“You’re braver than you believe and stronger and smarter than you think” is a beloved quote by Winnie the Pooh. It is important to guard your mind because there will be people who will want to crush your spirit along the way. Our attitude is our choice — we can choose to be happy. In an entrepreneur’s journey, it is important to stay positive and stay focused on your own path despite any setbacks. If you believe in your purpose then it will carry you through to the end.
I had the pleasure of interviewing Grace Park, President and Co-founder of DocDoc, Asia’s leading patient empowerment company. Prior to DocDoc, Grace was the Managing Director of Medtronic ASEAN. Grace began her career as an Army officer after graduating from the US Military Academy at West Point and served for five years, leaving as a Captain. Grace has degrees from Harvard Business School and Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! What is your “backstory”?
As a second generation Korean American, I began my career as a Military Intelligence Army officer after graduating with honors from the United States Military Academy at West Point and served in the United States Army for five years, leaving as a Captain at the Pentagon. I arrived in Singapore as a Fulbright Fellow after my MBA from Harvard Business School alongside an MPA from Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government.
For nearly 10 years, I worked in global healthcare corporations to include Bristol-Myers Squibb where I managed local grants of +US$100M to support women and children with HIV/AIDS in 9 African countries, and Medtronic, most recently as the Managing Director for its Southeast Asia operations, leading the company to expand its medical technology footprint to benefit more patients in several developing countries.
Currently, I am the Co-founder & President of DocDoc, Asia’s largest doctor discovery company. At DocDoc, we empower patients with relevant data to make informed decisions in their doctor discovery process.
Why did you found your company?
The purpose behind DocDoc stems from a deeply personal story. My husband, Cole Sirucek, and I welcomed our healthy new-born daughter, Rand Sirucek, into this world but at her two-month checkup, she looked jaundiced. After a battery of tests, a room full of surgeons broke the news that our little girl had a rare liver condition and that she had to undergo an emergency surgery to stop the damage to her liver immediately, and that a liver transplant was inevitable.
At that point, our lives changed forever. It was terrifying to be in a position where we had to make a critical decision without the necessary support to make an informed decision. Despite several attempts, unfortunately, we were not able to collect the information we needed to understand if the team who had made the initial diagnosis was the right team to perform the procedure on our daughter.
Our basic questions like, “How many liver transplants have you done?” to “How much will this cost?” were not well received. The head surgeon replied, “I’ve done enough transplants.” For our question about costs, he said, “You have insurance, right? If so, then why worry about it.” And to our final question on how his existing patients were doing, he simply said, “You have no choice.” It felt as if we shouldn’t be wasting time asking such questions but to hand over our precious baby along with a blank check. From my doctor network that had been developed over a decade working in the healthcare sector, we found Dr. Koichi Tanaka, who is a pioneer in live liver transplants.
Our daughter went through the initial procedure and then six months later, I carried my daughter into the operating room again, but this time to undergo a live liver transplant with my husband, Cole, Co-founder and CEO of DocDoc, donating a piece of his liver.
The 15-hour operation was highly complex, but thanks to the highly qualified team led by Dr. Tanaka, the flipped liver transplant was successful, making Rand one of the youngest to undergo such a procedure in the world. My husband recovered quickly and our daughter is progressing well.
Our medical care team made all the difference. Dr. Tanaka had done tens of thousands more transplants than the initial team who wanted to do our surgery and had far superior outcomes. In addition, Dr. Tanaka was 60% less expensive. He made himself readily available to answer any of our questions.
While Cole was recovering in the ICU, the purpose of DocDoc became clear to us — to empower patients with data to make informed decisions in their doctor discovery process.
What is it about the work you’re doing that’s disruptive?
When a loved one comes to you and says she needs help in finding the right doctor, how do you start your search? From Google, your friends and family or your family doctor? They may refer a doctor but the selection is based on anecdotes at best. Will you trust the doctor because doctors are god-like and are all-knowing professionals? Unfortunately, with medical error as the #3 leading cause of death in the US, we need to partner with our doctors and be better informed, and not just be perfect patients. This is status quo. It is nearly impossible to obtain relevant information to choose the right doctor.
And why should we care in selecting the right doctor? Because outcomes can vary 300% to 500% depending on who does the procedure. Ensure the odds are in your favor!
What is disruptive about our work at DocDoc is that patients can finally be empowered with information on price, outcome, and experience to select their right doctor.
We all need a little help along the journey — who have been some of your mentors?
There are many mentors whom I’ve had a wonderful opportunity to learn from and exchange ideas throughout my life.
My first mentor was my great grandmother, the matriarch of my family. Having survived the Korean War and leading her family to safety and freedom in the United States, she had the will to never give up.
Bob McDonald, who was the global Chairman and CEO of Procter & Gamble, was appointed by President Obama to serve as the Secretary of Veterans Affairs. Bob’s ability to be an authentic leader of character while at the same time influence others who may not share his same values is exceptionally noteworthy. Bob has been a mentor and a great inspiration to me over the years and continues to advise us at DocDoc.
Colonel (retired) Sylvia Moran, graduated in the first class of women at West Point and came back to West Point as a Professor of Foreign Languages and as an Officer-In-Charge of the West Point Judo Team. Sylvia is a pioneer who encouraged me to keep going in male dominated environments regardless of my race and gender.
How are you going to shake things up next?
Healthcare as a sector that is ripe for disruption. It is conservative and has been highly protected by regulations and by entrenched stakeholders that prefer to keep the status quo. Companies that aimed to shake things up abruptly have come and gone. Being successful in the healthcare sector requires steady progress and support from multiple stakeholders. What this means for DocDoc is to empower patients with HOPE (heuristic for outcome, price, and experience), our artificial intelligence (AI) powered doctor discovery engine, which finds a best match between a unique patient need and unique physician experience.
Can you share 3 of the best words of advice you’ve gotten along your journey? Please give a story or example for each.
1) “You’re braver than you believe and stronger and smarter than you think” is a beloved quote by Winnie the Pooh. It is important to guard your mind because there will be people who will want to crush your spirit along the way. Our attitude is our choice — we can choose to be happy. In an entrepreneur’s journey, it is important to stay positive and stay focused on your own path despite any setbacks. If you believe in your purpose then it will carry you through to the end.
2) “It’s never a sprint but an ultra marathon.” We oftentimes read about unicorn stories that hit it out of the park within the first 18 months since launch. Those are rare. Or we hear of stories of businesses that get a lot of hype in the early days but then fizzle out. I can see why taking care of oneself is critical to winning the race because the pathway to business milestones or success may not be a clear short path but one with many twists and turns. I’ve been quite athletic my whole life and with the stress of going through a liver transplant and creating a high tech startup, focusing on my physical health was last on my priority list. I needed to turn this upside down and believe that taking care of myself was the best course of action for my wellbeing, my family and for my business.
3) “Life happens for you and not to you” is a mental shift that I learned from life strategist and coach, Tony Robbins. Having an infant daughter undergo a complex liver transplant, I was in pain. The double Harvard masters degrees, the 4-time All American championship title in collegiate judo, or the military accolades whether graduating with honors from the United States Military Academy at West Point or serving as a Captain at the Pentagon all didn’t matter. None of it was useful to save my daughter. However, I needed to think about this life experience differently because what DocDoc is today could not have been possible if we didn’t undergo the liver transplant. It took me awhile to accept and embrace the pain because it resulted in something so meaningful.
What’s a book/podcast/talk that’s had a deep impact on your thinking? Share a story with us.
There are so many books/podcasts/talks that have shaped my thinking. A book that I read recently is Dr. Atul Gawande’s, “Complications: A Surgeon’s Notes on an Imperfect Science,” which was refreshing to hear a doctor’s honesty about the variability in treating patients and recommendations on what patients could do to be an active partner and therefore be more empowered in the process. Oftentimes, we hide behind something to protect ourselves — for doctors, it might be their title and coat to command authority — whereas more transparency and compassion would greatly benefit both parties.
Some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might see this. 🙂
It would be an honor to meet the man himself, Dr. Atule Gawande, who has recently been selected as CEO by Warren Buffett, Jeff Bezos and Jeff Dimon of a healthcare company to better serve their over 1 million employees at Amazon, Berkshire Hathaway, and JP Morgan. No other company has tackled doctor discovery like DocDoc. There is no one person or solution to solving healthcare, but collectively, we can make a difference and I hope that our conversation may spark an initiative that may lead to being informed and empowered as the new norm for patients in healthcare.
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This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!