Medical Preneur: Mary Mason
Are you still a working physician? If so, why did you decide to stay or leave?
I still volunteer as an internist in free clinics or teaching medical students and residents. I think being a doctor is the best job in the world.
“Don’t doubt yourself. I remember in the beginning thinking that Little Medical School wasn’t good enough or wasn’t ready for primetime. But within the first couple minutes of class, when the students put on their white coat and had big smiles on their faces, I knew it was going to be great.”
Did you share this passion for the medical field with your children?
All three of my children have helped me with Little Medical School. My oldest is 19 and is a sophomore at University of Southern California in public relations. She is an accomplished photographer and not only has helped capture kids in action in our classes, but she also helped us take pictures of all our products for our e-commerce site. My son has served as a junior instructor and even helped packing boxes in our warehouse. My eight year old tests activities and tells me if something is “cool or not.”
While my husband and I have always tried to share our passion for medicine with them, we are even more excited to see them follow their chosen passions, even if those are outside of the medical field. We want them to find a career that they love and live a healthy, full life. From participating in Little Medical School, they have learned how to be better patients and how to be healthier.
How long did it take from concept to completion to create Little Medical school and when did it launch?
The Little Medical School of today has been 20 years in the making. I wrote my first classes for Little Medical School in 1999 when I was still in residency and working on my MBA. As the Chief resident for my internal medicine program, I wanted to find ways to get doctors in training more involved with the community. This is the time when I figured out the power of role play in learning, and how it allowed children to act out what real doctors, nurses and pharmacist do. It can be a powerful inspirational message that you can be anything that you want to be as long as you work hard.
Over the next ten years I wrote a lot of curriculum and would do programs here and there, when asked. It wasn’t until 2010 that I realized how unique my program was. There were lots of engineering programs for children, but none around medicine. That is when I reorganized the concept in order to make it a completely portable program with safe and high quality products to take home.
I decided to franchise and find local owners who were passionate about inspiring children ages 4-14 to explore careers in healthcare. We launched our first franchises in San Francisco in 2015 and now we are in almost 60 markets including the US, Canada, India, Singapore, the Middle East and Africa. We have committed to launch in China by early 2020.
When we launched in 2015, Entrepreneur Magazine featured us in an article about the 10 most innovative franchise concepts introduced that year. We made their top 100 new franchise list in 2017, 2018 and 2019.