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Stephanie Wolff, College of Medicine student

Exploring the Innovative Side of Medicine: Stephanie Wolff

Stop sign or sumo wrestler? One second-year Northeast Ohio Medical University student’s career aspirations ran that quirky gamut before she decided to earn a degree in medicine and practice as a physician.

College of Medicine student Stephanie Wolff’s sense of humor comes to the surface when she talks about her (very) early career ideas and the moment when her parents enrolled her in gymnastics, rather than sumo wrestling lessons or…how does one prepare to be a stop sign, anyway?

“Turning the stop lights and signs was my favorite thing to do with my play car set as a child. My sister would say that’s the bossy side of me, but my parents and I call it leadership skills! My parents obviously knew those weren’t viable career options, so they pushed me to explore other activities and interests,” says Wolff.

As it turns out, gymnastics played a part in Wolff’s educational journey. Because of the numerous back injuries and hospital visits she endured while competing, she encountered physicians and other health care professionals. Today, she credits those professionals with introducing her to an environment she could see herself being a part of.

Open to new opportunities

This summer, Wolff took a leap of faith (no back injuries involved) and applied for the REDIzone® Future MedTech Entrepreneur Internship, a new program supported by a grant from the Hudson, Ohio-based Burton D. Morgan Foundation.

The internship provides medical, pharmacy, business and law students opportunities to learn from regional experts in medical innovation. It also presented Wolff with an opportunity to research and pitch a protein therapy for neuronal injuries developed by Fayez Safadi, Ph.D., director of NEOMED’s Musculoskeletal Research Focus Area and professor of anatomy and neurobiology, to a panel of start-up-savvy judges.

Wolff, alongside interns from NEOMED, Youngstown State University and the University of Akron, learned how products being developed at NEOMED can make it to the market and actually help patients.

Combining medicine and innovation

“Never in a million years will I stop and throw away the schooling that I’ve had this far, or completely change paths, but Elliot Reed (executive director of the REDIZone®) brought in guests that showed me that I can do both medicine and business. After I can no longer be a doctor anymore, I can teach, I can go into venture capitalism and more — there’s so many opportunities out there,” says Wolff.

While she does love the innovative aspect of medicine, Wolff will tell you that she prefers to be on the opposite side — on the bench looking at new technologies, rather than doing pitches for investors.

Regardless of the area of innovation, Wolff sees and appreciates the value brought to the field of medicine by new products.

As she puts it: “First and foremost, I want to be a physician, but I also want to see where the future’s going so I can better help my patients.”