“Putting patients and their outcomes before anything else”: a conversation with Dr. Adam Wolfberg, Virta’s new Chief Medical Officer

Published on 
June 18, 2024
May 9, 2023
Virta Health
Virta Health
Virta Health

We are thrilled to welcome new Chief Medical Officer, Adam Wolfberg, MD, MPH, to the Virta team!

Dr. Wolfberg brings over two decades of experience as both a practicing physician and a medical leader at fast-growing digital health companies to his role at Virta. Most recently, Dr. Wolfberg served as Chief Medical Officer (CMO) at Current Health (acquired by Best Buy) and at Ovia Health (acquired by LabCorp). He’s also held clinical leadership roles at athenahealth and several other health technology companies, while maintaining an active practice at Cambridge Health Alliance

Throughout his career, Dr. Wolfberg has helped organizations balance the demands of patient care, safety, outcomes, and research with commercial priorities. With this broad experience, Dr. Wolfberg will lead our medical and research teams to help guide Virta through our next phase of growth. 

CEO Sami Inkinen sat down with Dr. Wolfberg to dive deeper into his background and interest in Virta. The two also discussed how Virta can break through without a billion-dollar marketing budget (“focus on the evidence”), upcoming research opportunities (“we’re just at the beginning”), and what he’s learned from being an avid marathon runner. 

Watch the full interview here (transcript below). 

Sami Inkinen:

This is Sami Inkinen, CEO and Co-founder of Virta Health, and I'm very excited to share that Dr. Adam Wolfberg has just joined Virta as our Chief Medical Officer. So Adam, welcome to our team.

Dr. Adam Wolfberg

Sami, I'm delighted to be part of the Virta team, couldn't be happier.

Sami Inkinen

Equally excited. So, let's talk about your background a little bit. So you bring over a couple of decades of experience in both scaling and commercializing innovations in the healthcare industry as well as clinical and research experience. Can you talk a little bit about your background, and how that's uniquely fitted for the next phase of Virta growth?

Dr. Adam Wolfberg

Sure. So I trained in obstetrics and gynecology and maternal fetal medicine first in the Harvard system, then at Tufts and had a relatively brief career as an NIH-funded investigator on the Tufts faculty. I got really excited about the opportunity to advance health by working with innovative health technology organizations. And if so, I've spent about the last decade working with growth-stage private companies to help them advance the health of Americans and those patients around the world.

Sami Inkinen

So our mission is to reverse type two diabetes in a hundred million people. And I really love your broad experience and background, which is so useful for us as we scale. But one thing you did not mention specifically was diabetes and metabolic health in your background. What got you so excited about Virta? Given we have this diabetes and metabolic health focus, and given your background.

Dr. Adam Wolfberg

It's such a good point, Sami, because you're right, my clinical background and much of my business experience is focused on women's health, but I am very well aware that diabetes, metabolic health, obesity, are among the most important public health problems facing this country. So the opportunity to partner with you and the incredible Virta team was one I just couldn't pass up.

Sami Inkinen

Well again, welcome to our team, and equally excited to work together to solve this problem and challenge we have. You mentioned your background, it's very broad from clinical to research to scaling and commercializing and all those capabilities and skills are so important to Virta at this point of our growth. I'm curious, as a clinical leader, how do you balance these conflicting interests when obviously we always want to put the patient first, patient safety, patient outcomes, but how do you balance these conflicting, potentially conflicting interests in your day-to-day work?

Dr. Adam Wolfberg

I always put patients first and am just delighted that Virta demonstrates the values of excellent medical care, safety for patients, and always putting patients and their outcomes before anything else. And that has always been important to me and is clearly a top priority for Virta. I stay grounded by seeing patients and so tonight I'll be in the hospital covering labor and delivery, and that's been really important to me, the direct one-on-one patient contact, which informs the way I think about how a fast-growing organization like Virta can keep patients in the forefront and make sure that that we're impacting their health every day.

Sami Inkinen

Yeah, and I remember when we were having a conversation about you joining Virta, you asked, "is it okay if I keep practicing medicine at a local hospital as well?" And I said, "are you kidding me? That's amazing. That's fantastic that you have the desire and interest." So it's wonderful that you kind of stay in a patient interface in addition to the Virta patients as well. Well, let's shift gears a little bit and talk about commercialization. So as a growth company and privately held growth company, when you are commercializing and innovating, you can't just throw hundreds of millions of dollars or billions of dollars into advertising. You have a lot of experience in scaling and commercializing and breaking through the noise, really, with your prior companies, whether that's Current Health or Ovia Health or athenahealth. Any experiences that you would highlight or lessons learned that Virta could benefit from? How do you break through in a noisy healthcare environment where you can't just throw money into advertising?

Dr. Adam Wolfberg

I think that you focus on the evidence that it works, and I'm just so impressed that Virta invested in the well-designed clinical research studies at the very beginning to show that the Virta program is effective in helping patients to reverse diabetes. And then they publish, and you publish these data in the peer-reviewed literature, which shows our patients and it shows our clients that this is the gold standard treatment. I have always believed in peer-reviewed publication of evidence of efficacy, and have found that to be the way to break through the noise at each of the companies where I've worked.

Sami Inkinen

Well, I'm glad you mentioned data and evidence and science-based. Those are absolutely some of the foundational pillars of Virta, and speaking of which, you'll obviously be leading our research as well. Anything you're excited about, what could or should we be doing in terms of data, data collection, and publishing looking forward?

Dr. Adam Wolfberg

I'm really excited to be working with the extraordinary research team at Virta, a really amazing group of investigators, and I think you're right. There is an opportunity to demonstrate the impact of the Virta program beyond type two diabetes. Obviously there's more we can prove in the area of metabolic health, but I think that there are opportunities and early signals related to mental health, behavioral health, to malignancy, to cardiovascular and kidney disease. I think that we're just at the beginning.

Sami Inkinen

Sounds like you're going to be busy, which is exciting to hear. Well, let's finish off by talking a little bit about one slice of your personal life. So you are also a very avid runner and endurance athlete, and in fact just completed the London Marathon, which is very, very impressive in a very, very strong time. Any lessons learned from all the training and racing that you've done that you can apply or you have applied in your personal life or your professional life?

Dr. Adam Wolfberg

Yeah, Sami, I think there is, I think that when you train for a race, some days you have a good session and some days you don't, but you go out there every day and you put in the work and you make a plan and then you execute on the plan. And it's that hard work, day after day, whether it's easy or hard, that leads to success at the end. And I think that that lesson is very applicable for clinicians working with difficult patients; I think it's applicable for business leaders as we tackle tough problems. I think it's a great lesson that I keep with me every day.

Sami Inkinen

Well, there was something for me that I learned as well. So very grateful that you shared that. And most importantly, welcome to our team. Again, super excited to have you here and join our forces and continue on our mission to reverse type two diabetes in a hundred million people. So welcome to our team!

Dr. Adam Wolfberg

Thanks, Sami. I really appreciate the opportunity. I'm so excited to be working with you and all of our amazing colleagues.

This blog is intended for informational purposes only and is not meant to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition or any advice relating to your health. View full disclaimer

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