about entrepreneurship?

Jen Kherani: That to me is kind of a synonym for fun. I I think that, you know, I don’t know where my career will take me in the, you know, both the, the more immediate future and even in the, the farther out future as my kids get older, as they leave and as I have more time to do it. But to me, entrepreneurship is just sort of this open horizon that you can have fun with, that you take your passions and drive with.

And I hope. I will return to that space where I can just run with it. ,

Naji Gehchan: what about spread love and organizations?

Jen Kherani: I love that one. I, when I saw your organization and it’s, you know, it’s, it’s objective. I find it to be such a heartwarming and welcoming concept. It’s, it kind of goes along with everything else where it’s just an open door and this, you know, Open couch to sit on and have a discussion and be open and honest and loving with everybody that comes into that, you know, virtual room, so to speak. So, I, I, I love it.

Naji Gehchan: Any final word of wisdom, Jen, for healthcare leaders around

Jen Kherani: the world? Oh gosh. I think, you know, we covered a ton. Um, but one thing that I don’t believe I’ve said throughout that I find to be, um, maybe one of my biggest tools and one of my hardest challenges is to constantly find ways, um, to find humility and to be humble.

I think, you know, as you are climbing these endeavors, tasks, you know, positions, whatever you’re going for, you sort of have this pie in the sky. That you wanna create the shortest distance between you and it. And you know, you sort of feel in certain moments, like you wanna move everything out of your path and sometimes that’s not the best way to get there.

I think that it kind of, Innocuously fold or, or invisibly folds into some of the other concepts of listening to who’s around you at the time, whether or not you think it’s going to be a valuable position, a valuable endeavor. Um, kind of tackling that with humility, because I think that the people you meet when you open your ears and your eyes and your heart and listen to them truly, they’ll challenge you to think about things a different way.

And then you sort of have to look inboard and think, Well, gosh, I, I didn’t. Think about that. You know, how do I need to change myself or how do I need to act? So I think that, you know, all the things that we’ve talked about, finding something that grounds you, that gives you humility throughout. Um, I know that people find it in different ways, but I think it’s so incredibly important slash imperative

Naji Gehchan: that’s powerful. Tackle problems with humidity. I love it. Jen, thank you so much for being with me today.

Jen Kherani: Naji, thank you so much again for having me. This is wonderful.

Naji Gehchan: Thank you all for listening to spread love and organization’s podcast. Drop us a review on your preferred podcast platform

Follow us on LinkedIn and connect with us on spreadloveio.com. We’re eager to hear your thoughts and feedback. Most importantly, spread love in your organizations and spread the word around you to inspire others and amplify this movement, our world so desperately needs.