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Dr. Suzanne Clough is the Chief Medical Officer at AmalgamRx and Chief Innovation Officer at ArmadaHealth. She received her bachelor’s degree in Biology from James Madison University and her medical degree from the University of Maryland School of Medicine. She completed her residency and an endocrinology fellowship at the University of Maryland Medical System. Afterwards, Suzanne worked as an Endocrinologist within the University of Maryland Medical System, as well as a faculty member and Medical Director for the Center for Weight Management and Wellness at the University of Maryland School of Medicine. Afterwards, she co-founded the mobile health company WellDoc and served as its Chief Medical Officer until 2016 when she began her current endeavors. Suzanne joined us for an interview to share her experiences in life and in her career.
People Behind the Science Podcast Show Notes
Life Outside of Science (2:18)
In her free time, Suzanne revels in the pleasant chaos of her house with her husband, two children, and two dogs. She is also an athlete who enjoys basketball, swimming, and cycling.
The Scientific Side (3:24)
Suzanne is a physician by training, but she has been dedicating her efforts in recent years to investigating the behavioral science and psychosocial aspects of being a patient. She is working to discover what motivates people to engage in their healthcare, what creates barriers, and what can help people build reduce stress and build resilience. Through her companies, Suzanne develops digital health solutions that help people better manage their chronic diseases, improve their healthcare experience, and live happier lives.
A Dose of Motivation (6:44)
“Everything is here for you.” – Byron Katie
What Got You Hooked on Science? (9:24)
Ever since she was young, Suzanne always said she was going to become a doctor. She had a wonderful experience in medical school, as well as her residency and fellowship afterwards. However, in talking to patients with chronic diseases like diabetes, Suzanne was struck by how the medical system approached their care. Everything was retroactive, and there wasn’t any real-time support for medication and disease management. One day in 2004, a colleague came into her office and suggested that they could use cell phones to help patients. They created a prototype that they gave to one of Suzanne’s patients with diabetes. After six months using their prototype, his diabetes had improved dramatically. This patient gave them the seed money that they needed to start their first company. After twelve years of training to fulfill her original dream of becoming a doctor and only two years on the job, Suzanne left to pursue a career creating digital health solutions.
The Low Points: Failures and Challenges (20:58)
As someone striving to bring an evidence-based approach to digital health solutions, working with life science companies can be challenging. For example, there have been instances where the companies pull the plug on projects just as they are nearing completion. Pharmaceutical companies know they have to deliver more than just drugs now, and they are often interested in entering the services industry to show insurance companies that they can improve patient outcomes through diverse solutions. However, the work Suzanne does is so different from what these companies are accustomed to with drug development in terms of research and development cycles, regulatory concerns, content strategies, and other aspects. It can be difficult to see the process through from beginning to end, but now Suzanne and her colleagues are much more particular with who they choose to work with on these joint ventures.
A Shining Success! (23:45)
The BlueStar product they developed at WellDoc was amazing. They were the first to run clinical trials on a mobile application, the first to bring software as a medical device to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for approval, and the first to create a reimbursable, prescribable mobile application. It took them three years to get FDA clearance for their product, but Suzanne is so proud of their journey through this process. It took a lot of perseverance, creativity, and feedback from the people they were working to help, but it has been so rewarding.
Book Recommendations (26:52)
The Untethered Soul by Michael Singer, The Four Agreements: A Practical Guide to Personal Freedom by Don Miguel Ruiz, Loving What Is: Four Questions That Can Change Your Life by Byron Katie
Most Treasured Travel (28:44)
Since Suzanne is balancing family life with traveling for her career, she usually doesn’t get to extend her trips to include sightseeing in the cities she visits. However, one one trip to Barcelona, Suzanne had one free day to take in the architecture and culture. Unfortunately, it was freezing cold and everything was covered in ice. The conditions weren’t ideal for exploring the city at the time, but Suzanne hopes to make it back to Barcelona again soon.
Quirky Traditions and Funny Memories (30:27)
At one point in her career, Suzanne found herself working in a job where she wasn’t excited to get up in the morning and go to work. While she supported the big picture mission she was working towards and the job paid well, the culture wasn’t great and it wasn’t a happy place to work. One day she told her husband that there was a 50/50 chance that she was going to quit her job today. He didn’t think she was serious, but when Suzanne came home from work that day, she proudly announced that she had quit. There are so many excellent opportunities and wonderful people in the world that if you’re not happy with your work, you should make a change.
Advice For Us All (35:32)
Networking is key, and your network is a powerful tool. Through platforms like LinkedIn, Suzanne has connected with other people like her. By contacting people based on their profiles, Suzanne has enjoyed great conversations and uncovered tremendous opportunities, particularly when she was doing consulting prior to launching her companies. Find people who are in an industry or position you think is interesting, and just start talking. Also, try to be fearless. Things work out. Sometimes new things feel comfortable, but if you’re unhappy or if you want to try something new, do it.
Suzanne currently holds leadership positions in two digital health companies AmalgamRx and ArmadaHealth. AmalgamRx works with life sciences companies to build evidence-based digital health solutions for people living with chronic diseases. ArmadaHealth has built a service called SpecialtyCare Connect that helps people find the right medical specialist for them. Suzanne is especially passionate about programs that deliver human-centric, evidence-based clinical and behavioral support to people with chronic disease. She began her career as a practicing endocrinologist in the University of Maryland Health System. As a physician at the Joslin Center for Diabetes at the University of Maryland, Suzanne leveraged her multidisciplinary team to empower her patients to adopt healthier lifestyle behaviors. In her former role as the Founder and Chief Medical Officer of WellDoc, a pioneering digital health technology company, Suzanne oversaw the clinical aspects used in the development of the company’s Web and mobile-based diabetes management platform.