Healthcare entrepreneurs share secrets to success

Steve Picheny, who graduated from the College of Engineering in 1964, has played a part in saving hundreds of thousands of lives, but few people even know his name.

His medical devices company was the first to bring to market the finger pulse oximeter, which measures the oxygen level in a patient’s blood.

“Now it’s on the finger of everyone getting oxygen, everyone in intensive care, and everyone in surgery,” said Picheny, the founder of Stepic Medical, a Hicksville, N.Y., company that specializes in selling high-tech medical devices to doctors and hospitals. “Those patients don’t know who I am, but I know this device has saved countless lives.”

Picheny was one of three entrepreneurial panelists who shared their startup experiences with approximately 100 students, faculty, and alumni on Thursday evening in the Raytheon Amphitheater. The Health Sciences Entrepreneurs, an alumni group dedicated to fostering entrepreneurship in the rapidly evolving world of healthcare, hosted the event, which was aptly titled “Anatomy of a Business Venture.”

Terry Fulmer, dean of the Bouvé College of Health Sciences, delivered the opening remarks, noting that the event was part of the group’s university-wide effort to engage entrepreneurs across disciplines and colleges. “Drawing from across the university is what makes us great,” she said.

Carl LeBel moderated the event. A member of the HSE executive committee, he received his doctorate in pharmacy from Northeastern in 1989 and currently serves as the chief scientific officer of Otonomy Inc., a San Diego, Calif., biopharmaceutical company.

“The bulk of us are alumni and entrepreneurs who volunteer,” he said of the group. “We believe in what Northeastern is doing and we want to give back.”

According to Picheny, the health sciences give entrepreneurs the opportunity to make a difference in people’s lives.

“My advice to you guys is to find a goal greater than making money,” he said. “Have the goal of making this world a better place and you’ll be happy every day you go to work.”

Panelist Joseph Sansone graduated from the College of Professional Studies in 1974 with a bachelor’s in pharmacy and currently serves as chairman and CEO of Pediatria HealthCare, an innovative provider of day healthcare services to medically complex infants and children in Georgia, Florida, Pennsylvania, Louisiana, and Massachusetts.

He noted that his early career success paved the way for Pediatria. “This time around, I had people knocking at my door trying to fund me,” Sansone said. “Why? Because we did it right the first time. One success builds upon another.”

Panelist Kathleen Hagan, president of Hagan and Company, an international marketing and management consulting firm based in Watertown, Mass., said many of her clients are in the healthcare field.

“Now is a great time for entrepreneurs in healthcare,” she said. “There is so much change and so much opportunity.”