5 Questions for Anita Watkins
You Oughta Know
Why her? Anita is Director of Strategic Innovation at Rex Health Ventures, which invests in health care startups on behalf of the Raleigh hospital and its parent, UNC Health Care System. She joined in 2012 and helps evaluate companies to determine their fit and ability to leverage the expertise within Rex and across the UNC Health Care system. Anita also serves on various boards including the Council for Entrepreneurial Development, N.C. Museum of Natural Sciences, Innovate Raleigh and is Chair of NC ASSIST, an National Science Foundation-funded engineering research center focused on developing disruptive healthcare wearables. Prior to joining Rex, she served as the Vice President for Government Relations for the University of North Carolina’s 17-campus university system. She holds a Juris Doctor and Master degree from UNC-Chapel Hill and undergraduate degrees in Political Science and Spanish from N.C. State.
What do you like best about your job? Meeting creative entrepreneurs working to solve problems in healthcare. Each day we receive proposals for new devices, software, and healthcare solutions to improve how hospitals care for patients. It’s great to get an early look at these companies, potentially help them grow and succeed, and introduce our providers to new and exciting ways to transform healthcare.
What inspires you? People with a passion for what they do — I call it “fire in the belly.” Through my years in public policy and the past five years in venture, I’ve found working alongside those passionate about their work truly inspires me.
Who is someone we should watch? Dr. Ravish Sachar, the physician-in-chief for Heart and Vascular services at UNC Rex Healthcare and founder of Contego Medical, a medical device company focused on embolic protection during the treatment of cardiovascular disease. He is also a founding member of Rex Health Ventures. Contego Medical has developed a portfolio of novel medical devices and is poised for strong growth over the next few years. This will result in safer procedures for patients with cardiovascular disease.
What was your biggest challenge? Finding time to review each company seeking an opportunity with Rex Health Ventures while ensuring I am spending quality time on the best investments for us. Our deal flow is healthy and robust, but that limits our ability to review the company proposals as quickly as we would like.
Favorite NC vacation spot? Any state park — we have such an amazing system of parks across the state. I love exploring new sites, hiking and camping with my sons, husband and friends.