Orleigh Addelecia Bogle, Ph.D.
Title: Head of medical affairs, Digital Surgery
One of the best pieces of leadership advice that Orleigh Addelecia Bogle, Ph.D., has ever received has become something of a daily mantra for her in the last year and a half: “Assume that everyone is doing the best that they possibly can.”
That sentiment has become increasingly important amid the COVID-19 pandemic, as the workplace has gone virtual and we’re now forced to parse out intent from a dashed-off email or over a spotty Zoom connection.
“That leads to a lot of misinterpretation,” Bogle said. “So, assuming that everyone has the best intentions for the team and for the organization, I think, is really important and is a healthy mental mindset—especially during lockdown.”
It’s a mindset that has served her well, especially while navigating the aftermath of Medtronic’s acquisition of Digital Surgery, where she heads up the medical affairs division. Digital Surgery, which Bogle joined in 2016 after completing her Ph.D. in reproductive endocrinology and physiology, is the developer of digital tools for interactive surgical training and education. It was brought under the Medtronic umbrella in February 2020, with plans to develop new artificial intelligence- and data-driven tools that could be implemented alongside the medtech giant’s Hugo surgical robot system.
The ensuing months have been spent integrating the two platforms, building up to a final product that promises to be particularly thrilling and fulfilling for Bogle.
“We get to unlock the power of surgical data and insights to solve customers’ clinical and economical challenges,” she said. “I joined Digital Surgery to make an impact on surgery and make it safer for everybody, so I’m excited to be a part of making surgery safer globally.”
As head of the subsidiary’s medical affairs team, Bogle spearheads the development of new medical content and strategies for the flagship Touch Surgery surgical training app and other digital solutions, forms partnerships to bring that technology to surgeons and medical students in low- and middle-income countries and works with regulatory bodies to offer continuing education credits through the digital programs—all of which she cited as some of the career milestones she’s proudest of so far.
“As anybody who’s joined a startup knows, you have to wear multiple different hats,” she said, “but it’s been a fantastic ride.”
Leading a team means taking charge of not just its work, but sustained growth and the well-being of its members, too. In her less than five years with Digital Surgery, Bogle has grown the medical affairs team from just three people to a (still-increasing) roster of 24. In the team development department, she places a premium on transparency, guided by another invaluable piece of leadership advice she received early on in her management career.
“Building trust is one of the most critical parts of being a manager, and it’s really important to me that my team knows that when I speak that I’m being honest and that I’m being authentic and as transparent as I possibly can be,” she said. “And in situations where I do make a mistake, I own up to it. I think we’ve done a really great job at Digital Surgery to avoid a blame culture and be more solution-oriented.”
That culture is further enriched by Bogle’s determination to involve a variety of voices in Digital Surgery’s development processes—especially as the solutions they develop are being seen by clinicians who hail from all over the world and serve patients spanning every race, gender and socioeconomic status.
“If we want to be the future of surgery, if we want to be the future of surgical education and training, we need to be more inclusive and understand that all the patients look different, with different backgrounds,” she said.
To that effect, Bogle has led Digital Surgery in adding more diverse patient profiles to the training app. When she first started at the company, she said, all of the virtual patients were white. She quickly spoke up about the need to correct that misrepresentation and avoid propagating stereotypes that have long contributed to discriminatory practices in medicine and medical education; the team has since added Black female virtual patients to the platform and is currently building profiles for Asian and Pacific Islander patients.
“From my perspective, when I’m thinking about inclusivity, the purpose of that is to really have diversity of thought,” she said. “That goes beyond race, gender—it’s also ensuring that we have leaders who have different educational backgrounds, who come from different countries, whose first language isn’t English, so that you don’t have to be the loudest voice in the room.”