The 2.3% medical device tax is burdensome. Regulatory timelines are long (and expensive). Reimbursement is not only decreasing, but also incredibly hard to obtain. Venture capitalists are losing interest in early-stage medical device deals. Is it all downhill for medtech?
There is no doubt the current healthcare environment is challenging. But certainly not impossible!
Case in point: Intersect ENT. This startup medtech company is well-funded as evidenced by their recent series C round of financing. They were able to get regulatory approval for a “device + drug” combination product. And perhaps most impressive, they are actually expanding their sales force!
In this interview with Lisa Earnhardt, President and CEO of Intersect ENT, we learn how this medical device startup company is succeeding despite the strong headwinds within the medtech space.
Here’s What You Will Learn from Lisa Earnhardt
- Can ENT companies steal the drug-eluting stent playbook from the cardiology space?
- How is Intersect’s Propel device different than traditional balloon sinuplasty?
- Was the regulatory pathway for the Propel device more difficult because of the “device + drug” combination?
- Are otolaryngology (ENT) doctors early adopters? How do they compare to cardiologists and
- What has been the biggest challenge to increased adoption of the Propel device?
- Did Intersect ENT consider launching their medical devices with an indirect sales force?
- What are the exit strategies for Intersect ENT? Could the company actually go public?
- How important are large strategic medtech companies in terms of providing capital for start-up medical device companies?
- Lisa’s opinion of the top-line 2.3% medical device excise tax.
- How will medtech companies need to change considering the strong headwinds of longer regulatory timelines, lower reimbursement figures, and changing healthcare delivery models?
- Lisa’s advice for ambitious medtech professionals.
- And much more!
Read the Interview with Lisa Earnhardt
Scott Nelson: Hello, hello, everyone. Welcome to another edition of Medsider. This is your host, Scott Nelson, and for those of you who are new to the program, listening this is a show where I bring on experienced and proven med tech thought leaders in order to learn about a wide variety of topics, all pertaining to the medical device space. And on today’s program we Lisa Earnhardt, who is the President and CEO of Intersect ENT. Prior to joining Intersect ENT, Lisa was the President of Boston Scientific’s Cardiac Surgery Division, and then previous to that Lisa held a wide variety of sales and marketing positions at Guidant. She has extensive experience with global product launches and driving adoption of new technologies including implantable cardiac defibrillators, endoscopic vessel harvesting, surgical ablation, and beating heart bypass surgery. Lisa holds an MBA from Northwestern’s Kellogg School of Management and a BS in Industrial Engineering from Stanford. That was a big intro, and without further ado, welcome to the program, Lisa. Really appreciate you coming on.
Lisa Earnhardt: Thank you, Scott. Appreciate the opportunity to speak with you today.
Scott Nelson: Okay, so let's first start out with Intersect ENT, your devices, Propel and then Propel mini. Let's talk about the disease state that you’re trying to treat, chronic sinusitis. Can you explain what that is, and maybe previous to Propel and some of the other therapies, how did physicians treat this?
Lisa Earnhardt: Yeah, it’s a great place to start. Chronic sinusitis is a condition in which the patient’s sinuses become swollen and inflamed, and what’s most important is it leads to congestion, difficulty breathing, facial pain or headache, along with actually reducing your sense of smell and taste. It’s interesting to know that actually the condition is quite common. It affects actually one out of seven adults here in the US alone and has a big impact on a patient’s quality of life.
In terms of how it’s treated, it actually requires what I would call a complex combination of surgical and medical treatments, so there are about a half a million patients every year that undergo sinus surgery for chronic sinusitis. And while sinus surgery is effective, unfortunately the majority of patients experience recurrent symptoms within the first year, and as many as 25% undergo revision surgery due to recurrent obstruction in the cavity, so we believe that at Intersect we’re playing a really critical role in improving sinus sufferers’ quality of life, really across the continuum of their disease.
Scott Nelson: Got it. So just to repeat, one out of every seven adults approximately here in the US alone are affected by chronic sinusitis, and then you said about 500 million surgeries per year to treat it?
Lisa Earnhardt: Five hundred thousand surgeries per year.
Scott Nelson: Five hundred thousand.
Lisa Earnhardt: Yeah.
Scott Nelson: Five hundred million, that’d be an absolutely enormous number. Five hundred thousand, which is still a relatively big number. Okay, very good. So is there a certain sort of treatment algorithm that most physicians use right now to treat this disease? Does it start with medical therapy and advance on into surgery?
Lisa Earnhardt: Yeah, the otolaryngologists, which is the physician community that treats the chronic sinusitis patients, really start with the first line of therapy for most things they do, with medical therapy. So it’s a mixture of various drugs that they use, whether it be some form of steroid, whether it be nasal steroids, oral steroids, antibiotics, antifungals, saline irrigations. The list goes on and on, and their goal is really to control and alleviate the patient’s symptoms first with medical therapy. When that fails, and it does obviously with some frequency, surgical procedure really is the next best option, and that's where the half a million patients a year or the 500,000 surgeries that are done each year really go [00:03:55] failed medical management. Ultimately, it is a chronic disease, so even after a patient has had sinus surgery the patients typically are managed for a lifetime by the ENT or the ear, nose and throat physician.
Scott Nelson: Okay. And then those surgeries that go on right now, are they fairly invasive? And we’ll talk a little bit next about your devices that you manufacture at Intersect, but the surgeries right now, are they pretty invasive then?
Lisa Earnhardt: Yeah, I mean the ENTs over the years, like with most procedures, have continued to introduce new technologies and new techniques to reduce the invasiveness of the procedure. The standard procedure is done endoscopically, so it’s actually called endoscopic sinus surgery, and that uses various surgical tools to remove inflamed tissues and really open up that passageway. You may have heard of the balloon technology that was pioneered by a number of startups in our space as well.
Scott Nelson: Uh-huh.
Lisa Earnhardt: And now the largest company is actually part of J&J. But they basically have been a surgical tool that's been used to open up the cavity. So just another way to do that in a less invasive fashion.
Scott Nelson: Got it. Okay. And you mentioned balloon sinuplasty. Companies like Acclarent that's now owned by J&J, Entellus which is a stand-alone device company, they fall under the balloon sinuplasty. So your device, Propel, maybe you can speak to it right now, how is it different than some of those technologies?
Lisa Earnhardt: Yeah, I mean I would view our technology as very complementary to balloon technology. It really comes down to what we believe is the fundamental cause of chronic sinusitis, and that is inflammation. And so it’s that inflammation that then causes the obstruction. And so with Propel, we’ve got a controlled release of an anti-inflammatory medication, which gets to the root of the issue. What the balloons do, they’re basically mechanically opening up the passageway, which does solve a very important part of the problem, but Propel really takes that next step by delivering drug locally to the sinus tissue where it’s needed.
Scott Nelson: Got it. Okay. And in doing some research in preparation for this interview I pulled out a quote, I think it’s from Dr. J. Dutton, I believe I’m pronouncing his name correctly. He says, I’m somewhat paraphrasing here, but, “The delivery of drugs is an important niche in our field and it’s very important…chronic sinusitis is more of an inflammatory disease than an infectious disease,” which you pointed out there. So a big difference, if I’m hearing it correctly, is the fact that you’re actually delivering drugs versus simply opening up the nasal passages like a balloon would in the vascular world.
Lisa Earnhardt: Yeah, absolutely.
Scott Nelson: Got it. Okay. And speaking of the vascular world, it seems like there is a fairly strong correlation—and I speak to the vascular world just because that tends to be my wheelhouse. I’m more familiar with the vascular space. So just as drug-eluting stents pioneered sort of like a whole new way within the coronary and the vascular space, I mean, we kind of see the same thing for the ENT arena where balloons and maybe stent-like devices won’t just be it, it will be more like somewhat drug-eluting devices like Propel that kind of forge a whole new trail for ways ENT docs can treat this disease?
Lisa Earnhardt: Yeah, it is a great analogy, Scott, to draw upon, is that there's obviously, much like in the cardiology world where the introduction of the various balloons and wires and stents and drug-eluting stents, and the evolution there to a less invasive, more targeted therapy is very similar to what the otolaryngology community is going to with the treatment of chronic sinus disease. So we do see some similarities there. It’s obviously a different therapeutic challenge and a different disease, and there are nuances there that are different, but we do see a sort of a [00:08:28] product being used by the ENT sort of similar to how an interventional cardiologist would treat their patient.
Scott Nelson: Got it. Okay. Very cool. And these procedures right now, like the standard balloon sinuplasty procedure, for example, is that done in an OR setting right now? Is it done more in an interventional suite? And then where would an ENT physician, where would they use like Propel? Would they do that in the same sort of interventional suite or can they use this in like an in-office or in-clinic procedure?
Lisa Earnhardt: Yeah, the majority of patients who are undergoing a sinus procedure have it done in an OR setting, it typically is in the outpatient setting, although the trend is, and what we really believe the future to be, is treating these patients less invasively, more cost effectively, in the office setting, and the balloon companies have a small portion of their business today in volume is done in the office setting, and we definitely see the sort of future heading there, which provides a really…it’s really a win for everyone involved, right?
Scott Nelson: Right.
Lisa Earnhardt: You know, the patient, the physician who can offer something right there on the spot, and then ultimately the healthcare system in that it is cost-saving, it definitely provides economic value as well as clinical value.
Scott Nelson: Right, right. Yeah. To your point, it seems like everyone wins, and we’ve certainly seen a large number of interventionalists, whether it’s in intervention cardiologist or a vascular surgeon, set up their own physician-owned labs where they can in essence treat peripheral arterial disease in an outpatient setting. Sounds like something that we may see the same thing for ENT positions where they can begin to treat this disease state in their clinic or in maybe like a physician-owned lab. And like you just said, it’s cheaper for the insurance companies, it’s better for the patients, the physicians win as well because it’s more convenient, etc. So that's interesting. So in regard to that treatment of in the hospital versus in the clinic, what does the reimbursement look like for devices like propel currently?
Lisa Earnhardt: Yeah, so Propel is used in conjunction with sinus surgery, so it’s really treated as a supply or probably more specifically as an implant, as part of the overall sinus surgery.
Scott Nelson: Okay.
Lisa Earnhardt: Obviously, the reimbursement structure varies for each hospital and patient/payer contract, but sinus surgery is typically reimbursed as an outpatient procedure.
Scott Nelson: Okay. Okay. So am I understanding this correctly? Where someone potentially could…an ENT position could potentially open up the nasal passageway with balloon sinuplasty and then insert the Propel, and we’ll get into this, Propel mini, I’m not entirely sure what the difference is between the two devices, but basically then insert Propel, and then that is then sort of bio-absorbable?
Lisa Earnhardt: Yeah, absolutely. So that's a very common way in which our product is used. And Propel, just to comment a little bit about that, has been proven to improve the outcomes of sinus surgery, so we’re really starting first with that patient population and trying to focus on the benefits we can provide with local drug delivery. So we’ve been able to prove that Propel reduces the need for additional surgical procedures as well as reduces the need for oral steroids, which can have serious side effects. So, obviously for patients it leads to improved quality of life due to reduction of disease occurrence and for the disposition and improves their outcome. So it’s been a great and well-received product by the otolaryngology community.
Scott Nelson: Got it. And before I get into maybe some of the challenges that you’ve seen, because it seems like a phenomenal idea and a phenomenal device, before I get into some of the challenges to adoption, the regulatory pathway, is it because you’re actually releasing…because Propel, I should say, is actually releasing a drug, was the regulatory pathway more challenging then with kind of the device/drug combination versus just a stand-alone device?
Lisa Earnhardt: Absolutely. We are a combination product, so we work with not only CDRH but [00:12:48] as part of the FDA, and there's also a third division there, which is the Office of Combination Products. So we feel a lot of love from the FDA here. And Propel and Propel mini were both approved via the PMA process.
Scott Nelson: Okay. Okay. Got it. So back to the challenges, you’ve obviously explained the benefits, which there seem to be a lot of benefits, as you say, to the device. So far, what have been some of the bigger challenges to adoption within the ENT physician community?
Lisa Earnhardt: Yeah, I think, first of all, I would say that the reception from the ENT community in general has been quite positive, including the major societies. I think one of the reasons because of that is that we know that the ENT physician is really looking for clinical data to support new technologies, and I do think that's where Intersect ENT has been unique in that Propel is the only medical device that's used in sinus surgery that's been backed by Level Ia clinical evidence. And so between the clinical data, the fact that the product really is intuitive…physicians obviously, you want your sinuses open and you want the inflammation to be minimal. And so they have been trying for years to get steroids to the patient’s sinuses locally to no avail, and so basically we just gave them what they needed.
So there have been challenges as there always will be when we’re a new product, we’re a new company, and so working with the various physicians and the hospitals, there’s a lot of startup work that needs to be done, but generally we were thrilled with the rapid adoption and acceptance of the technology in the medical community.
Scott Nelson: Okay. And then prior to this, as I mentioned before, you spent a lot of time with Guidant, a lot of your experience is in kind of the cardiovascular arena, how do ENT physicians compare to cardiologists and vascular surgeons? Are there similarities? Are there major differences? Can you speak to that a little?
Lisa Earnhardt: Yeah, I mean, they tend to be a more conservative specialty in general. I do think they try to first address patient symptoms and disease medically. But I would also say that prior to the balloon technology and really all the innovative surgical techniques and tools that Medtronic released with the microdebrider and other surgical tools that they have introduced, there really hasn’t been a lot of new technologies in this space. And so unlike with cardiology, for example, where there has been a lot of investment and focus by in particular the big med tech companies, the otolaryngology community really hasn’t had that, and so it’s been [00:15:45] an underserved market. And so I do think while they tend to be more conservative, they’re really appreciative and receptive to working with us in advancing patient care.
Scott Nelson: Got it. Okay. Very interesting. And I would think that startups, I mentioned Got it. Okay. Very interesting. And I would think that startups, I mentioned Acclarent for example, correct me if I’m wrong but I think they blazed a decent little trail in regard to balloon sinuplasty. That probably helped ENT physicians maybe become a little bit more accustomed to a lot of focus from industry?
Lisa Earnhardt: Yeah, absolutely. Acclarent in a number of ways blazed the trail for us and many others, and we’re appreciative of the work that they did do and have been able to learn from them as well.
Scott Nelson: Got it. Got it. And I want to ask you a few more questions in regard to the topic at hand before we get into some questions about some of the trends and headwinds that are facing the medical device industry right now. But before we get there, commercialization. You mentioned that Propel and Propel mini, you have a PMA for both devices. From the commercialization standpoint, are you utilizing a direct sales force, indirect sales force? What does that look like, here in the US anyway?
Lisa Earnhardt: Yeah, we decided to move forward with a direct sales force. It’s so important for us especially early on as a small company to develop a strong partnership and understanding of the physicians and how they see our product being used. And so we have hired a sales force. We actually started in a very focused fashion in six markets, really driving traction, developing that recipe for success. And based on that, we had made the decision to move forward with an expansion, and so that's the stage we’re in right now. I think we have about 20 folks out in the field here in the US today.
Scott Nelson: Okay. And are you currently expanding your sales force then?
Lisa Earnhardt: Yes, absolutely. We’ve just added quite a number and we do plan to periodically continue to add a wave of representatives as the business dictates.
Scott Nelson: So not all is doom and gloom in the world of medical devices. You heard it here first. A medical device company is actually expanding their sales force. [Laughs]
Lisa Earnhardt: Yeah. Yeah. We’re thrilled to be in this position and I realize it’s not common, and we’ve had pretty significant growth as a business and it’s fun to be in the high-growth scaling mode, because I know there's a different world out there today.
Scott Nelson: Oh yeah, no doubt, and it certainly helps that your devices, Propel and Propel mini, fall under the novel sort of therapy. So, I mean, that certainly helps in terms of justification for a larger sales force. So, very cool. So, a couple of last questions here. I recently noticed that Cook is getting into the ENT space. That's interesting. If you maybe can make a comment about that. And then also, what’s next for Intersect in terms of maybe an exit strategy, or is an actually public offering sort of potentially a possibility as well?
Lisa Earnhardt: Yes, I think in terms of Cook, I mean I think it’s always exciting to hear of yet another company who sees the growth potential of focusing on solutions for ENT physicians and their patients, so we view that as a very good thing. The more the merrier at this stage.
Scott Nelson: Mm-hmm.
Lisa Earnhardt: In terms of next for Intersect, first and foremost, it’s continuing to drive innovation, so we’ve just started a significant clinical program. It’s called RESOLVE, and it’s an in-office solution for patients with recurrent sinus obstruction. Once again, this is a less invasive, more cost-effective solution, which really will provide a very important treatment alternative for physicians, for patients, for the healthcare system. It’s one of those truly win-win-win.
And then, in terms of what’s next, whether it’s an M&A, whether it’s an IPO, I’m sure your crystal ball is as good as mine. We’re fortunate to be in a position where we’re well-funded. We don’t need to seek additional funding, so our focus today is really building a stand-alone business that will deliver meaningful value for our shareholder as well, creating meaningful innovation for our physician customers and patients. So the majority of medical device exits are via an acquisition, and that said we’re hopeful a couple of years from now there will be an IPO market for med devices and that we could be a potential candidate.
Scott Nelson: Yeah, very good. And while we’re not that subject, this provides a little bit of a nice segue into some of the headwinds that the med tech industry is currently facing. M&A activity versus the public market through an IPO, do you see maybe that market opening back up in two to three years? What’s your take on that?
Lisa Earnhardt: It’s always been about two to three years out in my mind for the last five years. [Laughs]
Scott Nelson: [Laughs]
Lisa Earnhardt: So my crystal ball has been very foggy there.
Scott Nelson: Yeah.
Lisa Earnhardt: You know, I think that there has been a dearth of companies that have been able to make it happen, and those that have gone public have been, I would say, so-so. That said, there are a number of companies that have gotten to the commercial stage that are on the process of doing some meaningful things and really developing important businesses that investors will want to have the opportunity to put their money into.
Scott Nelson: Mm-hmm.
Lisa Earnhardt: So we’ll see what happens. I’m hopeful that the worst is behind us.
Scott Nelson: Right, right. And I share that same hope, and in fact I recently heard a comment from a venture capitalist that focus is just on like consumer tech, and I think it was actually at some sort of like hackathon or something along those lines where it was actually a healthcare startup that pitched these VCs. And I think this particular VC guy said something along the lines of, “It’s nice to see that you’re actually developing something that's worthwhile and not just another app for food or for restaurants [laughs] or something like that.
Lisa Earnhardt: Yup.
Scott Nelson: And so I mean it’s always refreshing to hear someone else’s comments about that, the possibility of the public market opening back up for med tech companies. So with that said though, you had a large strategic recently participate in a recent round of financing. How important is it right now that large strategics seem to be—and when I say large strategics, the Covidiens, the J&Js, Boston Scis, Medtronics of the world—how important is it for them to be participating in these rounds as sort of a bridge between early stage series A and maybe later stage series C, series D rounds?
Lisa Earnhardt: Yeah, I think the strategics have provided a critically important source of capital the last couple of years, especially given how the healthcare VCs I would say have taken pause and [00:23:08] scratched their heads, some of them, about the current state of the state. And I think in terms of the future of the medical device industry, it’s been [00:23:16] important to maintain innovation and continuing to advance patient care. And without the strategic investments that they’ve made, I think it would clearly impact how we would be able to as an industry improve patient outcomes and how we move the needle [00:23:33] healthcare delivery. So, I’m so appreciative of the investment we have in Medtronic. It came in just the right time and they’ve been a fantastic partner for us. They obviously are the sort of leader in the ENT space and have a ton of experience to bear, so we’re fortunate and appreciative.
Scott Nelson: Got it. And in your experience, and I don’t expect you to speak on behalf of Medtronic at all, but are you seeing that most large strategics are viewing their venture arms in sort of autonomous way, it’s a separate entity, or are they playing more of a strategic role and seeing some of these investments as future tuck-in acquisitions?
Lisa Earnhardt: Yeah, I think it varies differently depending on the strategic and the role [00:24:22] on their VC plays. I think right now, given some of the challenges that sort of the big strategics are facing in some of the markets that they’re in, which I would say is probably at best sluggish, they’re keenly interested in identifying new avenues for growth, and some of the innovative companies like Intersect could be very interesting for them in the future.
Scott Nelson: Got it.
Lisa Earnhardt: And so having a [00:24:48], there's no question that's of value to them.
Scott Nelson: Got it. Cool. Let's transition to the 2.3 medical device tax. I think everyone that would be listening to this interview is familiar with this device tax and the fact that it’s top-line in nature. Being that you’re leading a startup device company, what is your opinion of the tax? We’ll start there and see where that leads us. [Laughs]
Lisa Earnhardt: Yeah, well, it’s funny, I just had a meeting yesterday with Congressman Ron Kind. He is the Chair of the House Ways and Means Committee, a member of that, actually, and has been a really instrumental supporter of repeal of the medical device tax. So I just recently spent some time talking about that. I think the long to short of it is that medical device excise tax is really short-sighted. I do think there are dramatic unintended consequences of the tax that clearly were not thought through in its creation. I do think it’s impact is certainly magnified by the tough financing environment that we’re all facing. I mean, capital is scarce. Pursuing innovation costs money. If we’re spending money to the device tax, we’re not spending it towards improving patient care.
Scott Nelson: Mm-hmm.
Lisa Earnhardt: So I’ve always thought like at a minimum, companies that aren’t [00:26:12] crossable or companies with less than 100 million dollars or whatever that threshold is defined as should be excluded from the tax, which I think is going to be really important to provide that relief to keep the med tech engine going in the US [00:26:26] headwinds, and this is just, you know, you would hate for this to be the straw that broke the camel’s back.
Scott Nelson: Right, right. It probably couldn’t have come at a worse time.
Lisa Earnhardt: Yeah.
Scott Nelson: And to your point, I mean, the fact that it’s top-line in nature, I have failed to come across a good rationale for that. It’s hard to wrap your mind about how that makes any sense, the fact that it’s top-line in nature.
Lisa Earnhardt: Yeah. Yeah. Top-line [00:26:52] versus profits, you know…
Scott Nelson: Yeah.
Lisa Earnhardt: Yeah. Anyway, that's my perspective. So we could go on and on [00:26:59] I have a little passion around that.
Scott Nelson: Yeah, and it’s nice to see, I know we mentioned Cook earlier, I mean I actually did an interview maybe about a year ago with Steve Ferguson really about just the device tax overall, and it’s nice to see that they’ve been very vocal, but it’s also good to see now that like companies like Medtronic are beginning to get a little bit more vocal about the potential negative consequences of the device tax if at the very least it’s not sort of reformed or reiterated somehow. So that's definitely nice to see.
So we don’t have a lot of time left. I wanted to ask you one more question, and then before I ask you kind of a final question about your background. But we’ve talked a lot about headwinds, from longer regulatory runways, more expensive regulatory timelines, lower reimbursement seems to be a consistent trend, in your opinion, are there certain things that med tech companies can do, maybe more so early-stage med tech companies can do, to sort of face these headwinds? As a thought to coincide with that question, we talked about direct versus indirect sales forces. Is that maybe a trend that you’ll see, is more companies utilizing indirect sales forces as a way to kind of face the headwinds, or what other ideas have you thought about in trying to grow at a time when it’s rather challenging for the medical device community?
Lisa Earnhardt: Yeah, and that's probably the million-dollar question right now around the valley of [00:28:37] with my peers, is how do you make it happen and how do we actually get innovation into the hands of physicians?
Scott Nelson: Mm-hmm.
Lisa Earnhardt: I think first and foremost is early-stage has really taken a page from some of the social media and other startups that we see around us, is bootstrapping, you know, how do you do more with less and be as capital-efficient early on to de-risk it before you put significant capital into a project? So I think that's kind of becoming more of a norm as well as looking for alternative sources of financing, and so lots of talk about nondiluted ways to finance, angel funding, those types of things, just to get something off the ground.
Scott Nelson: Mm-hmm.
Lisa Earnhardt: Because I don’t think VCs are… There aren’t that many VCs who are really looking at doing series A investments that early-stage at this point, and so finding another way to move it along the pipeline can be incredibly important for all of us. And I think about our futures and as our healthcare needs increase, you want to make sure we’re all benefitting from sort of the best that the world can offer.
Scott Nelson: Yeah, that’s interesting to hear that you’re obviously leading a startup device company and that you’re having a lot of those sort of sidebar conversations on how do we do more with less and what are the practical ideas to sort of execute on some of this, or execute on that philosophy anyway. So, that's interesting. So we’re almost at the kind of the end of our time here, so Lisa, looking back at your successful device career, and I always like to kind of conclude these interviews like this, but looking back, are there one or two things that stand out that you wish you knew back then that you now have since learned?
Lisa Earnhardt: Yeah, that list could be pretty long. [Laughs]
Scott Nelson: [Laughs]
Lisa Earnhardt: I’m kidding. You know, the ones that I think about, and this is just more for me personally, is [00:30:44] I thought sort of throughout my career I’ve often been the youngest person in the room, the only woman in the room, and I think quite honestly it was super-challenging for me early on in terms of being sort of the odd man out, and it was challenging for me to speak up, to find my voice, and I think if I look back at that, I should have realized I was there for a reason, and it wasn’t because I was a woman. It was because I’m capable and the fact that I can help solve problems and add value.
Scott Nelson: Mm-hmm.
Lisa Earnhardt: And so I think if I look back at my career I’m wishing I would have realized that earlier on, is to find my voice and to speak up and contribute in a really meaningful fashion. So I fortunately have gotten to that point at this point in my career, but there's always the early stage where you’re wondering, “Oh boy, am I really as good as the person next to me?” and “Why am I here?” And I know now why I’m here. I’ve got a lot of things to add.
Scott Nelson: Yeah. No, that's great stuff. You realize maybe that the message is, for those ambitious folks in the device field, whether you’re a young female or a young male, to realize that you belong in some of those rooms. [Laughs]
Lisa Earnhardt: Yeah, exactly. And it’s intimidating. I mean, there are amazing people who have done such incredible things in medical technology and I’ve benefitted incredibly from a number of them, and in my team I feel like I stand on the shoulders of them. But they’re intimidating. There are some incredibly bright, very capable, very accomplished folks, but at the end of the day you’re all trying to do the same thing, which is create value for physicians and patients and improve healthcare. And so staying focused on that common mission [00:32:26] fall into place.
Scott Nelson: Good stuff. That's a great way to conclude this interview. So for those listening that want to either learn more about you, Lisa, to learn more about Intersect ENT, where would you like to direct them?
Lisa Earnhardt: Yeah, you’re welcome to reach out to me. We have a website, first of all, www.propelopens.com, and then feel free to reach out to me directly either via the website or just via email@example.com. I’m happy to talk more offline.
Scott Nelson: That's very kind of you to leave your email. And for those of you listening, if you’ve gotten something out of this interview or if you’re young and ambitious and want to shoot Lisa an email, you need to email me and let me know how that went, because I’m always interested to find out what you’ve learned from, as I said earlier, proven and experienced med tech leaders like Lisa. So thanks a ton for doing the interview, Lisa. Really appreciate it. And I’ll just repeat it, you said the website was propelopen, P-R-O-P-EL—O-P-E-N-S?
Lisa Earnhardt: Yes.
Scott Nelson: Propelopens.com, so check it out if you want to learn a little bit more about Propel and Intersect ENT. So, very cool. Lisa, I’ll have you hold on the line real quick, but thanks a ton for listening folks. And again, if you’re listening to this online, feel free to download, or subscribe I should say, to the free Medsider podcast. Just do an iTunes search for Medsider, M-E-D-S-I-D-E-R. The podcast will come up. Subscribe for free, that way all the new interviews will automatically download to your iTunes account, and so you can consume these interviews in a number of different ways. So thanks everyone for listening, and until the next episode. Take care.
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More About Lisa Earnhardt
Lisa Earnhardt is the President and CEO of Intersect ENT. Prior to joining Intersect ENT, Lisa was the President of Boston Scientific’s Cardiac Surgery division, where she played an instrumental role in the sale of that business to the Getinge Group in January 2008 (now known as Maquet Cardiovascular). Previously, Lisa held a variety of sales and marketing positions of increasing responsibility at Guidant. She has extensive experience with global product launches and driving adoption of new technologies including implantable cardiac defibrillators, endoscopic vessel harvesting, surgical ablation and beating heart bypass surgery. Lisa holds an MBA from Northwestern’s Kellogg School of Management and a BS in Industrial Engineering from Stanford University. She serves on the boards of Intersect ENT, Kensey Nash Corporation (Nasdaq: KNSY), and the Kellogg Alumni Council and is a member of the Young Presidents’ Organization (YPO).