Changemaker - Dr Marcus Tan MBBS UWA

Medical Director / Chief Executive Officer, HealthEngine

Dr Marcus Tan

About Marcus

Since graduating with a medical degree from UWA in 1997, Marcus became a Fellow of the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners and, following a short stint in rural practice, developed an interest in skin cancer and minor surgery. He went on to become a medical director for a national skin cancer clinic group.

Marcus completed an Executive MBA from the Australian Graduate School of Management in 2005 and established a boutique health management consultancy.

A Fellow of the Australian Institute of Company Directors, Marcus has been a board director for over a decade with the Divisions of General Practice. He is currently Chair of the Perth Central and East Metro Medicare Local. He also serves on the Executive Council of the Australian Medical Association (WA) and is a director of the WA Primary Health Alliance.

Marcus is an Adjunct Associate Professor in Health Leadership and Management at Curtin University. He was appointed by the Health Minister as a member of the Governing Council for the South Metropolitan Area Health Service in Perth overseeing six hospitals including Royal Perth, Fremantle and Fiona Stanley Hospitals with a total operating budget of $2 billion.

As a founder of Sync Labs, Western Australia's premier tech start-up co-working space, Marcus is a prominent figure in the tech community. He is the Managing Partner of Future Health Ventures, an angel fund that invests in digital health start-ups. He is the current CEO of one of its portfolio companies, HealthEngine, a consumer health internet site which received $10.4M in investment from Telstra and Seven West Media Group in 2013 and is now used by over 6 million Australians a year to find and book health appointments online.

Marcus supports the social sector through his involvement on the board of Giving West and The Meridian Global Foundation, a charitable organisation he co-founded in 2005.

From medical graduate to successful entrepreneur

I was pretty nerdy growing up, playing a lot of chess, strategy and computer games. I have always enjoyed solving problems. These skills and interests meant that, outside of practicing medicine, I was attracted to opportunities to innovate using technology and applying strategic thinking to complex problems. Entrepreneurship and directorship were natural roles in what some people have coined a "matrix" or "portfolio" career. Serendipity mostly and the willingness to give things a go, without fully understanding where they might end up, played a huge part in where I am right now.

Connection with UWA

Studying Medicine at UWA was a defining part of my life both personally and professionally. I must admit, I struggled balancing the academic and social side of my first three years, which were pre-clinical, with a heavy emphasis on theory and basic sciences. I found it dry and uninspiring, particularly being surrounded by so many distractions on campus. I spent an inordinate number of hours at the refectory and recreation centre playing basketball, badminton and going to the gym. I forged great friendships in the shared experience of long hours studying, being grilled by hospital consultants and partying in the spare hours.

The last three years of study were much more clinical in nature. Being based at various hospitals and having patient contact was much more enjoyable and rewarding. It was at this time that I joined the Chung Wah Association Youth Group (UWA) committee and eventually became the President of the group after spending a lot of time organising social and sporting events for students and recent graduates. This volunteer role led to meeting my future wife and the mother of my two boys, so I will always be grateful for that experience.

My student experience and education at UWA showed me the value of being inquisitive and being open to opportunities to contribute to the community. Going forward, I plan to continue looking for ways to improve the health system and doing more in the investment and philanthropic space.

Navigating the health system

My work at HealthEngine is about helping solve the problem of navigating the complex health system for patients and healthcare providers. Giving people information such as when appointments are available in real time with nearby health practitioners such as GPs, dentists and physiotherapists, coupled with the ability to book 24/7 means patients are able to make better decisions and access more timely healthcare. This can increase the capacity of the health system and make it more efficient and cost effective.

Through Sync Labs, we are able to provide a tech co-working space that helps bring the start-up community closer, linking entrepreneurs, investors and service providers in a shared and affordable working environment.