Meet Ellie Stang, MD, Founder and CEO of ProgenyHealth, LLC

Jul 14, 2019

Meet Ellie Stang, MD, Founder and CEO of ProgenyHealth, LLC. ProgenyHealth, LLC is the only independent nationwide provider of care management for premature and medically complex newborns, deploying comprehensive, evidence-based services. Based in Plymouth Meeting, ProgenyHealth’s 200-plus employees collaborate with more than 1,400 facilities and 6,000 physicians nationwide to optimize care and costs.

Here's what she shared when we talked to her:

Why did you found this company? I spent about 10 years in private practice as a pediatrician and worked in a managed Medicaid plan to help low-income families through population health initiatives. I was struck that high-risk babies admitted to the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit had a high rate of readmission and parents were not getting the support they need. Care for babies shouldn’t end when they leave the NICU. I saw a need for post-discharge care, as well as comprehensive services and care for high-risk patients.

What’s your core business philosophy? When I started in 2003, there was an adversarial relationship between health plans and hospitals. I believed the way to address this was through partnerships and collaboration. When you focus on the right things, evidence-based medicine and high-quality care, and have conversations with the clinical teams who deliver that care, costs will naturally come down and we have proven this in our data.

How did you fund the company when you first started, and why? When I started Progeny, I didn’t even know investors existed. I bootstrapped the company for 14 years, starting in my basement, no money, no mentors, no nothing. A year and a half ago, I entered into a partnership with a private equity firm, Sunstone Partners, to help me implement long-term growth strategies for the business. They have helped my team and me to fine-tune our growth strategy as we scale and have played a key role in helping us recruit top notch talent.

How do you keep a competitive edge as your company grows? Market reputation is very important and we will always do the right thing to support a healthy outcome for high-risk infants. Our teams work hard to ensure that doctors and nurses have what they need so parents and babies will have the best outcome possible. Strategic planning and innovating the model each year, is baked into our DNA. A key differentiator for us is our platform, Baby Trax®, which provides analytic and predictive tools. We always run with a healthy level of fear and work hard to stay ahead of any competition in our space.

How do you measure success?There are three factors: happy, productive and engaged employees who love what they are doing. And happy customers. Our very first customer is still with us, and a very great partner. We also have very high levels of member satisfaction from families which is very rewarding feedback for our case managers.

What motivates you? Our team at Progeny comes to work every day to improve the health and wellness of the next generation. That hasn’t changed for me. From the very first day, I have believed with all my heart in what we are doing. It excites me even more when I see the incredibly talented workforce we have within the company today furthering our mission as an organization.

What’s the most important lesson you’ve learned? When you know in your soul that you have found a problem you believe you can solve, it drives you every day, to grow the business and scale it. Tenacity and perseverance build a company. If you can see through those tough days and get to the good, it becomes a guiding light. It makes me sad when someone with a great idea stops too soon. You aren’t going to build an incredible company in a day. It takes years of hard work and dedication.

How has the AWE network impacted you and your business? I met Jane Hollingsworth, who was the president of AWE at the time, and she gave me tremendous advice. Her advice was that I should talk with a strategic advisory firm and have them come in and do a GAP analysis on the business. At the time, I had 13 employees and was wearing 15 hats and couldn’t get out of my own way. When I joined AWE, I found that the sponsors were an incredible resource to scaling entrepreneurs as they have seen this journey over and over again in other companies and gave great advice. AWE is a collection of like-minded people who are on the same journey, who understand quickly what you are going through. The Founders Roundtables are very educational, a place where I always learn something new.

What’s the most influential book you’ve read in the last five years? Leadership in Turbulent Times, by the historian Doris Kearns Goodwin. She studied four presidents of the United States (Abraham Lincoln, Theodore Roosevelt, Franklin D. Roosevelt, and Lyndon B. Johnson) and how they overcame challenges and led the country through incredibly difficult times in the history of the US.

If you weren’t involved with your current venture, you would be: A CEO in health care or climbing the ladder to a C-suite job.

The goal of the Cover Stories series is to profile female founders scaling companies to counterbalance the constant flow of cover stories that only focus on 20-year old men dressed in jeans and hoodies. High-growth women founders exist, and their stories should take a leading role in shaping how we see entrepreneurship.