Doctorpreneurs: Dr James Lawrence

Doctorpreneurs of Doctology is pleased this week to showcase an interview with Dr James Lawrence.

James is a Sport & Exercise Medicine Physician, and a director at North Sydney Sports Medicine Centre and is currently the Chief Medical Officer at Sydney FC.

He has an interest in digital technologies and their role in making healthcare more patient centric, data driven and high value.

What organisation / startup did you found?

I co-founded with another Sport & Exercise Medicine Physician (Dr Louise Tulloh) at the end of 2017. It is a cloud based web-application that allows musculoskeletal clinicians to easily capture and monitor patient reported outcome measures with their patients.

We were trying to collect these with pen and paper for a while in our clinic and the need for a digital solution was obvious. When we could not find a good one we decided to try and make one. We have just graduated from the 2019 HCF Catalyst accelerator program which has been a fantastic opportunity for us to learn and progress the business.

Prior to this I was involved in another sports tech related start-up that was not successful, but taught me a huge amount about product development and product-market fit.

What is its noble purpose?

The vision of myscoreit is to measure health outcomes and make them more transparent, ultimately driving better quality and value in healthcare.

The fact that as a country we spend $180 billion per year on healthcare and don’t really know the treatment outcomes is completely crazy. There is a growing need to measure outcomes routinely and PROMs are currently the best way to do that. This is part of the global shift towards value-based care.

Tell us about the first 10 years of your life?

My parents are very family orientated and amazingly supportive, so I had a great childhood. I moved around quite a bit as a child, born in Sydney, but grew up in UK and Holland.

I had been to ten schools by the age of 13, due to my parents' work. This had pros and cons but overall I think it was a great experience - it may have contributed to my love of travel from an early age!

What age were you when you had your first paying job? What was it?

I was 15 and started washing dishes in the local pub. I hated it, but I think that was the point!

What made you want to be a Doctor and what speciality did you choose?

I sort of fell into medicine, which may sound bad. I loved maths and science, as well as problem solving, but did not really know what I wanted to do.

I went straight into undergraduate medicine from school as it felt like it kept the most options open. There are no other doctors in the family, and my parents were pretty keen on the idea too.

Looking back I think the good thing about medicine for me early on was that there is a very obvious path forwards; you progress through medical school and then apply for foundation / intern jobs and just keep stepping along the path.

So it was relatively easy to pop out the other side of medical school into a hospital job without really having to make too many career choices. It kept me on track.

Saying that, I have always been drawn to the more unusual options which in part led to my interest in the relatively small speciality of Sport & Exercise Medicine. I always enjoyed musculoskeletal medicine and biomechanics and the big attraction of SEM to me was the variability of work and dealing largely with motivated patients.

It has turned out to be a great speciality which has allowed me to work in a whole variety of settings and be exposed to aspects of team work and high performance that is outside the usual medical experience.

What made you want to be an Entrepreneur? When exactly did you decide?

I think lots of people have ideas all the time about how things could be done better, and I have always had a sort of internal ambition to try and build or create something that provides more value than a single person on their own.

I am still trying to do that so I do not consider myself an entrepreneur as such, certainly not a successful one yet. There was definitely no specific moment when I decided to try and become one.

I almost gave up medicine after internship to start a wake boarding business, so I guess I have perhaps always been looking for something to try - looking back now I do not know what I was thinking!

I am glad I had the insight back then to work through a business plan and decide I was being stupid.

Are you still practicing as a Doctor now? If yes do you intend to stop if your organisation takes off?

Yes I am still working as a sports physician. We have just finished a three month startup accelerator program and I have to admit that it was extremely challenging to balance all the commitments including clinical work.

There is no doubt that it is very hard to make a business successful even with 100% of your time, so continuing to practice is massively difficult and possibly a risk. Overall though, medicine is a rewarding job and helps you keep some perspective so I would like to continue working 1-2 days per week even if this venture is successful.

With a medical startup I think being a practicing clinician also provides more credibility, and in our business the insights we bring from clinical medicine are critical to the project.

Why do you think traditionally many Doctors struggle with entrepreneurship?

Ha, I did not know that they did! I think most doctors have quite a lot of insight into the fact that a lot of what we do is complicated and perhaps we are wary about how much we don’t know at times. This makes us balanced, but careful about risk and perhaps more conservative.

The startup world is full of risk and you are very exposed to it. On the flip side there are lots of qualities that doctors may have that stand us in good stead - resilience, hard working, problem solving etc.

The other aspect is that medicine provides an interesting, reliable, relatively well paid job, so maybe there is less attraction to the unknown world of entrepreneurship.

What is your favourite quote?

"Buy the ticket, take the ride". (I went through a Hunter S Thompson phase).

What would you do in the event of a Zombie Apocalypse?

Grab my girls (wife and two daughters) and get the hell out of here!

Are you a Doctorpreneur? Do you know of one? If yes then get in touch us and you could appear on Doctorpreneurs of Doctology. Just email today.