Medicine and business may seem like very different worlds, but Saif Abed (MPhil in Management 2012) is using his expertise in both to drive forward his healthcare IT consultancy.
As medical care grows more hi-tech, there’s increasingly a need for doctors who can operate effectively in the space where healthcare and IT meet. Dr Saif Abed is one of this new breed. His company, AbedGraham Healthcare Strategies, which he co-founded with fellow NHS doctor, Dr Alex Graham, combines their medical know-how with their business expertise. It’s a winning formula.
“We’ve expanded massively over the last 18 months,” says Dr Abed. “We originally thought we’d be working with small to medium UK IT firms. But all our current clients are from the US – including several of the world’s most famous technology companies, which is incredibly exciting.”
Their aim is simple: to be the leading source of knowledge and insight for IT companies who want to expand within the NHS. “We provide both clinical insight and operational knowledge,” Dr Abed explains. “These companies need the insight of doctors and nurses. But they also need our expertise on NHS policies and finding your way around the structures of the NHS.”
That might include advice on how procurement works, insight into policy objectives or ensuring that a product meets the needs of professionals and patients. Dr Abed’s research interests include electronic health records and cloud technology, and enabling companies to bring their innovations to the NHS is a big part of AbedGraham’s remit.
Dr Abed studied medicine at St George’s, University of London where, among other honours, he gained a distinction in clinical practice and received the Henry Charles Johnson Medical Prize in Anatomy. His papers have been published in journals including the British Journal of Ophthalmology and Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery.
He co-founded AbedGraham with Dr Graham in 2011. But they felt that he needed a strong business foundation before taking the company forward. So after spending a year as a junior doctor, Dr Abed studied for his MPhil in Management at Cambridge Judge Business School, graduating in 2013.
“Setting up a company but coming from a non-traditional business background was always going to be a challenge,” he says. “So rather than plunging myself straight in, I needed a way of validating myself. Studying at Cambridge Judge demonstrated to the market that I was someone who had the business insight and knowledge as well as my medical background.”
Of course, there’s a crossover between the two sectors, says Dr Abed. You still need to have excellent communication skills, be mentally organised and be able to multi-task and work well within a team. But doctors transitioning from medicine to business need to recognise that responding to scenarios within a company can be very different from those in the hospital or clinic.
“Fundamentally, medicine is a structured and rigid system,” says Dr Abed. “When you’re faced with a medical emergency – someone has a massive heart attack in the hospital, for example – you have been trained to deal with that emergency and you have a team behind you that knows what to do. But business is much more volatile. You can plan, but the skill in business, I find, is really in dealing with the unexpected as much as it is the expected. That’s where the big difference lies.”
But the unexpected is also about opportunity, and Dr Abed sees plenty of that. Nothing’s off-limits. As well as starting a mentoring scheme for junior doctors and developing networks with the Cambridge tech community, he also wants to get involved on a wider scale.
“We could move in any number of directions,” he says. “I’d like to develop relationships with central government, and eventually I’d like to be involved in investing in IT companies as well. It would be great, for example, to advise the Department of Health on how to maximise returns from technology in the NHS. But at the moment, we could go any number of ways. It’s that dynamic for us. I can only see good things in terms of the scale that we can achieve.”
Saif is interested in hearing from …
… people who have aspirations to enter the IT industry, and doctors looking to make the leap from medicine to business.