A Florida dermatologist and avid entrepreneur says more physicians should realize that medical practice and entrepreneurship can be a great fit.
Even as a youngster at age 8, Steven Hacker, MD, had an entrepreneurial spirit. The published and practicing dermatologist remembers telling his parents even then that he was going to become a doctor.
“I was pretty focused and pretty driven,” Hacker recalls.
So focused that he was accepted to medical school at age 17, part of an accelerated program that had him taking medical classes by his third year of college.
But at one point he changed his focus, shifting from gastroenterology to dermatology, and attributed the shift to his personality.
“It was the chronic nature of [gastroenterology] diseases,” Hacker says. “And my personality is such that I like to see a problem fixed, mostly as it relates to doing things surgically. And I’m a very visual person, so dermatology was right up my alley.”
Passion for Entrepreneurship
Hacker says much of his entrepreneurial spirit comes from his father who was often in and out of different businesses. That fostered an awareness in Hacker of always watching for other business opportunities. And that first opportunity came in 1996 when he founded Skinstore.com.
“I founded Skinstore.com out of a small office in my office,” Hacker says. “It was one of the first, if not the first, online skincare company for dermatologist-recommended non-prescription products, called cosmeceuticals. It grew to become one of the largest online skincare companies around.”
So large and successful that it was eventually bought by Walgreen’s.
Hacker’s next venture came in 2005 when he founded PassportMD, a cloud personal health record that was a precursor to the ensuing electronic health record craze.
“What started me doing that was just some frustration with sharing medical records for my father when he was on a cruise and got sick,” Hacker recalls. “I had to communicate with the onboard surgeon to let him know what was done prior to him leaving. Nobody had any clue.”
The product started as a tiny wallet-sized device that quickly evolved into a cloud-based solution that could be accessed anywhere. Hacker felt the target audience was seniors, or the adult children of seniors, who wanted to make sure their parents could share their medical records with their doctors.
“Snowbirds who are living in Florida half the time and in New York half the time, they have to go back and forth for their care,” Hacker says.
The software Hacker developed was so good, the product so promising, that Medicare chose it as part of their pilot program for personal health records. That, Hacker recalls, was a big deal.
“That’s what changed everything,” he says. “As soon as Medicare chose us as their pilot program, we became validated.”
But there were struggles, brought about mainly when the stock market crashed in 2008. Hacker says the company had to weather a lot of funding challenges. But he just chalks it up to another example of the wild ups and downs an entrepreneur can go through.
The company was eventually sold to MediConnect in 2010.
Hacker’s most recent venture started with a book published in 2011, “The Medical Entrepreneur,” which is now in its third edition. His message to readers is that they can still be a caring physician but also be an entrepreneur.
“That seems like two opposing viewpoints,” Hacker says. “But I believe you can do it. I know I did it.”
From that Hacker started a weekend symposium to provide much more intense entrepreneurial-related education to physicians.
“We made entrepreneurship an academic exercise,” he says.
And Hacker walked the walk. In the following four years he patented five different surgical devices relating to improving safety in medicine. He decided that, “this is pretty cool,” and set out to teach physicians how to take their own ideas and get them patented. That’s when Confirmatio was born. The name is Latin for verification or proof.
The website describes it as “a company with a dermatology focused IP portfolio of both patents and patent pending FDA exempt ideas and creations in various evolutionary stages: From sketch to prototype to testing to licensing for use in the field of dermatology.”
“I think doctors are a very creative bunch, and constantly thinking of ways to solve problems,” Hacker says. “We teach them how to take their idea, get it patented, and go commercial with it.”
Not only does Hacker like inventing, he also likes building—as in model railroad train building. He’s currently creating a replica of the route traveled by the California Zephyr, a diesel locomotive launched in 1940. Hacker calls it “a very cool train” that ran from San Francisco, through Denver, and on to Chicago.
“It’s called an N Scale train,” Hacker explains. “Very small, and very detailed. Trying to recreate that whole experiencer and route on a model train is really cool. I love the old stuff.”
Hacker says his “other hobby” is writing, and is in the process of completing his first novel, which he says took him five years to write.
“It has been a whole other experience that I wanted to put on my bucket list of things to do before I die,” Hacker explains of the story that focuses on medicine in Nazi Germany. “I wanted to complete a novel that I could give to my kids to read. So I’m looking forward to publishing that.”
And then, no doubt, Hacker will move on to something new.