12 Questions with Dr Jay Shah

12 Questions with Dr Jay Shah

Dr Jay Shah is Chief Medical Officer of Aktiia. Dr Shah completed his medical training in internal medicine and cardiovascular diseases at the prestigious institutions of Massachusetts General Hospital and Washington University School of Medicine, and founded and built a cutting-edge cardiovascular service line at the Portland Clinic. He then started and led a multidisciplinary clinic in Aortic Diseases at the Mayo Clinic. With 15 years of deep experience in cardiology, Dr Shah applies his expertise in his role as CMO of Aktiia to ensure the technology and product remain ahead of the field, trusted by both patients and professionals, for the benefit of researchers and industry partners as they make discoveries to advance medicine. 

What are the main responsibilities of my role? I directly oversee clinical trials and clinical studies, as well as the scientific aspects of R&D. I also have integral roles in regulatory filings, mostly revolving around the clinical aspects of the filings, and a functional leadership role in product design and development as the clinical voice in business development and partnerships.

What was your background prior to this role and how did it prepare you for the work you do now? I’m a cardiologist by background, and I practised in the United States for over 15 years, previously at the Mayo Clinic and the Massachusetts Hospital, and in between started and ran my own practice for seven years. So, I have a deep understanding of and experience with healthcare delivery and the needs of the patient, as well as the environment and landscape for healthcare delivery in general, and also leadership roles in each one of those organisations I've been at.

From programmatic development to mentorship in an advisory capacity, to leading an entire organisation of 600 employees and 110 doctors, and all the business aspects that come with it - this prepared me for the work that I do now because I have a very clear understanding of the healthcare marketplace, the landscape and the difficulties for both physicians and patients, and because I've always been involved in the patient side of medicine as a physician myself. I look at everything and try to answer problems from the lens of the patient because, in the end, this is what I swore on my oath as a physician, so I try to take that experience, knowledge, and philosophy and apply it to the work I do today.

What is your proudest professional accomplishment to date? Making the transition from a deeply experienced clinician in healthcare for 15 years in cardiology to making a successful transition to Chief Medical Officer for a health tech start-up. And thriving in that role, even though there were many uncertainties and knowledge gaps, but being able to make that transition successfully, joyfully, and intentionally was my biggest, proudest accomplishment.

What are some the biggest challenges in your work? Technological advancement of our underlying blood pressure technology and its relationship to regulatory filings - the first and largest ongoing challenge that is the case for any regulated medical device, diagnostic, or therapeutic area.

What motivates you more about working in pharma? Research and the pharma industry are often the primary drivers of advancements and innovation nowadays, so, we partner more and more with pharmaceutical , device, and diagnostics companies to armour them with the unique data set and value proposition that we have at Aktiia. I can see how the technological innovation that started the company can now be translated into real change for the benefit of patients and physicians worldwide, and that is what is most exciting about working in this space.

What is your personal mission statement? What values keep you centred in work? The thing that I remind myself of, and try to keep central day to day, is to always be learning, always be growing. Never sit still and become stagnant. The values that keep me centred come from two places: firstly, my family keeps me centred in terms of what is important and what is real and what needs to be focused on, that is my children and my partner; then, secondly, the company I work in and the people that I work with, we work together to keep people centred and I am very lucky to have a great group of colleagues who do that for me and for each other.

What are your biggest short-term goals for this year and next year? There are some very major regulatory milestones that we should hit in the next month or two, as well as in the next year. Tying into the earlier question about challenges, regulatory filings and approvals are certainly our biggest goals. We have a very exciting product launch that will be the first of its kind in the world in Q3, also, so that is something to look forward to.

What are your biggest long-term goals five to ten years from now? For me personally, as a professional, it is to continue learning and growing as Chief Medical Officer and take my knowledge set and depth of knowledge to an even greater level. I can’t see ten years from now, but if I persevere with that philosophy and my set of values, then I will be happy with wherever I’m at in ten years. That is my overall way of looking at goal setting: as long as I’m comfortable with the process, I will be happy with the result.

What do you see as the biggest challenges facing the industry right now? There is an enormous amount of tension between regulation and innovation, which has always been the case in the pharmaceutical and regulated medical device industry. However, the tension is necessary, but it also serves as a challenge to truly innovative companies that want to change the way we understand, look at, and even measure very basic fundamental concepts. So, making those shifts, making that change, even if you have the technology to do it, is exceedingly difficult to bring to market to actually make change, to enact progress in the industry.

What advice would you give to a young person starting out in your field? I have given this advice to many physicians starting or finishing medical school: to have a very wide lens and always think about continuing to learn and evolve, even as they progress in their careers. Many times, physicians often get stuck and trapped into some very special area of medicine and sometimes it works for people, but many times it also leads them into a state of stagnation, as it’s a very narrow field and sometimes the mind tends to grow wary and bored in a way that affects them personally, and they don’t feel like they are making any significant changes, even though they are very highly skilled physicians. What I tell people is that there is no limit to what you can do in medicine and to just continue to explore and grow and not get trapped in the mindset that there is a certain track and way you have to train and do things and learn in this industry.

What is your all-time favourite book? It’s a tie between “David Copperfield” by Charles Dickens and “Shogun” by James Clavell.

If you could have any other job other than the one you have now, what would you choose to do? I would be a farmer and have a small farm!

Connect with Dr Jay Shah on LinkedIn.

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