Don (PMN): Hello everyone welcome to the Pharma marketing podcast. I’m your host Don Langsdorf and we’ve got a great guests lined up for you today her name is Robin Farmanfarmaian she’s a professional speaker and entrepreneur based in Silicon Valley. She has been involved with over 20 early stage startups working on cutting edge technology in healthcare; biotech, pharma, med device, and digital health. As a speaker Robin has had over a hundred and forty speaking engagements in 13 countries and she’s the author of two books, The Patient as CEO and Thought Leader Formula. Robin also coaches people who want to become thought leaders to drive their marketing, personal branding and career advancements. Robin welcome to the Pharma marketing podcast and thanks for joining us today.

Robin (Guest): I’ve been so excited for this one thank you so much for having me.

Don (PMN): Oh that’s great to hear, thanks so much. So what I’d like to do is start off talking a little bit about your professional speaking on the shifts and Healthcare delivery from clinics into the homes of patients and caregivers.

Robin (Guest): Absolutely. In fact I’ve been receiving the vast majority of my healthcare in my home now for over 5 years.

Don (PMN): And you have a background with this too as I was reading a little bit in your book and in your background when you were in school you were you’re actually ill right? Would you mind touching base a little bit on that?

Robin (Guest): Sure when I was 16 I was misdiagnosed with an autoimmune disease and I’ve had a total of 43 hospitalizations, 6 major surgeries and three organs removed.

Don (PMN): Wow!

Robin (Guest): Yes.

Don (PMN): Impressive to say the least and you somehow still push through and got through your education and started this pretty monumental career. What was that, what was that like dealing with that as a patient and in your introduction into the health system at large at such a young age?

Robin (Guest): Well, fortunately my mom was a pediatrician so I already was very familiar with the healthcare scene and then spending you know a lot of high school and college in and out of the hospital in and out of the operating room. It really gave me a different look at the healthcare system than I had from my mom being a doctor and so when I went into remission and I got off a lot of the medications and I’ve been feeling really good now for a couple of decades don’t try and do the math. I realized that I wanted to pay back the Healthcare system because I know it’s because of the healthcare system that I’m alive like they were many times where I might not be alive and so I realized it was not paying back to say one doctor on one Hospital but it was really Pharma companies, med device, IT you know EMR companies, hospitals, doctors, nurses, clinicians are being, so many things go into the fact that I’m alive today that I decided to set a goal for myself and that is to impact a minimum of a hundred million patients worldwide and so that dictates exactly the type of companies that I’ve worked with.

Don (PMN): Wow, very very interesting that it spurred you into this, into this avenue for your career you know and I think obviously [unintelligible 00:03:31] in the room right now and how this plays into our conversation when we’re talking about shifting the delivery of healthcare from clinics into the homes of patients and caregivers with covid-19 and in the quarantine that’s happening right now. Do you see any is there any impact on Healthcare delivery in the home from this pandemic?

Robin (Guest): So so far people are really starting to make a big push for it. We were already seeing the big payers making a push for things like Telemedicine and In-home care companies like Humana were pushing for Advanced Kidney Care in the home so things like dialysis which is traditionally not done in the home. UnitedHealthcare the largest of the PPOs they were really pushing telemedicine before with $5 co-pays and now they’re real of course all in but they’re the company who actually helped me move my IV’s into the home so I have Crohn’s disease and I’m on medication called Remicade which is by IV 8 times a year and I was you know getting in the hospital for about 15 years and UnitedHealthcare where the once who helped me shift it into the home and let me tell you my recovery time went from 8 days to a very mild 3 by changing the environment in which a pretty hardcore drug is infused into the patient.

Don (PMN): Sure.

Robin (Guest): And so we’re already seeing that and now with covid more and more companies are getting on board Medicare is already changing things they’re paying for In-clinic visits done by Telemedicine. The VA 2 years ago drops the boundaries between states for physicians to be able to practice across state lines with Telemedicine and I’m not sure if Medicare has done it yet but they were also talking about doing that specifically for covid. So a doctor that’s licensed stay only in the state of New York would be able to practice across the entire counties using Telemedicine.

Don (PMN): Interesting and there’s an impact on the healthcare system at large with Telemedicine as well and I think we see that we’re facing what we’re facing right now that covid-19 the burden that this type of widespread disease can put on the healthcare system can you speak a little bit to how telemedicine and moving in that direction will help lessen the burden on the Healthcare System at large.

Robin (Guest): Sure. So it happens because of couple of things. First off if patients are used to using telemedicine and they use it as that first line of defense they’re not going into the OR, they’re not going I mean the ER, they’re not going into urgent care, they’re not going into clinics because a telemedicine visit can be a lot shorter and easier for that patient so they’re going to actually do it right so it being done catching things early and keeping patients out of things like urgent care really dramatically changes the equation especially if you are in say in a remote area and you don’t have access to a lot of doctors all of a sudden this opens up your world to be able to reach some of the best doctors in the country if you’d like.

Don (PMN): Sure and from a more marketing perspective if I’m a company looking to inform patients and caregivers of this option in telemedicine what sort of approach should I be taking in the marketplace what sort of messaging should I be putting out there and how should I be delivering that because people are finding themselves at home a lot more if not you know semi-permanently right now so what would your recommendations be for getting that messaging to the right audience?

Robin (Guest): So look at what other companies are doing in the space that are really the Giants right so Walgreens right now is all over Twitter if you have not seen them and they have been for a month even before covid started big time here in the United States so they are advertising that they are doing telemedicine for sleep, for behavioral, for dermatology and for your primary care and they are all in on social media. So go look they got some beautiful ads, UnitedHealthcare they send an email to their patients say once a week with some information educational information and big button saying click here if you want to see one of our doctors on demand here our partners and we’re gonna pay for that for you. So really reaching them the way you would traditionally reach them through social media and through email marketing but just to show what other companies are doing even, you can even start to educate them on saying hey everybody else is doing this it works.

Don (PMN): Okay, great advice. I want to shift gears a little bit because you’re not just a speaker and an author your you’re actually hands on in the healthcare space in terms of the companies that you are contributing to contributing your knowledge and expertise too and also investing could you speak a little bit more to that?

Robin (Guest): Sure, so there are a few companies that would be really interesting to learn about right now. One is MindMaze now they are unicorn and based in Switzerland and have had over eight thousand patients in 20 Countries and hopefully are coming into the United States later this year what they are doing is virtual reality for stroke and brain injury rehabilitation in fact they treat nine different diseases and disorders using virtual reality right now already and they are revving up to go into more things like dementia and autism but the vast majority of the patients have gone through for stroke and brain injury and it can be done both in the clinic but also there’s an at-home model as well and it’s really cool because MindMaze least in Europe what they do is the hardware itself the VR stuff is free and you pay per software subscription so say you’ve got a patient whose left arm is partially paralyzed from a stroke what we do is send the equipment to the patient and then they buy the software subscription package for left arm stroke right and in the world of virtual reality it takes the place of a physical therapist we turn, we take a mirror image of your right arm and put that over your left arm so in VR when you move your right arm it tricks your brain into thinking your left arm is also moving and that is enough to actually dramatically increase efficacy and patient outcomes it’s incredible but not only that it’s fun because if you go into a physical therapist it’s just you know repetition right like let’s do one two

Don (PMN): Boring

Robin (Guest): You don’t want to go its torture it hurts luck right well in virtual reality you’re not just doing things like flying a game a flying a plane and a game you’re actually the plane

Don (PMN): Right

Robin (Guest): It is so cool and so mind-blowing that you actually want to do your physical therapy.

Don (PMN): Yeah sort of suspension of disbelief in that moment you know in that world you probably you’re so focused on being in that new environment that you’re not focused on the pain in the discomfort in the boredom of the physical therapy.

Robin (Guest): Exactly, so MindMaze actually does work with pain as well and there’s some other companies out there doing pain and it really it’s all about the destruction I would love that part of it.

Don (PMN): Very very interesting

Robin (Guest): So let me tell you about another company? Would you like or

Don (PMN): Yeah no absolutely, I was gonna ask you next I know there’s a couple of other the one that I’m very interested in as well is X-Therma if you can talk on that for a minute.

Robin (Guest): Sure so X-Therma is doing cryopreservation for organ transplants and cell cultures and so in the world of cryopreservation we aren’t able to hold a heart for more than 4 or 6 hours because the existing cryopreservation protectants out there are toxic and don’t work and so you can’t freeze a heart and because a heart only lives outside the body for between 4 and 6 hours about 80% of hearts go on used and so X-Therma has had a massive breakthrough and they’re able to hold vascularized organs like hearts and they’ve done this in mouse trials already for more than 24 hours and then they are able to rewarm the organ and transplant it and the mice do well and this is huge this is a massive breakthrough in this world and so they will be able to eradicate the waitlist for transplants within about two years once they hit the market.

Don (PMN): Wow!

Robin (Guest): Yeah

Don (PMN): Well that’s really really impressive.

Robin (Guest): It’s amazing. It’s an incredible company.

Don (PMN): So is this only for hearts or are there other organs that would also benefit from this other short-lived organs?

Robin (Guest): All the vascularized organs are short-lived, anything from kidneys, to hearts, to lungs, to livers these things live. The kidney I think the longest is about 12 hours I mean they really have a very short shelf-life unless we are able to preserve them in some way and that’s why this is such an important company.

Don (PMN): Wow

Robin (Guest): Yeah

Don (PMN): The third company that you’re involved in right now Aerami Therapeutics if I’m pronouncing that correctly?

Robin (Guest): Yes.

Don (PMN): This is really interesting too and that is the one that we’ve spoken about earlier in previous conversations was the aerosolized insulin?

Robin (Guest): Yup

Don (PMN): Which seems to be a pretty incredible breakthrough, I don’t think anybody’s ever been able to do this before

Robin (Guest): So they’ve done it with powdered insulin there’s been two big pharma’s that have done it and there is a big problem with powdered insulin on a couple of different levels. First it has a black box warning it’s contraindicated in things like COPD and asthma because powdered aerosols make you cough is a big problem

Don (PMN): Ah okay.

Robin (Guest): Secondly it is incredibly expensive the drying process to powder it is requires a manufacturing facility the length of a football field it is incredibly expensive process what are Aerami Therapeutics is doing it is been able to do inhaled insulin that is a liquid formulary that is the massive breakthrough and because it’s a liquid formulary it is it will be able to undercut the cost of injected insulin.

Don (PMN): Wow

Robin (Guest): So the exe yeah

Don (PMN): And you’re eliminating the needle, right?

Robin (Guest): Eliminating the needle and it’s a smart connected device and so you can track the insulin uses really really easily.

Don (PMN): Was it just through an app like that there’s an app that the partners would the device itself

Robin (Guest): Yup

Don (PMN): for administration? Wow

Robin (Guest): Just like any of the other like wearable track right it’s

Don (PMN): Sure

Robin (Guest): And have Bluetooth-enabled and all of that

Don (PMN): That is really really cool and I think a relief to millions of diabetes sufferers probably around the world as one of the most extensive diseases

Robin (Guest): Absolutely

Don (PMN): Most pervasive diseases around the world not have to stick a needle to get insulin and just inhale it.

Robin (Guest): It is and the price cut so that second part is absolutely huge as well because we can make it affordable

Don (PMN): Sure

Robin (Guest): So not only will patients want to do it because no longer they hurting themselves when they do it with a needle but secondly it’s less cost than the injected stuff to begin with.

Don (PMN): Right. And so you’re involved in these companies, how does that play into your overall role as a thought leader in the healthcare space?

Robin (Guest): Sure so I have created this type of ecosystem around my career what I do is business development and strategy so I think about alright what are the best partnerships where are the best funding routes what are the best customers how do we get to them right I think about how revenue or money comes into a company and because I am a professional speaker that opens up basically any door I want to get into.

Don (PMN): Okay

Robin (Guest): Yeah

Don (PMN): Well I think we ‘re gonna take a pause here and hear a word from our sponsor and then when we come back I’d like to dive a little bit deeper into some of the books that you offered.

Robin (Guest): Absolutely

Don (PMN): Alright great let’s take a break and we’ll be right back.

Don (PMN): Okay welcome back to the Pharma Marketing Podcast. If you’re just joining us our guest today is Robin Farmanfarmaian who is a professional speaker and entrepreneur based out of Silicon Valley. Robin, I wanted to talk with you about a couple of the books that you’ve written if we could touch base quickly on the Patient as CEO and then take a little bit of a deeper dive into the Thought Leader Formula that would be great, let’s start with Patient as CEO.

Robin (Guest): So the Patient as CEO it just has an individual chapter on each one of the exponential technologies that’s disrupting healthcare right now so it starts out with things like sensors goes into artificial intelligence, I dive into virtual reality and drones as well as connectivity 3D printing, gosh all of the above.

Don (PMN): A lot of cutting edge stuff in there.

Robin (Guest): Yeah I wrote about it 5 years ago and a lot most it still relevant these are technologies that are moving very quickly but not that quickly.

Don (PMN): That’s interesting as you approach topics like this as an author how do you ensure that the content stays mostly evergreen or is that even a concern for you is it better that it doesn’t and you can come out with a version 2.0 the same book and improve upon the the initial thoughts and musings on these technologies.

Robin (Guest): So both the first book the Patient as CEO, I am going to write a follow-up one in a few years and I think that’ll be enough time to that past that’ll be a distinctly different book but with the Thought Leader Formula that once evergreen it is a system essentially for marketing and branding.

Don (PMN): Right and I do want to take a little bit of a deeper dive into that if you could maybe give us a little bit more of an overview of what you dive into what this formula is in what your processes as you lay down in book and I got a couple of specific questions things that really stood out for me that I think our listeners would be interested in knowing a little more.

Robin (Guest): Sure so it’s quite a few years now ago now if I about six or seven years ago I decided I wanted to become a professional speaker and I went home and I spent two days writing myself a five-year project plan on how to become a professional speaker from a place where I had never done any key notes, never been on stage and I took and it worked beautifully like bigger than my wildest dreams and so all I did is I took my own project plan that I created a few all those years ago and I turned it into a step-by-step system for anyone to follow no matter what industry or job they’re in.

Don (PMN): Interesting, I was reading a little bit about your process there and one of the things that stood out to me because if I’m sitting here and I’m thinking I’m going to be a thought leader I have the expertise in certain areas and I’d love to share that expertise with others but I’m not exactly sure how to approach that how to craft my presentations that sort of thing and one of the things that really stood out to me, you refer to it as hacking your education

Robin (Guest): Yup

Don (PMN): And you sight a lot of different things about you know a lot of companies in certain percentage 10 15% I think 15% of IBM there employees don’t even have a degree they’re just really good at what they do, how did they get that good? well they took their own initiative to get that good as what I would assume based on what you’re writing hacking your education is doing that right? you say there’s access to all sorts of University high-end University courses and classes on writing and communication among a thousand other topics could you touch a little bit on that and give us some insight into how you hacked your own education in your journey to becoming a thought leader?

Robin (Guest): Sure so once if you were a thought leader the letter is after your name no longer really matter they’re not the ones get things giving you credibility and a lot of the time right now a college degree is just that credibility it gives you that mark on it and so what I did back when I was in college I was in and out of the hospital so frequently I had to figure out a different way to get educated, so I got my four year BS in Management from Boston University and it and I did a lot of it at night and things like that in remotely before this is before the internet was absolutely huge and I talk to myself okay I have my BS in Management I don’t need to spend all the years in school getting you know an MBA or an MD or any type of you know PhD or something like that and what I want to do I want to be an entrepreneur said but I do need education I just don’t need the specific degrees so I went to Harvard, Wellesley, Dartmouth, Stanford, Berkeley, Golden Gate and Boston University and I took things like graduate-level finance courses or I took their continuing education on website design or writing for magazines and I took so many different I took science courses at Wellesley and at Harvard I took women empower leadership courses but you can take all of these things either by doing their continuing education they have specific like exact education things at Harvard and those could be pretty pricey between 6 and 15,000 for a week or two but then they also for things like Stanford which is only a mile from my apartment I would go at night and pay $300 for a class because when you are spending the thousands and thousands on College what you are doing is you’re paying for that piece of paper, you’re paying for that degree but if you don’t care about that you can take those same courses that the undergrads and the graduate students have access to most of the time and just pay for a non-grade and that’s hundreds of dollars and then you can also educate yourself through things like YouTube or now I mean there so many audacity and there’s so many online platforms for education purposes as long as you are self-driven and you know what you need to learn you don’t need that road map for you know an MBA program to tell you these two years and this is your exact road map. If you can figure out your own road map hey I need to learn marketing, hey I need to learn basic finance you can get that done and in your own home and for free.

Don (PMN): Yeah along those lines you mention YouTube there are literally thousands if not hundreds of thousands of people out there trying to do justice and become a thought leader in a certain space if I’m looking for a mentor or a guru to follow in a certain lighter or method or topic, do you have any advice on finding or identifying the right thought leaders are there any red flags that you should look out for in things that they’re saying or their approach can you lend some or shed some light on that for us?

Robin (Guest): Sure so first thing to do is and I take you to this in my system figure out which conferences are the best conferences for you to be on stage right and this comes after you really kind of identify your market so you identify your market type of person you need to reach with your thought leadership and then you identify those conferences were they that are perfect for you now look at the speakers for the past two or three years at those conferences those are your thought leadership piers those are the people that you want to learn from.

Don (PMN): Okay. Do you still think it’s possible to maybe do some searching around and find someone who hasn’t been in the limelight so to speak but still has a lot to offer by way of thought leadership?

Robin (Guest): Sure. So if they are that goes back to getting somewhere like the continuing education to at some of these companies like I mean started some of the Universities like Harvard or Carnegie Mellon or anything like that like if they’ve thought a course they’re even just an Exec Ed course like I speech at Stanford sometimes I’m not like an actual faculty member but there’s occasional times I’ll go in there and they’ll pay me to give a 2 hour lecture right so maybe some of those people that are hired as one off or every once in a while at some of the top universities you know if they’re there giving a lecture they know what they’re talking about.

Don (PMN): Sure yeah that’s great advice too and I, I want to reinforce one of the main points in your book. I’m gonna, I’m sorry my why is that coming up, give me one second here robin I’m gonna have to do that again. I thought I turned off all my notifications I apologize, let me just make a time code [unintelligible 00:24:57] so what are the underlying, what are the key fiends that I found in reading through the thought leadership formula is I think almost a prerequisite for becoming a thought leader is having a continually or perpetually curious mind and being a lifelong learner right

Robin (Guest): Absolutely

Don (PMN): And this is what we’re speaking to talking about taking courses and finding mentors that are in the same space who are already thought leaders and you know sort of crafting your own brand by way of observation and learning educating yourself educating others along the way. Can you speak to the importance of the curious mind in being a thought leader?

Robin (Guest): Sure I mean it’s really all about that what you mentioned lifelong learning. I try and make sure that I learn something new every single day right maybe it’s something small maybe it’s something bigger than that but find yourself find a way you can educate yourself on a daily basis because then your brain it feels like I’m almost addicted to it right like I love the feeling of learning something new and so get yourself into that mindset where you just absolutely love feeling like learning something new and it will become very natural thing to do on your daily basis.

Don (PMN): Yeah 100% I agree on being similar similar like to that or similar fashion to that I try to set aside a time every day for just that just shut the world off and just focus on something I’m excited to learn about or even if it’s something I need to learn about in order to progressed on something setting that time side making a habit out of it I find lends itself to I don’t know overall I feel more balanced that way because I feel like I’m I have purpose and I’m driving towards something that I’m passionate about.

Robin (Guest): Exactly

Don (PMN): And I think you mention something similar yourself right there’s if I remember correctly you said something around along the lines of you know for about an hour every morning you wake up grab your coffee and you start learning something right?

Robin (Guest): Absolutely

Don (PMN): Yeah it was great advice for everyone even non-marketers I think it’s great advice for life to do that keeps you, keeps you on your toes, keeps your brain keeps your brain moving and growing and adapting and plastic so couple more things that are around the thought leader formula I think it’s something that we all probably share those of us who are in the marketing field or any field for that matter when you rise to a certain level of expertise and education and even mentorship in some cases I think we all suffer in some ways from imposter syndrome you touch on this in your book you talked about it when you talked about networking, meeting new people, when you’re speaking, when you’re offering your expertise to others what are the best ways to avoid falling into that imposter syndrome trap and bogging yourself down with these thoughts of self-doubt you know how can we, how can you build confidence and move forward in those circumstances?

Robin (Guest): Sure so I have a couple of tricks for that so first off as a reminder almost everybody feels imposter syndrome at some point in their life you are not alone this is a natural feeling what I would do when I feel it in every once in a while I even feel this all I do is I sit down and I write down why I am not right here is my education, here are things I’ve accomplished, here are the companies I’ve involved with, here’s what I have done and if you write it out and this is just for yourself but basically you’re writing to yourself you’re writing a proof and a theory. If you’re an Academia you know an Academia you kinda understand this you’re writing, here’s your hypothesis and here’s the proof of why it’s not right.

Don (PMN): Are there any tips or

Robin (Guest): Oh go ahead

Don (PMN): I’m sorry go ahead. No no you go ahead.

Robin (Guest): There’s another trick too which is really starting to compare yourself I mean stop comparing yourself to other people right if you’re looking at somebody else and you’re feeling like oh my gosh I’m an impostor compared to them in fact most likely you’re not, you’re only seeing the best of them you’re not seeing all the rest of them right you’re seeing the best not the rest and so realize that they’re just on the same bout you are and they are probably feeling imposter syndrome as well.

Don (PMN): Which can be a little bit challenging as your scoping out your own thought leader gurus right if I’m looking for a mentor and I see how amazing they are you know how do I become that great, it can be it can be almost like you’re facing down a monumental challenge in that regard where how would I ever progressed to be that level I know and I’ve experienced so to say those thoughts at different times in specifically thinking about you know I’m a creative by trade and one of the things that I love is data visualization and I’ve attended several courses of Edward Tufte who’s the grandfather of all data visualization and I go and attend these courses and it’s enthralling for me but you know I would love to be able to speak to some of these things at the level on which he does but I think to myself man I’m almost I’m never get to that place at this point

Robin (Guest): Nope

Don (PMN): Which I know where are exactly the opposite of what I should be thinking right?

Robin (Guest): Well because if they were able to do it you can too. There’s nothing special about anyone else on the planet right? If you work hard and you’re focused and you come up with a formula, you get the right help right and you work hard at it you can succeed as much or more than almost everybody else.

Don (PMN): I love it you know I want to say I love the end on that positive note I think it’s a great message for everyone out there who is looking to improve their expertise and become a thought leader in their space. It’s not something that is unachievable in fact quite achievable as long as you put your mind to it follow formula, put a plan in place and continue to be curious right?

Robin (Guest): Exactly. That’s exactly why I wrote the thought leader formula for people so they had that exact road map, the exact system it’s basically you’re you know your MBA in thought leadership all in one book.

Don (PMN): Fantastic, fantastic. So where can our listeners go to find out more about you and your books and your speaking engagement which I’m sure are probably right now on hiatus until we get through this current quarantine phase. Where can our listeners go to find out more?

Robin (Guest): Yeah so they’re on a, they’re all being of course [unintelligible 00:32:08] till the end of the year but you can I’m the only Robin Farmanfarmaian in the entire universe but you can find me on my website or any of the social media channels.

Don (PMN): Okay, wonderful. Robin, thank you so much for joining us on the Pharma Marketing Podcast It’s been a joy speaking with you, keep up the phenomenal work that you’re doing and I can’t wait to see where you going next.

Robin (Guest): Thank you so much it’s been wonderful talking to you.

Don (PMN): Alright, take care Robin. We’ll talk again soon.

Robin (Guest): Sure.

Listen to this podcast, Ep. 009 – Robin Farmanfarmaian here: