Biodesign Innovation Fellowship

Frequently Asked Questions

Biodesign Innovation Fellowship

Who teaches the Biodesign Innovation Fellowship?

The Biodesign Innovation Fellowship is led by a team of experienced innovators and entrepreneurs: Director for Education Dan Azagury; Director for Program Development James Wall; Director of Team Dynamics and Learning, Doug Rait; and Assistant Directors, Kate Garrett, Victor McCray, and Sandra Waugh Ruggles. This core group 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, Beverly Huss, Deborah Kilpatrick, 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.

How is the COVID-19 situation affecting the Stanford Biodesign Innovation Fellowship?

We are currently planning for the 2021-22 Innovation Fellowship to begin on August 2, 2021 with a fully in-person model. However, we will continue to watch the COVID-19 situation carefully and will follow all university, local, and state guidelines in making a final determination for this and future fellowship years.

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 this journal article. To date, many interesting technologies have been invented by our fellows and 50 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 150 applications each year and interview approximately 30 finalists for the 12 Biodesign Innovation Fellowships that are available.

When is the application deadline?

The application cycle for the 2022-23 fellowship year will open Friday, May 14 and close on Friday, August 13, 2021. 

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 interested in applicants from diverse backgrounds, including the engineering, science, computer science, product design, business, law, medical or nursing fields. Advanced degrees are preferred. Many candidates also have relevant work experience in the health technology industry or in related research positions.

We look for individuals with strong leadership, problem solving, creativity, teamwork, and communication skills. And, we are seeking candidates who have the ambition to become leaders in health technology innovation.

Stanford Biodesign is an equal opportunity employer. We value diversity and 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. Learn more about our commitment to diversity.

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?

Applicants do not need to be US citizens. We welcome international applicants and will work with you and your family to secure visas and eligibility to work in the US if you are accepted into the Innovation Fellowship. In compliance with federal law, you will be required to verify identity and eligibility to work in the United States upon starting the fellowship. In addition, you may be required to complete the customization phase of the fellowship on the Stanford campus.  

Can I apply a year early?

Yes, applicants who wish to be considered for the 2023-24 fellowship can apply early by completing the application on or before the stated 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.

We encourage you to ask three individuals who you know well, whose opinion you trust, and who wants to see you succeed to write your reference letters. These recommenders must be able to provide specific examples, anecdotes, and evidence of your unique skills and accomplishments. 

Your recommenders will be asked to assess your performance on the skills we’re seeking in the fellowship and to provide a reference letter that addresses the following prompts:

  • How do you know and interact with the applicant?
  • Give a specific example of how the applicant has demonstrated exemplary leadership, problem solving, creativity, teamwork, and/or communication skills in your interactions together.
  • What is the most important constructive feedback that you have given the applicant? How did the applicant respond?
  • Is there anything else that we should know about the applicant?

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 recommendations through the online system. We will not accept letters 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 ensure that the letters are received by the application deadline.

If I am reapplying, do I need to resubmit my application materials and recommendations?

Yes, your application materials and 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 will not refund your payment. Please contact us by email if you are experiencing a financial hardship and would like to request a fee waiver.

Can I visit Stanford Biodesign to learn more?

Unfortunately, due to the number of requests we receive and the importance of maintaining a "level playing field" for all candidates -- including those who reside in other states and countries -- we are not able to accommodate in-person visits. Thank you for your understanding.

When are the interviews?

Applicants selected to interview for the 2022-23 fellowship will interview at Stanford on Thursday, November  4 and Friday, November 5, 2021, with an evening welcome event on Wednesday, November 3. Invitations to interview will be emailed by early October 2021, 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 45-mile radius of Stanford will be provided with hotel accommodations.

When will the finalists be notified about acceptance decisions?

We will notify all finalists of our acceptance decisions before the end of the 2021 calendar year.

When does the fellowship start?

The Biodesign Innovation Fellowship normally begins on August 1.

Is the fellowship a full-time commitment?

Yes. The Stanford Biodesign Innovation Fellowship is a relatively intense full-time experience. 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 2021-22 Stanford Biodesign Innovation Fellowship will be approximately $5,355 per month, plus a one-time $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 dimensions of diversity. 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 owns 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 some 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 Thursday, May 20 from 1:00-2:00 pm Pacific with Director for Program Development James Wall and Assistant Director Sandra Ruggles. The second will be held on Thursday, June 24 from 1:00-2:00 pm Pacific with Assistant Director Sandra Ruggles and 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.