“I learnt a lot about leadership, delegation, and how to develop an idea.”
What is the relationship between the entrepreneurial and medical worlds? In 2019, Sophia Hodgkinson joined the European Innovation Academy in Turin to find the answer to this question.
The third-year medical student wanted to understand how to develop her startup idea and use her experience to create a positive impact on our society.
1. Hi Sophia, can you tell us a little bit of yourself?
I’m a medical student, Director of Health Policy at the European Medical Students’ Association, and Founder and CEO of Omnes Education—a startup with a focus on fighting for equity of opportunity.
Throughout secondary school, I was part of a rowing club as both a rower and coxswain, which taught me to adjust to the required dynamics of a team. I speak two languages fluently and four more in different degrees of proficiency.
My desire to understand society and different cultures is reflected in my decision to move to Italy for my medical degree as well as my choices to participate in international experiences and independent traveling.
2. What made you interested in the European Innovation Academy?
My background is quite different from most of the participants at EIA. As a medical student, I had no idea about the possibility of integrating my degree with something as different as entrepreneurship.
I am a very creative person who is truly motivated to make an impact on our society, which I do by actively participating in carrying out change.
When I decided to tackle a problem I faced personally—a lack of resources to prepare for an entrance exam to study medicine in Italy—I formed a team with whom I wrote a book describing the pitfalls in the process and how to avoid them.
During the process of writing this one book, we realised there was more to talk about, so this turned into two, then three, and now five books. These books inspired EdTech projects to support the medical student experience in various forms, one of which is the platform idea I brought to EIA, something we are still working on bringing to fruition.
3. How was your EIA experience?
This was the first time I participated in a hands-on program with such ambitious goals.
Since I came in with an idea, my initial approach was completely different from what I needed to have in order to succeed in leading the team as well as turning the project into reality. The fast way in which we formed our team meant that the choices I made were based on instinct, which of course, at points, resulted in some issues.
I was really proud of where the team was at the end of the programme, despite all of our challenges. I learnt a lot about leadership, delegation, and how to develop an idea.
I really loved the diversity of speakers, the exposure we had to so many different minds in the same space, and the pace of the programme (as well as the intensity of work required from us). It was all very immersive and I loved every single moment.
5. What happened after the program?
The team I worked with was from a different part of the world, so we didn’t manage to continue with the project.
I carried on, as usual, developing more projects with my existing team of around 20 people from different areas. It was really refreshing to bring back a new perspective from my experience at the programme, which actually helped make our company energy more dynamic and efficient.
In the last few months, however, I reconnected with some EIA members. We had a lot of interesting and stimulating discussions, and formed strong friendships over dinners and parties, all with plans to change the world.
I was chosen as one of the 100 global participants to attend the BusinessToday International Conference in NYC, an amazing, fully sponsored experience where you are exposed to incredible minds, speakers, and participants.
This opportunity was advertised on the EIA Alumni page, so my advice is to keep an eye on the page after the programme.
6. What’s going on in your life at the moment?
I’m currently preparing a TEDX talk that I will be giving in Lisbon, which is one of the most exciting and intimidating experiences I will be undertaking in the next few months.
The programme really helped me develop a thought process regarding education and how I feel I can influence the reform, which led me to share my ideas with the TEDX team, thankfully well enough that they want me there in the next edition.
Having recently been accepted into the Health Policy Directorship at the European Medical Students’ Association, I am having to do a lot of reading about many topics that interest me from the perspective of entrepreneurship, which is wonderful. Reading about digital health as well as the impact data collection, analysis, and distribution will have on various sectors, including healthcare and education, is allowing me to form new ideas and directions I want to take in the future as a professional.
Within Omnes, we have many projects going on at the same time, which allows continuous growth of all members, as each person has a slightly different interest and idea of what they want to do within the company.
Currently, I have other projects focusing on empowering young women and other underrepresented sectors of students. We are also finalising a project in collaboration with a company that developed a clinical skills simulation software to facilitate medical students’ learning.
We’re just about to finish two new books to support students’ application process. In addition, we are working on starting to host courses in various countries to help students go through a focused, intense weekend workshop which would show where their weakness is in terms of preparation for the exam.
EdTech solutions are in development and it’s the area most unfamiliar to us, so at the moment it is moving quite slowly, but I’m sure we will gain speed as we gain experience. Any input and funding is always welcome!
7. Any tips for young women who want to take the first step on the entrepreneurial journey?
When starting off, look to solve a problem you are personally experiencing or have experienced in the past. Oftentimes, your vision may not be entirely clear, so it’s important to take all opportunities that come your way, whether they’re from an internship or lunch with a professional.
Once you gain experience, you will become more selective with your time and opportunities. You’ll also build a focused direction, which will, in turn, create an impact as well as a strong network of support around you.
The EIA is a really worthwhile experience, and you will learn a lot about yourself in addition to various aspects of the entrepreneurial field. I feel it also empowered me to continue connecting with people from across the world who have a similar mindset to me and brought that sparkle to speak in order to change the world right now.
Inspired by Sophia? Find out more stories from EIA participants here.
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