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Episode Transcript

Announcer: Welcome to RadioRev, podcasting from the heart of healthcare in Minneapolis, Minnesota. This is the podcast for change makers looking to do more than just health engagement. It’s about getting people to take action and do things that actually improve their health. It’s a radical idea, right? So we’re talking to the leaders, innovators, movers, and shakers who are bringing new ideas, inspiring others, and leading the way.

Jenn: Welcome to another episode of RadioRev. I’m Jenn Dellwo. Philanthropy, volunteering, and being present in our community are important aspects of what it means to work at Icario. As an organization, we work hard to offer diverse volunteer opportunities for our team and have established partnerships with local charities to make a difference in our community. We’re inspired by organizations that do the same and push us to think bigger. Today we’re highlighting the incredible work of the Medtronic Foundation. Medtronic is a global leader in medical technology focused on innovative solutions to fulfill its global mission to alleviate pain, restore health, and extend life. The company’s philanthropic efforts are centered on leveraging its people, products, and programs to expand access to chronic disease care to underserved communities worldwide. Joining us today is Paurvi Bhatt, President of the Medtronic Foundation. Welcome to the show. Thanks so much for being here.

Paurvi: Hi, Jenn. Thanks so much for having me.

Jenn: So I’d like to start with an introduction. Paurvi is a seasoned global health and development leader with a distinguished career delivering innovative and successful cross-disciplinary solutions to challenging issues of scale and sustainability. Her focus includes strategic philanthropy and investment, corporate social responsibility, health benefit reimbursement, and partnership design, particularly in emerging markets and research-poor settings. Her technical training is in health systems and economics with a specific focus on HIV/AIDS, women’s health, and impact measurement. This is just the tip of the iceberg. There’s so much more I could say. Paurvi has an incredibly impressive background that I’ll share in the show notes. But I’d like to get right into today’s topic. And I’d like to kick it off with your favorite ‘80s song.

Paurvi: You can’t just pick one! I have the great pleasure and badge of honor of having lived through high school, college, and grad school during the ‘80s, which means those are pretty impactful times. So I can’t just name one. It is “And She Was,” “Sweet Dreams,” “Time After Time,” “In Your Eyes,” and “With or Without You,” all tied in a bright, neon-pink bow of “Don’t Stop Believin.’” I actually loved that song well before “Glee” and all the revitalizing focus. It would be cool to be hooked into the ‘80s again. But there’s no way you can just pick one if you came from that era. {song plays}

Jenn: We’re talking about philanthropy today. My first question is, what is the Medtronic Foundation’s approach to philanthropy, and how has it evolved over the years?

Paurvi: That’s a great question. We are a corporate foundation that’s inside of Medtronic as the leader in med technology. We also are privileged to be a part of a company that’s got a long and well-held tradition with our mission. And I bring up the mission because no matter how we’ve evolved over time, the mission has guided our company and absolutely anchored the way we think about philanthropy. As every field evolves over time, the field of philanthropy is also evolving and the space of the impact with companies is also evolving all throughout. Our commitment to really ensuring that people are really living better lives over time continues. What we’re doing now is really anchoring our work so that we’re improving access to healthcare for the underserved and really supporting communities where our employees live and give. We do all of that under the belief that as we’re supporting more employees to give back, as we’re supporting nonprofits and other community organizations, their ability to ignite change, that over time, more and more people are going to get better whether that’s in health or in other areas that they need help in. Our aim is to make sure we do that in the most scalable and sustainable way and to really build what is the connective tissue of society, which is the community around us, whether it’s delivering healthcare or any other social issue. So how we do it, to answer your question on how — we’ve evolved over many years. We actually are, we believe, tip of the spear in thinking about how philanthropy can change, especially from a corporate foundation’s view. For folks who really know a lot about philanthropy and what we do even in our own personal philanthropy, we really know that it’s an area that tends to stay very focused on how much money is going out the door, how much money is really going toward being in service to the underserved. In our own day-to-day lexicon, you think about being charitable from the perspective of giving in terms of dollars and time. We believe that as well. The pairing of resources that we can offer from a financial perspective together with the power of our own employees and how they can come together in really driving change is important. But that alone isn’t enough. We believe that the outcome of that pairing is what we need to stay focused on. Not just how much money left the door or how much time we put toward something, but did it really make a meaningful difference. And that meaningful difference can be for us, making sure that there’s a health impact of some sort over a period of time for an underserved cohort that is being met by our nonprofit partners. Or a level of volunteerism that we’ve been able to ignite and change over time with our employees, or making sure a community, through the nonprofits in that community, is able to get stronger and better, whether it’s in economic security, or in food security, or in some of the bigger, more pressing social issues that are facing a community where we live and give. All of that is an outcomes-driven view, and we think that we’re very much tip of the spear in thinking about that. That has changed the way we do our work. It has changed our hand-in-glove partnership with nonprofits and organizations that we focus on, and even has changed how we inspire employees so that we’re really focusing on how they’re getting more engaged and what matters most to them.

Jenn: I really love that. As you’re spearheading these initiatives, what can healthcare companies learn from the investments that Medtronic is making in impact-driven global health and civic engagement work?

Paurvi: Well, I think we’re all learning together. What we’re learning about healthcare in particular is that we all know it takes time. We know that a lot of what’s needed to really drive the health outcome, especially for the underserved, who are facing a very broken health system, where a lot of the natural connections are not there for them. Part of our role is not just focused on the outcome alone but in really helping to fix the ecosystem around that outcome that is needed. Many times that means the referral pathway that many of us in healthcare are so accustomed to, there’s a real appreciation that that referral pathway isn’t linear, a real appreciation that sometimes the feeders into a clinic are actually not traditional spaces. They could be a pharmacy, it could be a barber shop, it could be a nonprofit location on site, it could be any number of places where people tend to go anyway and tend to trust their service provider. We’re learning that some of the unusual suspects that come together deliver the best results. So we’re piloting and considering how can microfinance organizations that bring women together in lending collectives, how can that be ignited as a scalable opportunity for a more trusted source of health information, and then eventually referral, and then eventually really testing out the biomarkers to see if people actually are getting better. That’s one example of what we’re doing with a group called Grooming America that is based in New York and really working with community health worker efforts in some of the boroughs of New York City. We also believe that community health workers, as I brought up earlier, are really important. The reason why is because we think that is a scalable opportunity. She is a scalable opportunity. Nine out of 10 community health workers are women around the world. She is someone who is sourced and tapped and trusted by her community to be one that should be invested in to deliver information and some basic services back to the community. If she is well-trained and connected into the referral chain, she ends up being one of the most important fulcrum points that brings more and more people into healthcare in a trusted way. And so we believe that really investing in her, really investing in that front line that she represents, is crucial. And we’re seeing that today. We see it in the immersion of every epidemic. We’re in the middle of a pandemic now. We all know who we trust when it’s time to get our information and where we go for healthcare, and it tends to be someone who represents us. It’s really someone who knows the community well and is able to, in a trusted way, guide us through the system. We believe around the world that it’s a community health worker who represents that front line. Keeping her safe, keeping her well-informed, making sure she’s able to reach more and more patients in need, and then demonstrating that that action is delivering success is crucial. Finally, we’ve seen that there are results that come from that. We’ve seen improved outcomes in various places. We’ve also seen, depending on the health system, that her work actually does get reimbursed and it is part of the financing of healthcare, and she can actually be employed. So we think there’s a win-win here thinking about investing in her, investing in better healthcare through her, and then employing her as well. That’s a big lesson for a lot of women who are working in healthcare and who may know a bit about what’s happening in the community. But really thinking about that group of community health workers and nonprofits that serve communities and use community health workers as a true source of healthcare that could be pulled into the referral chain that eventually leads to the formal health system that we all know very well.

Jenn: I’d like to focus a little on the phrase of giving back. Given your experience working across health-focused companies and organizations, what trends have you noticed in how impact is measured and what giving back means to different stakeholders?

Paurvi: I think this transformation is moving from being more charitable to moving toward being more impactful, which is what’s been our north star as we’ve been moving through our strategy, really comes through when you think about what giving actually means. Companies, not only healthcare companies but all companies, choose to pull on every lever they can to demonstrate how they can be engaged in solving a societal problem. You have to in healthcare. We already know health is a business issue. Everything we do as a company is toward societal improvement. You see companies over time that have done things through, of course, their philanthropic work much like what I represent and tie it back to what they’re doing as a business in a different way. I can certainly pull from, again — we’re in the middle of a COVID response. It has been incredibly inspiring and gratifying to see every industry in some way come together to try and solve for what is basically a health emergency. Whether you’re in healthcare, outside of healthcare, you’re trying to solve for this health emergency. And they’re bringing everything they can to it. Whether you’re an apparel company trying to get involved in making masks or a medical technology company like us that’s actually open sourcing ventilator specs as well as providing resources to WHO Solidarity Fund, CDC Foundation, and community organizations that are trying to stay solvent during a time when there’s such great need. You’re seeing that we’re pulling on different levers, whether it’s our products, whether it’s our intellectual property, whether it’s providing things at lower cost. We’re really looking at philanthropy through a different lens and pooling resources to get to greater scale. That trajectory has been going on for the last eight to 10 years, but really you can see it in these moments of emergency and when there’s a need to solve a problem that allows us to think creatively. This has been one of those times that you can be inspired by people thinking differently but really pulling on every lever. And I’m proud of Medtronic and the Medtronic Foundation that I have the privilege to lead now because we are bringing all of those tools to life through our employees and the time that they bring behind the desk in virtual volunteerism now, to doubling our match, which we just announced this week so we’re able to leverage what they want to give and double it so we’re actually supporting the front line of community organizations that are also the front line in addition to healthcare. We’ve got community organizations that are there to support food assistance needs as well as economic needs. And then finally what we do, of course, in healthcare supporting disaster relief organizations as well as large global health entities that are working hard to get around the world and make sure health workers are protected and able to deliver at least information and at most the best care that they’re able to in a constrained time. And then of course what we’re doing with our ventilators and what we’re doing with open sourcing and coming up with discoveries with in-home monitoring. Every day there’s a new way of trying to impact this problem. That is the exciting time that we’re all in right now in addition to trying to respond to one of the most incredible crises that this entire world is trying to face right now.

Jenn: Yeah, and I definitely want to go back to talking about COVID-19 at the end because I have a couple more questions about that. Now, I’d like to transition a bit and talk more about women in healthcare. We’ve had a few episodes on this topic in the past, but I’d like to know from you, what do you see as the future of women in healthcare?

Paurvi: It’s a future where she leads. It’s very simple. I think that at this point we know that healthcare is delivered by women and led by men. That has to change. I’m doing my very best to keep lifting more and more women into that space as I’ve had the opportunity to lead, but we’ve got to make sure that not only is she leading in every space she’s in, but like I said earlier, she’s on the front line every day. We know it. We see it now all over the world. But as things move into who makes decisions, there isn’t always a women at the seat, and we’ve got to help make sure her voice is there at the very least, and at the very most she’s actually making the decisions and driving forward change. If you take a look at just the value chain of healthcare, as a consumer — we’re all consumers of healthcare — if you just sit back and think through what your experience is when you move from your home into a pharmacy into the waiting room of a clinic, into getting your healthcare delivered to you, the variety of people you touch as you’re experiencing healthcare, at least 70% of those touchpoints are women. And so we know that she knows what is happening. She knows what’s going on with patients in the community and the best decisions will be made when her views are brought into the discussion.

Jenn: I love that answer. When we’re thinking about healthcare or just personally in your life, is there anyone that inspires you?

Paurvi: Yes, you know I’m a caregiver. I have been taking care of both my parents. I’m an only child and also a daughter, second generation in an immigrant family, so I have to say that my parents are my inspiration. My father passed away with early-onset Alzheimer’s but was a champion of innovation and engineering and did some great things in his career. And today I live with my mom, and as a woman who also has led in our family, she remains one of my greatest inspirers. She is amazing in how she navigated so much as someone who’s come over from India with English as a second language. She’s always championed me and the career that I’ve chosen but also in how she faces her own healthcare. How I’ve learned to be a more caring person in my life is through her. So I have to say, as someone who’s gotten every privilege this country can offer, it was entirely due to the sacrifice of my parents. So that has to come first. And I know that girl in the ‘80s who rattled off those songs may not have said that, but I’m saying it today, and I hope she can hear me because we’re at home together as we go through our COVID response, but she absolutely is. In addition to her, recently I’ve come to learn much more about Rosalynn Carter, and so I have to say today she’s of the notables. She’s someone that inspires me, and the reason why is because she started an organization, the Institute for Caregiving, about 30 years ago believe it or not. As a caregiver myself, and I think we’re all in a caring society now, I just am amazed she had the foresight to think about the importance of supporting those that are in the hidden economy of healthcare that are really taking care of so much and providing a place for us to come together and talk about what needs to happen next. Never have we needed that more. Again, given the crisis we’re in today, we’re all facing what it’s like being at home caring for so many others. She really took that on so long ago, and as she would say today, even in taking care of her husband. She’s been a true inspiration to me. 

Jenn: That’s great. Thanks for sharing that. At the beginning of the episode, I listed a lot of your credentials and a lot of the amazing work that you’ve done. What would you say that you’re known for?

Paurvi: Change! I think that I’ve heard that a lot. I’m known for really coming into a situation and bringing a new way of thinking to that situation, and to help make connections that may not have been seen before. I’m known for being tough about that, I’m not gonna lie. I think the outcomes drive a lot, and I push that forward as much as I can, and the thinking that comes together. I enjoy looking at lateral connections more than going into depth on any one thing. I enjoy seeing those unusual suspects come together, and I think I’m known for that as well. Bringing the issues together with one solution. That keeps me revved up, and I enjoy bringing that transition of transformation for an organization as I come into it. It’s been a pleasure to have these opportunities, but actually all of the opportunities that I’ve had have been because of courageous organizations that wanted to change and thought bringing in someone who’s seen a problem in a different way could be helpful to them. I’ve just been sharing how all of these groups that have been doing amazing work and have always been doing amazing work, but now, at a time when we’re trying to solve a shared problem with COVID, you’re seeing how they’re all showing up differently, and I think it’s because they are organizations that want to solve a problem in a different way. I’m often known as someone who can come in and inspire that kind of change. That said, it isn’t easy. People who know me well know I can drive to change, right? And I think as part of what a lot of us as leaders keep an eye on is how we keep that balance of driving to change and allowing for patients to make that change happen. That’s a continuing leadership journey for me.

Jenn: Speaking of change and transformation, what’s the most interesting project you’re working on right now?

Paurvi: You know, that’s a really fantastic question. We’re inside of a large transformation inside of our philanthropy right now, which is basically bringing business acumen inside of the way we do our philanthropic work. One of the biggest, most exciting projects I’m seeing is watching our team come through that transition and really putting data analytics to work — really thinking through how we’re going to use data to drive where we’re heading next. An example of that is also thinking how we bring in partners to work with us to get to the level of change in healthcare, for example, that we’re looking for with the underserved. We want to ensure that more than 50% of the patients that we’re focusing on, that are underserved, with our research actually get to better health, however that’s defined over a window of time. We’re looking at that as a goal of ours and putting together a portfolio of organizations and projects that help us get to that goal together. And that has meant we’re looking at our work much more from a venture philanthropic view and using the tools that we’re learning from venture capital in how you really think about these investments and how do we move in position toward that kind of change. We’re looking at how we manage our partnerships in a different way really as true partners, really finding how we can be comfortable together and appreciating when things aren’t working, and how to pivot fast. Helping this cohort of partners that we will work with and are working with, and how we really chase that in a way that leads to better results. I’m really proud of the team that’s coming together around this because it means going at it from a blue-sky space and bringing in what other disciplines can teach us. The venture space is an exciting one where we can take those tools and bring them to a social end. In addition to managing things this way we’re infusing the skillset of our own employees, not just in healthcare, but also in business strategy and thinking about data analysis to help us guide our work. That is what’s unique about corporate philanthropy. You have this powerful base of employees that are highly skilled and are really hungry to give back, back to that giving back issue. But it’s in a way that has meaning, not just for them, but for the change that we’re inspiring. Infusing that into these relationships is our next step. I’m very excited by this because it is something we haven’t seen happen very often, especially for philanthropy at large, not only in healthcare. And when we do see things that are happening inside event philanthropy or impact investing, it seems to be more from how an organization gets stronger and better at its results, not from the financing view on how the portfolio’s improving. We’re really looking at how the portfolio is going to improve over time and how we need to be accountable for those overall results. That’s a big project. It’s basically our entire strategy in many ways. But it’s incredibly exciting and hard — not to say that it’s easy at all— but I think we’ll hopefully deliver the kinds of returns that we’re hoping for so more and more people who are underserved get the chance that they want and can have a better chance at better health.

Jenn: That’s really interesting. As we’re getting close to wrapping up here, what would you say your call to action for the healthcare industry is as we try to build more sustainable healthcare and ecosystems, and strengthen local infrastructure and capabilities for healthcare delivery?

Paurvi: My call to action on this is one that I hope myself to make sure that even I’m doing with our team is making sure that the people we’re aiming to serve are part of our conversation or inside of the decision. That we’re taking that hard step to bring them in, and I say ‘hard step’ because it’s insidious. It’s easy to decide to be comfortable around a table of folks that we already know that can validate what we believe is true. But what will help us to get to better results and really helping patients and frontline health workers and any number of people that were actually affected by what we’re hoping to deliver, bringing them inside of this conversation, which is essential. We’re at a time now where we know that the tools we’ve had in our toolbox aren’t enough, and the things that are working are happening elsewhere through different delivery models. So having those folks in the room with us versus out of the room, helping equip them so that they can be effective, and helping equip us so we can be effective so that partnership works well is important. Second to that is to really consider civil society, nonprofits, and social enterprises as part of the delivery chain for healthcare. Think from outside the clinic, not from inside the clinic, and you’ll find patients, frontline workers, nonprofit organizations, and social enterprises that are actually holding a lot of the ideas and solutions we might not have seen. So my true call to action is really that: Think from outside the clinic and bring those unusual partners inside of the discussion.

Jenn: That’s really important. So to go back to the discussion around COVID-19, we’re currently living through this pandemic. How is it affecting Medtronic, and can you share some of the initiatives that you all are working on to help combat the virus?

Paurvi: Sure, well listen, it’s affecting us in every way. I think every company, every community is inside of COVID-19. We’re feeling it as individuals, and it’s hard to do more but also doing our best to take care of each other. The way we’re approaching it as a company is through innovation across three key areas: First and foremost, making sure employees and their families are well taken care of. That is our first imperative. In addition to that of course making sure patients and the healthcare system around them is strengthened. That’s our core business, that is what we do as a company and what we do as part of our philanthropy. And finally making sure we’re part of this global community that’s working so hard to get to the right solutions, get to the right resources and making sure that people who need help are getting help. That also includes us as individuals, behaving the way we need to behave right now, which is paying attention to all the guidance we’re getting no matter where we are in the world to ensure we’re not contributing to the spread of the virus and are actually heeding the guidance that’s been given. We are organized across those three areas. So when I think about what we’re doing across them, if you go to employees and what we’re doing with employees and families, we’re making sure our employees are well supported to be able to work virtually, to be at home with family, take the time off if they need it, ensure that they have what they need for their families first. It’s a variety of things. Everyone’s learning how to be much more flexible and provide the support that’s needed, making sure we’ve got the right time off if it’s necessary and also ensuring that if you do need extended time off, that that’s offered. And many other things are happening from an HR perspective. We also are ensuring we have an employee assistance fund that lifted up during the Puerto Rico hurricanes. It was set up to help employees help each other, and we, as a philanthropy, contribute into it and employees are able to contribute into it. That’s a fund where in hard times they support each other. So that is growing as we go through this time. When we come to our patients and our health systems and the product we can offer — absolutely. If you’ve been watching the news you absolutely know that the ventilator issue is huge, and we are inside of solving that problem, whether it’s expanding or doubling production, which we have for our ventilators which are often used inside an ICU during intubation. It is something we’ve been ramping up very quickly in good partnership with a lot of other organizations and companies like Tesla, like Intel. The news changes every day as we try and keep pace and solve the gap. We’ve open-sourced another ventilator that we have so that any other manufacturer is able to pull down the specs and be able to go into production there. We’re very proud we’ve been able to offer that as a contribution as well. And more and more will come as time unfolds there. We provide as much insight as we can and better delivery of care during this time with all of our employees that are involved closer into facilities. And then of course, if you think about who Medtronic is, it’s not like the other parts of our business have stopped. We certainly are on the front line in our vascular business, in our diabetes business, and other areas of surgical solutions to make sure that when patients are in need, our teams are right there. And because of how we deliver service, we’re inside health facilities as well and again, back to employees, making sure employees are safe in doing the work that they need to do. Some of them are even going beyond just the work at hand but are volunteering their time in healthcare facilities because they have a clinical background as well, and we’re making sure they’re well protected and that we’ve got the things that are necessary for them to do that safely. And that brings me to community. As I said, we follow everything we can in guidance, ensuring we’re enabling our employees to participate directly inside of healthcare if that’s what they wish. Virtual volunteerism — there’s such a spirit to give back right now, and we want to meet that demand, so we’re doing what we can there. And then also, we’ve doubled our match. Match giving is an opportunity in corporate philanthropy where an employee can give a certain amount of resources to an eligible nonprofit, and our foundation will match that amount. Right now, the foundation is doubling that match during this period of time. So if I give a dollar, the foundation will give another two, and that nonprofit gets $3 as a result. And so we have lifted that up and are offering that for the next couple of months so that the front line and the community, based on where employees want to support is really secure with more and more resources. And then finally, we’ve been supporting WHO Solidarity Fund, CDC Foundation, and a good suite of relief organizations as well as our tried-and-true health partners that are with us to make sure that they have the resourcing they need. If they need any adjustments along the way, to relax anything that we can so they’re well-supported. We’re doing that so we’re making sure they have the operational support that they need. And we’ll continue to think about those kinds of solutions. We’re also contributing to a lot of COVID-19 relief funds that are popping up across the country and the world to make sure that we’re part of a rapid response wherever we are. So here in Minnesota, we’ve joined with a good number of philanthropies to make sure we’ve got quick funds that are getting out to nonprofits here. We’re anticipating very similar things across the country and including Ireland, where we’re headquartered. And then finally, some national food partnerships that we’re also pursuing to ensure that food assistance is happening very quickly. And we’ll continue to evolve as we learn more about how this pandemic is showing up, but the three tenets of employees and families, patients and providers and the health systems around them, and our community will continue throughout. That matches our strategy on a good day in addition to what we do during this time.

Jenn: Wow, the work you guys are doing is just so amazing. I really appreciate your time today. This was fantastic, so thank you so much for being here.

Paurvi: Well thank you. And thank you for taking the time to get to know us a bit better. I really look forward to continuing to learn together with this entire community, so thanks a lot for the time.

Announcer: Thanks for joining us for the RadioRev podcast brought to you by Icario. If you found today’s conversation as informative and energizing as we did, please take a moment and subscribe to the podcast. As always, we invite you to learn more about us and check out all of our content at

Inside the Episode

Philanthropy, volunteering, and being present in our community are important aspects of what it means to work at Icario. As an organization, we work hard to offer diverse volunteer opportunities for our team and have established partnerships with local charities to make a difference in our community.

We’re inspired by organizations that do the same and push us to think bigger. This episode highlights the incredible work of the Medtronic Foundation featuring Paurvri Bhatt, President of the Medtronic Foundation.

Medtronic is the global leader in medical technology, focused on innovative solutions to fulfill its global mission: to alleviate pain, restore health, and extend life. The company’s philanthropic efforts are centered on leveraging its people, products, and programs to expand access to chronic disease care to underserved communities worldwide.

To keep the conversation with Paurvi going, connect with her on LinkedIn.

“The future of women in healthcare is a future where she leads. It’s very simple. I think that at this point we know that healthcare is delivered by women and led by men. That has to change.”


Paurvi Bhatt

President at Medtronic Foundation

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