Embracing The New, Pursuing A Path Unknown To Affect Change In Healthcare



Jordana Barmish

Associate Director

PCI Ventures

April 2020


Associate Director, PCI Ventures

DPT, Duke University

MBA, Temple University

BSc, McGill University

Jordana Barmish started her healthcare career treating patients with neurological and vestibular conditions as a Doctor of Physical Therapy. She helped patients improve their strength, balance, movement, and functional independence. Now, on a new career path, she promotes patient health as a strategic thinker at the University of Pennsylvania supporting founders in launching innovative healthcare startups. As an Associate Director at Penn Center for Innovation (PCI) Ventures, Jordana partners with University faculty and employees in launching new businesses formed around their healthcare inventions and solutions. She works alongside these founders to create customized development plans to strengthen their business, transform healthcare and remain nimble in a frequently changing economy. She’s transitioned from treating patients via one-on-one clinical care to now supporting leading scientists, clinicians and researchers to meet the needs of millions. Jordana talks with Program Manager, Sharon Mwale, about pursuing new opportunities and putting herself in position to explore and fully embrace a new career.

Talk about a challenging time through which you had to lead –was there a defining moment? Looking back, is there anything you would do differently?

The coronavirus pandemic is one of the most challenging times I’ve ever experienced as a leader. Two key questions that have constantly been on my mind: “how is this impacting my portfolio,” and, “what can I do to make sure they survive?” Newly formed companies in my portfolio won’t be tremendously affected. However, for those in the midst of growing – fundraising, recruiting executives, or acquiring customers – these times are going to be very challenging. During normal circumstances recruiting a CEO is hard; now, with an unstable economy, our typical equity-based compensation package will likely make this task even harder. Additionally, because many of the founders in my portfolio are clinicians and scientists, COVID-19 has placed unprecedented burdens on their labs and clinical work. I’m inspired by their commitment to meet those demands while continuing to make meaningful progress on their businesses, but this is not sustainable for months. As for the companies fundraising, we don’t know yet how anxiety and fear will impact VC investments but we are grateful for increased capital available for innovations relevant to the crisis. We are actively hosting virtual pitches and welcome investor interest in our portfolio.

Given the profile of my portfolio founders, many have been pulled away from their day-to-day to build respirators and work on developing vaccines and medicines to fight COVID-19. With the current situation unfolding in-real time, can’t go back and change things, yet. However, after this pandemic, I’m looking forward to increased funding from the government for healthcare technology solutions, wider coverage and reimbursements for digital therapeutics and more integration of digital health and technology within the healthcare industry.


What is your advice to women and what actionable steps can they take as leaders or aspiring entrepreneurs in the health & tech industries?

One of my hardest tasks working with early-stage startups is recruiting a CEO to spin the company out of the University and lead it as a thriving independent entity. During executive recruitment, more women, than men, express feelings of imposter syndrome and a hesitation to step into a first time CEO role – even with decades of relevant leadership experience. My advice to women: release yourself from untenable expectations. All CEOs have been first time CEOs! Secondly, allow yourself to make mistakes, to learn and to recruit to your team individuals who can fill your expertise gaps. Perfection is not realistic, nor is it achievable. Lastly, get out of your comfort zone. In the entrepreneurial community, it’s to your benefit to have exploratory or informal conversations about your career goals and next steps. It will keep you top of mind when a well-suited position emerges. Our model at PCI Ventures, is friendly for first time CEOs because we actively support our companies and leaders. I would love to see more women put themselves in the running for leadership position and welcome outreach from experienced health and med tech executives interested in learning more!


Looking back at your early career choices and academic pursuits – was becoming an entrepreneur part of your plan?

Becoming an entrepreneur was definitely not part of my plan, but I always felt it was part of my DNA. I didn’t realize it at the time, but as a physical therapist I was constantly innovating to help my patients. For example, while volunteering at Bernard Mevs Hospital in Haiti, I built wheelchair headrests out of cardboard for patients because it was better than nothing. I had to solve problems creatively because resources were limited. While still actively practicing, I had an idea for a company and spent the next year attending as many events, workshops, and lectures as possible to learn more about how to start a business. The pivotal point, however, was when I participated in my first hackathon. This experience opened my eyes to a whole new world and led to my decision to go back full-time to get an MBA. As a student I continued to pursue my idea and being at Temple I had greater access to industry leaders, veteran entrepreneurs, investors and the like, to continue vetting the business idea. Although I ultimately didn’t pursue it, I got introduced to a world that I didn’t want to leave.


Lecky’s Comments:

Now more than ever, we find ourselves in a time where identifying startups whose innovations support revolutionary healthcare solutions is critical. Startups and those who support them, like our featured entrepreneur -who continues to crush- points out so astutely that these entrepreneurs need capital to aid in the development of, as an example, digital healthcare. The uniqueness of Jordana and her program, is doing precisely that. Find the entrepreneur in you, however she shows up.

If you would like to recommend a female entrepreneur in healthcare technology to be featured, we encourage you to contact us.

Contact information:

Sharon Mwale       Program Manager        [email protected]

to our mailing list

Fill in your details and we’ll get back to you in no time.