Healthcare commercialization: Overcoming the long hard slog


Healthcare commercialization: Overcoming the long hard slog

It seems to me that no matter who you are, and no matter how eloquent or wise, no one can thrive in isolation. Nor should we try. 

The journey from idea to launch to big $$$$$$$ baby is certainly not a straight line. 

The process of achieving Problem-Solution Fit, Product-Market Fit, and Business Model Fit, critical milestones in the commercialization process, can be best described as a labyrinth. 

A complicated maze of pathways with numerous barriers, some subtle and others quite obvious. 

A lot of the times, the journey looks like this:


This image depicts how circuitous the process of bringing a healthcare innovation to market can be. 

This image depicts how circuitous the process of bringing a healthcare innovation to market can be. 


And a lot of times, you feel like this:


Meme of little girl getting a shot and crying


It really does take a village

No one needs to slog through the labyrinth of healthcare commercialization on their own.

Overcoming the long hard slog of commercialization takes resilience. It requires countless adjustments to difficult and unexpected challenges and demands. Ups. Downs. And all the moments in between. 

You just can’t make it through by yourself. NO ONE is self-made.

Think back to your last success. Maybe you sold your last company with a nice payout. Maybe you landed that whale account you’d been pursuing for years. Or maybe you secured that big fat round of capital after pitching 10,000 investors (Okay, more like 100 but it sure felt like 10,000 pitches).

Who was by your side encouraging you when all hope was gone? Who was there to help you process the unfolding events and guide you on your next move? Who introduced you to that key contact that ended up being a game changer connection? 

All those people: your business partner, your friends, your colleagues, your coach, your advisers — they all play a role in helping you overcome the long hard slog. 

They help us navigate through the tough times. See my previous blog about overcoming the Valley of Death, Pilot Purgatory, and the Trough of Sorrow.

The trough of sorrow, where founder and innovators find themselves while creating an innovation or bringing a product or service to market

Why am I doing this to myself? Becoming Dr. Roxie

For any of you who have gone back to grad school, you know it ain’t easy. Even when you’re passionate about your topic.

I went back to school in 2013 to get my doctorate in business administration. This degree is like an MBA but the doctorate level — a DBA. 

I had no idea what I was getting myself into. Getting a doctorate wasn’t ever really a dream of mine. It was something two professors from my master’s program drilled into us as a must-have. 

From day one they touted how much autonomy and flexibility we’d have in our career with a doctorate. I leaned in and listened.

One professor had a successful career flexing as he desired between a consultant and professor semester to semester. The other described how he had a successful consultancy and was able to regularly take off two months a year to travel with his wife.

Frankly, as soon as I heard about the travel sabbatical I was SOLD! Traveling the world is my jam.

The course work was challenging, especially with juggling the full-time job of leading and growing Legacy DNA — a healthcare marketing agency I had just founded in 2012. But I created some structure and plan and was able to master the course work.

Then came time for my doctoral study (like a PhD’s dissertation). 


A cartoon image of Dr. Roxie in the boxing ring with gloves face done, depicting how hard it was for her in grad school.

OMG. There were so. many. times. I wanted to quit. 

But I just couldn’t give up. I am NOT A QUITTER!

I finish what I start. I was born with a strong sense of determination and tenacity. My husband calls it stubbornness. I like to call it resilience. 

I usually have the mental toughness to overcome challenges and maintain focus. I am willing to do the hard things to get what’s on the other side.

My internal drive was only going to take me so far this time though. I felt so defeated. I needed someone to help keep going. Someone to help me regain hope. Someone to help me overcome these unexpected obstacles that seemed impossible to conquer.

Climbing through my own trough of sorrow

One of the most ginormous obstacles I ever encountered in life was getting approval for my doctoral study. Let me tell you about my own trough of sorrow experience.

Here’s a few of my most challenging moments. 

  • After my draft sat on my Chair’s desk for nearly two months, I found out they left the university without telling me. I had to scramble to rebuild my committee, which cost me months and I had to start the process over again.
  • The URR or research reviewer would give VAGUE feedback. Then, my committee would interpret what she was looking for and guide me on what I needed to revise.
  • Then, the URR would reject my changes and provide vague feedback again. This back and forth went on for nearly a year. 
  • I can’t tell you how many times I cried in despair. I was banging my head against the wall.

Regularly, I thought to myself: “No one is making me do this. I signed up for this. Why am I paying to be academically tortured. Am I out of my mind here? Will I EVER be able to get this study approved by my doctoral committee? 

I kept thinking, “I already have a successful business. I could just leave the program with the knowledge I gained and be part of the whooping 80% that get stuck in ABD status.”

ABD is a real thing. It stands for “All But Dissertation” and for various reasons, a whole lot of people get stuck and can’t complete the doctoral study process. 

Eventually, though, two saints from my community came to my rescue: Dr. Rocky Dwyer and Dr. Melvia Scott (she wasn’t a Dr. at the time, she was a classmate). 


A GIF image of Dr. Roxie walking her path and Dr. Rocky and Dr. Melvia coming by her side to support her


Dr. Rocky joined my doctoral committee in place of my MIA Chair. He made time for me, took my calls on the weekend, provided clear guidance, and helped me overcome mental defeat. 

Dr. Scott, my peer in the trenches with me, traveled hours to meet F2F one Saturday. For months I had writer's block. She kept asking me, “Have you made any progress yet?” I just couldn’t see a clear path to synthesizing the 500+ peer-reviewed journal articles I read on every dimension of commercializing technology innovation.     

With their help, I overcame the long hard slog. I successfully defended my doctoral study in 2016 and received a doctorate in business administration (DBA) with a specialization in marketing and a doctoral focus on commercializing technology innovation in healthcare.

If I hadn’t gone through that process, I wouldn’t have empathy for clients that are in their own trough of sorrow. 

I wouldn’t be the adviser and strategist I am today. I wouldn’t be a published author in a peer-reviewed journal. I wouldn’t be an Amazon #1 best selling author. I wouldn’t be a sought out conference speaker. I wouldn’t be a video podcast host and producer.  

I also realized I have a greater capacity for overcoming difficulty. And I offer that same encouragement, accountability, and guidance to our clients.


Find your community

I thought the doctoral journey would be a pretty straight line: I do the work, I write my doctoral study, I defend it, I graduate.

Just like a lot of us innovators think: I’m going to solve a problem that people really need help with. I’m going to create a solution that people will love. I’m going to change healthcare for the better and I’m going to make millions.

The reality is that the innovators’ commercialization journey is a lot more like the labyrinth above. The Dr. Rocky’s and Dr. Scott’s are critical to our business success.

We need an community of people to help us:

  • Avoid mistakes and circumvent common pitfalls
  • Make superior business strategy decisions
  • Save tons of money and time with access to the right experts
  • Be more visible as people naturally get to know us and what we do
  • Get access to new tools, resources, and ideas
  • Feel encouraged and motivated to build, grow, and thrive

I’d love for you to give a shoutout in the comments below of one person who has helped you overcome your own long hard slog or trough of sorrow. Let’s honor those who have helped us along the way.