Investing In People: An Insider's View Of Medtech Philanthropy

Source: Med Device Online

By Ed Biller


Marissa Fayer is a woman on a mission.

A 15-year veteran of the medical device industry, working in offshore operations and project management for integration and implementation projects, her focus now has shifted to consulting and philanthropy. In the past 18 months, Fayer has launched a consulting business (Fayer Consulting LLC), a health and wellness business (Arbonne International), and a non-profit (HERHealthEQ) dedicated to empowering women and girls through promotion of health and gender equality.

Specifically, HERHealthEQ aims to provide medical devices and equipment to small regions in developing nations, as well as establish programs providing access to education and healthcare. In fund-raising, wooing corporate partners, and soliciting equipment donations, Fayer is tasked with convincing OEMs that charitable efforts lead to more positives than just good PR.

Med Device Online recently discussed with her the benefits of medtech philanthropy, as well as the nuts and bolts that enable it to make sense for both communities and manufacturers.

1) Developing nations / emerging markets seem to present medtech with ideal opportunities for both philanthropy and expansion. How do you marry the two initiatives?

Business and philanthropy are natural partners that create opportunity and advancement in developing countries. Through the development of businesses, which creates economic and educational opportunities, both medtechs and the employees supporting the industry flourish. Corporate social responsibility, which encourages companies to “give back” to the areas in which they work, are a cornerstone of modern medtech development that is gaining popularity.  

For me, personally, the two are intertwined. Businesses support many of the opportunities and allow for connections to be made that further HERHealthEQ’s mission and outreach. Further, medtech’s reach in developing countries brings me physically into areas that stand to benefit from corporate outreach, providing the vision and the impetus to develop opportunities that help the communities in which we work – something we all profit from. 

2) Medtech is moving toward healthcare equality; value-based care, built on affordable solutions, seems well-positioned to succeed in emerging and developing markets. What further incentive can HERHealthEQ (and similar initiatives) provide?

I absolutely agree that healthcare is trending in that direction, and it is an appropriate and sustainable model for developing countries. But, the concerning part of value-based care is that it is centered around population hubs. While that concentration makes sense, it often overlooks more remote and rural regions, where local clinics/hospitals are staffed with medical professionals, but lack the equipment necessary to provide equivalent healthcare to that provided in larger population centers. 

HERHealthEQ aims to provide those remote clinics/hospitals with the required equipment to improve the healthcare available to women and girls, bringing it to a level equal to the population hubs. As medtechs move into each of the developing countries, their need for a healthy workforce becomes more apparent and, working together with the medtechs and the government, HERHealthEQ and like-minded organizations can bridge that divide.

3) Medtech has been establishing global training centers in emerging market locales, including India and Singapore. To take advantage of these opportunities, local communities must provide a strong STEM education. What initiatives has HERHealthEQ planned (or would like to see achieved) in that realm?

As a woman engineer, I know that STEM based education is the cornerstone for development. HERHealthEQ plans to partner with local organizations that provide education in the areas where we plan to work, ensuring that — at a minimum — girls attend school until 16 years old. Additionally, HERHealthEQ supports outreach programs developed to explain the importance of women’s health, recognize the value women provide to their families and their communities, and create opportunities for job training and entrepreneurship. 

Local organizations understand the local cultural norms, and their involvement leads to higher rates of inclusion and adoption among these programs. We have the opportunity, and the responsibility, to provide education and healthcare that enables women to break the cycle of poverty within one generation. 

4) Working toward gender equality for women in medtech, ensuring that women have equal access to healthcare everywhere, and providing female-specific healthcare resources — how does HerHealthEQ narrow its focus?

Narrowing the focus is actually quite hard, but they are all intertwined. When you are trying to help develop and equalize the world, you have to narrow the focus, especially in the beginning. 

Regarding women in medtech and female-specific healthcare resources, we are fortunate in that select developing nations often are more progressive with respect for women’s education. Women have learning opportunities and are viewed — more often than not — as the preferred workforce, due to their dedication, quality, ethics, and ability. There are increasingly more women engineers, doctors, and nurses coming out of universities in many developing nations than ever before. That’s not to say there isn’t progress yet to be made, even in the U.S., but it’s a good start. 

That said, to successfully launch a non-profit, there needs to be focus. Due to my background, what I have worked on throughout my career, and the countries I’ve been to, our focus (for now) is to ensure that women and girls have access to healthcare. 

5) Non-profits and companies promoting corporate responsibility must be very cognizant of costs. HERHealthEQ minimizes overhead by leaning on a staff of two – CEO Marissa Fayer and President Cristina Cannon. How is the work achieved?

We (Fayer and Cannon) both play to our backgrounds and specialties, and work on this startup non-profit alongside our other work commitments.  I handle much of the planning, strategic medtech work, connections, and logistics. Cristina is the finance brain and handles fundraising, which is imperative for a non-profit.  We also have a virtual assistant who helps us with research, partner collaborations, preparing for our first annual fundraising gala, and other outreach. 

The board (of directors) also is a huge source of knowledge, volunteering their time and expertise to guide HERHealthEQ in the right direction. As we grow and our needs dictate, we will bring on other professionals and experts from the NGO space, regulatory, finance, medical, and legal professions. 

6) You wrote on the merits of philanthropy in a recent MDO column. Can you further elaborate on the benefits, to companies, resultant of corporate responsibility?

Philanthropy for companies is almost a no-brainer, and it’s becoming more of a cultural norm than the exception, especially as employees are demanding more ethically grounded companies. In addition to the financial implications and positive community impact, there are significant benefits that are less tangible.

Employee morale and retention is increased working for a company whose philanthropic mission they align with. Philanthropy also creates “free” PR for your company, and creates brand awareness without direct advertising, which in certain cases is more successful than paid advertising. One example of a company that has benefited from this dynamic is TOMS Shoes. TOMS Shoes has shown that, all things being equal, consumers would rather spend money supporting an ethical company that gives back to the community than one focused solely on profits. 

The benefits of a company donating equipment — still-functional technology or tools stored away as surplus or otherwise written off — go above and beyond the financial implications. The donating company builds a genuine “feel-good” appeal while helping deserving communities that otherwise would not have been exposed to their incredible technologies.  It’s a win-win, in my opinion, and the reason I started HERHealthEQ.

7) Describe the work HERHealthEQ currently is doing in Panama and Jamaica.

As a start-up non-profit, we are now assembling the board, raising seed-funding, and working to execute the first two projects, located in Panama and Jamaica, and designed to create a sustainable and expandable platform for the future. We are providing clinics with the equipment necessary to resolve their top three medical issues associated with women’s health, as identified by the government and by the doctors working with our group in that area. These top issues vary from location to location, and can include cervical cancer, detection of healthy pregnancies, breast cancer, fistulas, and the detection of post-partum hemorrhage issues.  Working with the local teams allows our approach to be more targeted and impactful.