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Dominic Lorenzi is a second-year Columbia Mailman School of Public Health student. He is the President of Columbia Healthcare Ventures (CHV). Columbia Healthcare Ventures aims to strengthen the next generation of innovators and entrepreneurial leaders within the healthcare space. I talked with Dominic about what the club does, how to get involved, and what new initiatives they are planning for students interested in healthcare.
Kieran: Hey Dominic, thanks for joining me. Do you want to introduce yourself?
Dominic: My name is Dominic Lorenzi. I'm the President of Columbia Healthcare Ventures at the Columbia Mailman School of Public Health out of New York. I'm in my second year and wrapping everything up.
Kieran: How did you first learn about Columbia Healthcare Ventures?
Dominic: When I first came to campus last year, I was looking at the different student organizations on campus. There was a club fair, and Columbia Healthcare Ventures was there. So, I was able to get plugged in. I served as the events chair last year, helping put together all the events we were hosting, and then this year, I was named the club's president. I've been really fortunate to be a part of it.
Kieran: What's the history behind this organization? How long has this been around? How many members are in this organization? What are maybe some important details for the audience to know before we dive into the questions?
Dominic: Columbia Healthcare Ventures is a relatively new organization on campus. It was started post-COVID, and since then it's grown tremendously. I think we've been around three years, and we started post-COVID since there was more importance and focus on public health and innovation within the space. It's situated directly within the school's health and policy department. Through that, we've had ample resources to market to students. We have ~150 students within the club, and that's spread across various schools, but mainly from the Mailman School of Public Health. We've really grown since we started and are continuing to keep expanding.
Kieran: Who joins this org? Is it people looking to start healthcare startups? Do they want to join something? What is the makeup of the group?
Dominic: It's mostly students situated within the Mailman School of Public Health, including public health students and students studying other aspects of healthcare. There are a lot of students with different goals within the organization. We have a lot of students who are founders, have raised some money, and are actively building a startup. There are also a lot of students within the club at the idea stage who are iterating on different ideas and trying to find something to work on. Then, we have a lot of students who are just interested in innovation and want to learn how to make a change for public health and healthcare in general.
Kieran: How does one get involved in the club? Is there an application process, or is it open to everyone?
Dominic: We host a lot of student events, various speaker events, fireside chats, and roundtable discussions. Those are open to any student. Most students who come are signed up for our club and have access to our marketing networks. We're really open to any students. There is an application process if you want to join the club's board and oversee some of the initiatives and events we're doing. The process includes filling out a Google Form and doing some interviews.
Kieran: Can you give an overview of what the club does? You mentioned fireside chats, speaker events, and roundtable discussions. On LinkedIn, I saw you posted about this investment challenge that you did.
Dominic: So, traditionally, our club has hosted mostly various speaker events. We'll have founders, investors, or innovative specialists within healthcare come in and talk about the evolving healthcare environment. We've hosted a fast pitch competition with a $5,000 prize. Students at various stages participate — some startups are already operating, and some are just getting something off the ground. This past year was the first year we hosted the health investment simulation. It was a great event. We had students going through a case where they acted as private equity investors evaluating a healthcare company. We had about seven teams of 1-5 people. There was a $500 prize, and we hosted that event in collaboration with HC9 Ventures. It was enjoyable putting it on, and it will be an annual event we will host again next year.
Kieran: Are you also planning on hosting the pitch competition again? What are some of the upcoming things that you're planning right now?
Dominic: Both the pitch competition and health investment simulation will occur next fall. We will start planning the health investment simulation next semester; the pitch competition happens yearly. So, there is already a good process in place for that. Those are the two big events that we host. Outside of that, for next semester we're planning on hosting a shark tank style event where we will have a product and students will have 30-40 mins to learn how to pitch that product to a board of judges. We hope to collaborate with some of the different schools for this event. We're also doing several networking events with different schools, such as Columbia's engineering and business schools. Our first event is happening in February. We will do a healthcare industry fireside chat where we will have different players, such as consultants, hospital administrators, founders, and investors, share what they see in terms of innovation and where they think it's going. We're also doing a podcast, which we plan to launch next semester. That podcast will focus on different graduates who have gone on to found some public health companies. Many big startups have exited from Columbia, and many alums are entering the public health school to get an MPH or MHA. They leave and launch their startup, but not much information has been shared about their stories. That is something we want to share these stories with Columbia students as a resource.
Kieran: What do you see as the biggest opportunities to improve Columbia Healthcare Ventures?
Dominic: Traditionally, we've mostly just been running events. That was the main resource for students, but many students didn't know where to go from there. So, we've had three things that we've been focusing on this year and that we plan to continue to scale out. First, we want to create a collaborative space where it's not just our school working on building the entrepreneurship path for public health students. We also want to work with the medical school, engineering school, business school, undergraduate school, etc., to foster more knowledge sharing between students and bring together various viewpoints on innovation so we can change healthcare more effectively. Another thing we're focused on is starting different traditions within our community to continue to grow our reach, such as the investment simulation. We're trying to increase awareness about our pitch competition and podcast. We're also trying to increase the resources available to students, faculty, and alumni. We want to make sure we're able to help them if it's developing and marketing materials for them. We want to host more educational events for the students to grow their knowledge and skillsets and just bring a greater level of awareness to the healthcare and entrepreneurship space at Columbia and in New York City.
Kieran: For people who are not in school anymore, but want to help this community, what are the best ways to plug in?
Dominic: We are trying to build out a mentorship program with some alumni. We're in the very early stages of that, but we hope to have that started by next semester so that if you're a student with a startup and you want someone to talk with who can help you figure out your company's path, we want to be able to pair you up with a mentor — someone who is graduated and a founder themselves. We also want to work with external partners to provide resources for our community. We've partnered with Columbia Startup Lab, so if students need to get plugged into that, we can connect them there. We also have various accelerators and funds that we talk with a lot and have resources there. Also, within the Columbia community, if you have a more engineering or medical-focused startup, we can connect you with the right people to grow that.
Kieran: Is there anything I didn't ask about that you think is important for a student considering Columbia Healthcare Ventures?
Dominic: I would highlight that I think public health is more important than ever since COVID and CHV is trying to foster that. Entrepreneurship, innovation, and healthcare have changed drastically over the past few years, and I think it will continue to change. So, if you're interested in innovation and getting plugged in, please get in touch with us or join our organization. We'd love to have you.