When we last caught up with Tif on this blog, she had been President & CEO of the Science Center for three months, was a resident of Atlanta, COVID-19 vaccines had yet to be distributed to the masses, and the word omicron wasn’t part of our daily lexicon.
Fast forward 12 months and Tif has a full calendar year behind her, she’s now a resident of Philadelphia, 100% of Science Center staff are fully vaccinated, and we’re quickly learning the Greek alphabet.
2021 was a year of planning, goal setting, and foundation building at the Science Center. We delivered high caliber, high impact programming, but there was also significant work taking place behind the scenes.
Here’s what Tif has to say about laying the groundwork to power progress in the Science Center’s next chapter, why healthcare is at the forefront of that strategy, and three other words that have struck her since becoming a Philadelphian.
Now that you’ve been at the helm for a full calendar year, how have your assumptions been affirmed or challenged about Philadelphia’s innovation ecosystem?
I was confident Philadelphia had all the ingredients necessary for a thriving innovation ecosystem – from world class healthcare systems and educational and research institutions, to the talent that generates new ideas and bold outcomes. Beyond those assets, Philadelphia boasts a density of activity that’s not fully appreciated until you’re immersed. By geographic measurement, University City is small, but the ideas are big, the talent is best-in-class, and the potential is limitless.
To fully harness the potential across Philadelphia however, I believe we must better coordinate across institutions and sectors to achieve shared objectives as a city and a region. We must think bigger, in new ways, and be aggressive in doing so. It takes many people, organizations, and initiatives to affect change and we are ultimately greater than the sum of our parts.
Specifically, Philadelphia is uniquely positioned to advance economic opportunity by cracking the code for inclusive growth by intentionally addressing health inequities. We can do this by leveraging the strength of the region’s already thriving, but not optimized life sciences cluster.
The Science Center’s legacy as a multi-institutional innovation intermediary, our recent track record of delivering STEM education and workforce initiatives focused on equitable growth, and a new strategic plan focused on the convergence of technology commercialization and community impact, position the organization to serve as a linchpin in the effort to address one of Philadelphia’s most pressing challenges.
Our strategic focus is to bolster our efforts to support commercialization activity and address the unmet needs in the startup ecosystem and the community that surrounds us.
Much of 2021 was focused on developing the aforementioned strategic plan for the Science Center. What can we expect from this roadmap and why is this the right time for the Science Center to take on these strategic objectives?
What’s kept the Science Center relevant for 60 years is its ability
to continually evolve to address the unmet needs of the ecosystem. When I
joined in 2020, the Science Center – and the world – were at an
inflection point and it was the right time to evaluate our strengths,
weakness and opportunities as an organization, assess the needs of our
ecosystem, and better understand the external factors that could
influence, for better for worse, our operations for the next 5-10 years.
What came from that process, which involved a core team of about 30 Science Center staff members, is a sharpened focused, a refreshed mission, and new vision.
Our strategic focus is to bolster our efforts to support commercialization activity and address the unmet needs in the startup ecosystem and the community that surrounds us. Specifically, we’ll:
- Leverage our reputation as a preeminent connector to accelerate the momentum of our programs with a focus on commercialization.
- Demonstrate our commitment to talent, diversity, and the local community by leveraging our capabilities to play a distinct role in addressing healthcare and economic disparities in Philadelphia.
- And finally, we’ll address the early-stage capital gap by attracting and deploying capital to strengthen the Science Center, our companies, and healthcare technology ecosystem.
This strategic plan, dubbed One Science Center, is ambitious but I’m confident it’s attainable. The Science Center has the programmatic track record and a rock star team – one in which we’ve been able to attract and retain talent during a pandemic. Together we’ll tackle health equity and economic opportunity by doubling down on these superpowers in an intentional way.
All this has given way to a new mission:
To power progress that advances healthcare innovation, uplifts communities, and improves lives.
To catalyze Philadelphia’s entrepreneurs and accelerate
technology innovation that addresses society’s biggest healthcare
How do you see the Science Center aligning scientific discovery generally with its more sharpened focus of impacting healthcare outcomes?
Healthcare begins with scientific discovery, but a discovery can’t
be effective unless it’s successfully commercialized and accessible to
patients. Commercialization is the vehicle that advances a scientific
discovery into a healthcare product – and that’s the Science Center’s
What accomplishment are you most proud of in 2021?
I’m proud of the strategic plan and that we developed that roadmap internally. It was the first time the process was led by the Science Center team and I was continually impressed by their ideas, insights and ultimately the outcome. Along the way, we put a heavy emphasis on strengthening our culture and values as an organization. I recognize that organizational culture and values must be nurtured and that the work is never done, but I’m proud that we were able to lay the groundwork during a time that has been trying for so many.
On a personal level, I’m thrilled to have relocated my family to Philadelphia during a pandemic -- and survived.
Healthcare begins with scientific discovery, but a discovery can’t be effective unless it’s successfully commercialized and accessible to patients. Commercialization is the vehicle that advances a scientific discovery into a healthcare product – and that’s the Science Center’s superpower.
What excites you most about 2022?
Putting our strategic plan into motion. We have a tremendous
opportunity to effect change and I’m eager to get to work all while
(hopefully) finding some sort of normal life cadence.
During our last interview, you expressed excitement about
exploring Philadelphia’s abundance of restaurants, museums, and
neighborhoods. Now that you’ve been here for 6+ months, what are a few
of your Philadelphia favorites?
It’s hard to narrow it
to a few, but some standouts include cultural institutions like The
Barnes and Mütter Museum, restaurants like Parc and Vernick Fish, and
I’ve logged some serious hours at the Fitler Club.
Beyond that, I love the walkability of Philadelphia – whether I’m going to work, out to eat or just walking for the sake of walking, it’s my time to think, reflect, and explore this amazing city.
Despite Philadelphia’s reputation, the warmth of the people has really stood out to me along with Philadelphia’s very specific dialect. Notably, the pronunciation of “water,” the way people say “yeah,” and the frequency at which I hear people using the word “terrific.” And for me, all those things combined make me feel terrific about being a Philadelphian.