Biodesign Innovation Fellowship

Frequently Asked Questions

Biodesign Innovation Fellowship

Who teaches the Biodesign Innovation Fellowship?

The Biodesign Innovation Fellowship is led by our Fellowship Director, Todd Brinton; Director of Team Dynamics and Learning, Doug Rait; and Assistant Fellowship Directors, James Wall and Dan Azagury. This core team works in collaboration with other members of the Stanford Biodesign faculty in areas such as engineering, health-economic and commercial value, implementation planning, and global opportunities.  Each team is also matched with CEO mentors from the health technology industry – Hanson Gifford, Lisa Earnhardt, Beverly Huss, and Maria Sainz – to help guide their progress. Additionally, dozens of industry leaders in intellectual property, R&D, regulation, clinical trials, reimbursement/payment, business models, marketing, and sales contribute their expertise when it’s most relevant to the fellows’ projects. Together, this community delivers an unprecedented training experience and seeds a lifelong network in the health technology field.

What career paths do the Biodesign Innovation Fellows pursue after the program?

Fellowship alumni pursue a wide variety of careers that include launching health technology start-ups, driving innovation inside major health technology companies, and teaching innovation inside universities. You can read more about the career paths, leadership trajectories, and productivity of our fellows in a recent journal article. To date, many interesting technologies have been invented by our fellows and more than 45 health technology companies have been launched out of the program.

How does the fellowship differ from a traditional master's (or other advanced degree) program?

The Biodesign Innovation Fellowship differs from traditional advanced degree program in many ways. First, the training you receive is highly experiential -- you'll learn primarily by working on your project and interacting with expert mentors rather than sitting in a classroom. Second, the fellowship provides you with an end-to-end view of the early stages of the innovation process. From clinical immersion and needs finding through invention and implementation planning, you'll gain hands-on practice navigating critical risks and opportunities across a broad range of activities. Third, the fellowship is interdisciplinary and team based. You'll learn a tremendous amount from interacting with your peers and honing your teamwork skills. Finally, the skills and connections you build are practical, targeted, and immediately applicable to a career in health technology innovation. At the end of the program, the fellows earn a certificate in Biodesign rather than a traditional diploma or degree.

How many Biodesign Innovation Fellowships are available?

Twelve. Each year, we fill three multidisciplinary teams that include individuals with clinical, engineering, computer science, design, and/or business backgrounds. Each team includes four fellows.

How many applications do you typically receive, and how many people do you interview?

We typically receive more than 150 applications each year and interview approximately 24-30 finalists for the 12 Biodesign Innovation Fellowships that are available.

When is the application deadline?

Please submit your application by August 16, 2018 to be considered for the 2019-2020 Biodesign Innovation Fellowship. 

Important: It is your responsibility to ensure that all application materials are received by the deadline, including all three letters of recommendation (see below for more information). Incomplete applications will not be considered and application fees will not be refunded.

What are the qualifications for selection?

We encourage all US and non-US citizens interested in the program to apply. We are especially interested in applicants with backgrounds in medicine, biosciences, engineering, computer science, product design, or business. Masters, medical, or doctorate degrees are preferred. Many candidates also have relevant experience in the healthcare industry or in research positions. In general, we look for some demonstration of creativity/innovation, which could be in the form of a novel approach in a thesis or class project, an invention, an interesting project at home or in the course of a job, or some other example of fresh thinking.  Above all, we are seeking candidates who have the ambition to become leaders in health technology innovation.

Stanford Biodesign is an equal opportunity employer. We consider all qualified applicants without regard to race, color, national origin, religion, sexual orientation, gender, gender identity, age, or physical disability, and we strongly encourage people of historically underrepresented groups to apply.

What if I don’t have this specific background?

We accept applications from any individuals who have demonstrated exceptional creativity and/or innovation in their professional or academic careers. Candidates without advanced degrees will be considered on an exception basis.

Can I apply if I am not a US citizen and/or do not have a current visa?

Yes. However, if you are chosen as a fellow, your ability to participate will be contingent upon your ability to successfully secure an appropriate visa.

Can I apply a year early?

Yes, applicants who wish to be considered for the 2020-21 fellowship can apply early by completing the application on or before the August 16, 2018 deadline. Early-decision applicants complete the same application as all other applicants but are required to mark the box indicating that they are applying for early decision. Please keep in mind that the threshold for early decision candidates is usually higher than for regular applicants, and these decisions are reserved for top candidates with a compelling reason for why a deferral is needed.

How many letters of recommendation must I have, when are they due, and what should they cover?

Three letters of recommendation are required. We must have all three letters by the application deadline or your application will not be considered. The letters should describe your ability to be creative and innovative, your academic and/or professional achievement, research or projects you've led, and other experience that demonstrates your unique talents and accomplishments.

Important: The requests for letters are automatically generated and sent by our application system when you enter the contact information for your references. In order to give your references adequate time to respond, do not wait until the last day to enter this information into the application. We also encourage you to proactively confirm with your references that they have received the request from our system.

Once written, your references must submit their letter through the online system. We will not accept letters of recommendation delivered via email or the postal service. It is your responsibility to follow up with those whom you have asked to provide the recommendations, and to ensure that the letters are received by the application deadline.

If I am reapplying, do I need to resubmit my application materials and letters of recommendation?

Yes, your application materials and letters of recommendation must be resubmitted. We encourage you to provide us with the most recent information available, highlighting new experiences and accomplishments since you last applied.

What is the application fee?

We charge a $95 non-refundable application fee. If your application is incomplete by the deadline, we are unable to refund your payment.

The application fee is waived for current Stanford University students, fellows, postdoctoral researchers, residents, or staff members.Please contact us by email with your active SUNet ID to have the fee waived.

When are the interviews?

Applicants selected to interview for the 2019-2020 fellowship will interview at Stanford on November 8 and 9, 2018, with an evening welcome reception on November 7. Invitations to interview will be emailed in early October with a request to confirm participation within 24 hours. Candidates will be responsible for providing their own transportation to the interviews. However, those who reside outside of a 75-mile radius of Stanford will be provided with hotel accommodations for the days of the interviews.

When will the finalists be notified about acceptance decisions?

We hope to notify all finalists of our acceptance decisions before the end of the 2018 calendar year.

When does the fellowship start?

The Biodesign Innovation Fellowship begins each year on August 1.

Is the fellowship a full-time commitment?

Yes. The Biodesign Innovation Fellowship is a relatively intense full-time experience. On average, the fellows should expect to work in excess of 40 hours per week. However, the schedule is somewhat flexible at certain points during the year to support a reasonable work/life balance. Moonlighting is not allowed.

Can I take other Stanford courses while completing the Biodesign Innovation Fellowship?

The fellows are typically too busy during the year to complete other Stanford courses. Exceptions are possible in rare cases where a compelling need exists.

Do the Innovation Fellows receive compensation?

Compensation for the Stanford Biodesign Innovation Fellowship is approximately $5,000 per month, plus a $1,000 computer stipend. This amount is enough to cover basic room and board during the fellowship period.

Do the Innovation Fellows receive benefits?

Stanford University health insurance coverage is available for Biodesign Innovation Fellows, spouses, and dependents, if desired. Benefits vary depending on  your appointment category. However, plan include medical, dental, and vision coverage, as well as mental health and maternity/paternity benefits.

I already have a medical device idea I've been working on. Can I continue to develop it during the fellowship?

The goal of the fellowship is to learn the Stanford Biodesign process of innovation from start to finish. Accordingly, we ask that you work on needs and technologies that you and your team identify and invent together as part of the fellowship process.

Can I choose which medical subspecialty I focus on during the fellowship?

No. Each year, Stanford Biodesign selects a different clinical subspecialty as the focus for the fellowship. We believe that by working in an area where they’re not necessarily experts, the fellows are more likely to question existing paradigms and recognize interesting opportunities. To jump-start the process, they begin their training with several weeks of clinical immersion in the chosen subspecialty to observe first-hand how care is delivered in that space.

How are the teams formed?

Once selected, the fellows are assigned to teams by the fellowship directors. Their goals are to ensure a strong mix of medicine, engineering, and business acumen, as well as an effective mix of perspectives, personalities, and other skill sets. Team assignments are announced during the first week of the fellowship.

Who owns the intellectual property for inventions created as part of the Biodesign Innovation Fellowship?

Stanford University own the intellectual property, but we work closely with the Office of Technology Licensing to help translate inventions coming out of the Biodesign Innovation Fellowship, as appropriate.

Am I expected to start a company out of the Biodesign Innovation Fellowship?

Although many fellows do start companies out of the fellowship, this is just one of many different health technology career paths that our fellows take. Other alternatives include catalyzing innovation inside major health technology corporations, teaching and/or leading translational research projects for world-class universities, driving innovation initiatives within academic or private medical centers, or becoming specialists in design, investing, or other aspects of the health technology innovation ecosystem.

How can I learn more about the Biodesign Innovation Fellowship?

Stanford Biodesign hosts two webinars to provide prospective applicants with more information, as well as the opportunity to ask questions. The first will take place on Tuesday, June 12 from 8:00-9:00 am Pacific with Fellowship Director, Todd Brinton. The second will be held on Thursday, July 12 from 5:00-6:00 pm Pacific with a group of Innovation Fellowship alumni. Please RSVP for the webinars on the Program Details page. We will post recordings of the webinars on this page shortly after each one. In the meantime, you may access the recordings from last year's webinars online.

What other ways are there to get involved with Stanford Biodesign?

The best way to get or stay connected with Stanford Biodesign is to attend our events, where you can engage with our faculty, fellows, alumni, and other members of our growing community. To learn more about the biodesign innovation process that we teach in the fellowship, check out our textbook and video library.