Dr. Izzhar “Izz” Putra is BioMark’s Head of Business Development. Having started his career as a physician for the National Health Service UK (NHS UK), Dr. Izz has seen first-hand the challenges that come with waiting too long to address bodily symptoms. Dr. Izz obtained his Bachelor of Medicine, Bachelor of Surgery degree from the University of London's St. George's Medical School. He earned his MBA from Singapore Management University, during which he was accepted into the prestigious Singapore-Stanford Biodesign Innovation Programme. As a firm believer in holistic health, Dr. Izz is also a certified personal trainer with the American Council of Exercise. Here, Dr. Izz shares more about his passion for applying his knowledge of the business and practice of medicine to help BioMark flourish.
What was it like growing up in Malaysia with your family?
I spent the majority of my early years growing up with my family in Brunei, which is sandwiched between the East Malaysian states of Sarawak and Sabah. I had a good childhood in Brunei – it was a small place and everyone knew each other, which made it feel like a close-knit community. This was a huge contrast to the time I spent in London where everything was fast-paced and a little wild! Eventually, I moved to Malaysia in 2010 and that took some time getting used to, especially driving around in Kuala Lumpur!
What drew you towards healthcare?
I used to spend a lot of time watching my Dad work at his clinic in Brunei, and I could see why he enjoyed doing what he did. I believe that there are very few things in life more satisfying than helping someone recover from an illness. This gave me a direction to pursue a career in healthcare, where I would ultimately find meaning in my work.
What was your motivation for practicing medicine?
My motivation to become a doctor was really my Dad. I deeply admired what he had accomplished and I naturally wanted to follow in his footsteps. When I actually started working as a doctor, my main sources of motivation at work were my patients and colleagues. I really cannot describe the amazing feeling when everyone works so well together as a cohesive unit in a high-pressured environment like the Emergency Room. I was fortunate to have worked in some of the best teaching hospitals in England, and it was truly a memorable period of my life.
What led you towards business development for a healthcare start-up?
While I was enjoying my time as a medical doctor, I was also curious to explore what else I could do within the realm of healthcare where I would be able to make a bigger difference to society. I joined an established Malaysian pharmaceutical company where I was exposed to a whole new world of business and management. The experience I gained there was invaluable and it helped smoothen my transition to the corporate environment.
After more than three years at the company, I completed my MBA in Singapore and was looking for a new role within the healthcare industry. I was excited at the potential BioMark was capable of achieving, and the massive positive impact it would have on people’s lives.
I have always gravitated towards business development because I find it a very satisfying process to be involved in from start to finish. It requires a delicate balance of hard and soft skills and, given my experience in different roles across the healthcare industry, I believe I have an advantage when it comes to understanding and addressing various stakeholders in the healthcare value chain. Additionally, the idea of working in a start-up where I would have to wear different ‘hats’ in a fast-paced environment really excited me!
What excites you about predictive healthcare?
I believe it could be a powerful tool to support preventative medicine, which will hopefully lead to significantly improved health outcomes on a global scale. It is unfortunately common, especially in this part of the world, to have people lose their loved ones because of a late diagnosis of disease. I am looking forward to the day where healthcare practitioners no longer have to worry about a sudden discovery of a precarious health condition like end-stage cancer when seeing their patients.
Do you miss the hospital scene?
Yes and no. I do miss the one-on-one care with patients, but I do not miss working night shifts!
What keeps you going? And what keeps you up at night?
There is so much to learn and experience in life, so that’s what keeps me going. What keeps me up at night? Netflix!
What was the proudest moment in your career and life?
Looking back, I would have to say graduating as a doctor is my proudest moment. I was only 22 at the time – and until today I still wonder how I managed to do that! Especially given the circumstances where I was so far away from home and that the course was a huge mountain to climb.
In more recent times, I was very proud to be involved in the successful supply of biosimilar insulin in Malaysia, during my tenure at my previous company. Diabetes is a huge burden on resources, so it was really satisfying to help provide increased patient access to insulin with the hopes of reducing the complication rates of diabetes.
Favourite go-to health food?
I like anything with avocado in it.
Whom do you consider as your mentor, and what was the best advice they ever gave you?
I’ve been really blessed with great mentors throughout my professional career, but I would have to say that my Dad would always be my mentor in life. He taught me at a very young age to always treat others the way you want to be treated. It’s a simple yet really powerful piece of advice.