Taking Calculated Risks

Dr. Andrea Paul is a physician entrepreneur who has a unique story to share about her educational company. She started BoardVitals to provide relevant medical information to help residents prepare for and pass their board exams.


Although BoardVitals hasn’t been around that long, it’s grown tremendously into an Inc. 500, eight-figure business. Now, Andrea and her company are part of a much larger educational organization, Ascend Learning.

Growing Up Selling Golf Balls

Andrea’s been an entrepreneur since she was a child. When her family lived on a golf course, she would find golf balls and sell them. During high school, she rented retail space in the local mall to start a new business.

Andrea grew up in a family of engineers and doctors. She chose to become a physician and went to Michigan State University College of Medicine. She began a residency at Yale University, but left to start BoardVitals with a cofounder.

Fortunately, BoardVitals took off, made the Inc. 500 list, and now employs 35 full-time staff members, with 60 different product lines, and more than 100,000 customers.

educational company andrea paul

Our Sponsor

This podcast is made possible by the University of Tennessee Physician Executive MBA Program offered by the Haslam College of Business. You’ll remember that I interviewed Dr. Kate Atchley, the Executive Director of the program, in Episode #25 of this podcast.

The UT PEMBA is the longest running, and most highly respected physician-only MBA in the country, with over 650 graduates. Unlike most other ranked programs, which typically have a duration of 18 to 24 months, this program only takes a year to complete. And, it’s offered by the business school that was recently ranked #1 in the world for the Most Relevant Executive MBA program, by Economist magazine.

University of Tennessee PEMBA students bring exceptional value to their organizations by contributing at the highest level while earning their degree. The curriculum includes a number of major assignments and a company project, both of which are structured to immediately apply to each student’s organization.

Graduates have taken leadership positions at major healthcare organizations and have become entrepreneurs and business owners. If you want to acquire the business and management skills needed to advance your nonclinical career, contact Dr. Kate Atchley’s office by calling (865) 974-6526 or going to vitalpe.net/physicianmba.

Day-to-Day Duties as CMO and Founder

Andrea and her partner demonstrated the concept of BoardVitals as an educational company for about a year, reaching monthly sales of about $30,000. They then sought external investors by working in an incubator.

Using the funds and expertise provided by their investors, BoardVitals quickly accelarated its growth by expanding into other healthcare education markets. That led to its sale to Ascend Learning, a much larger educational company.

As CMO, Andrea now works with Ascend Learning to find and develop new opportunities for educational products or continuing education content. She thoroughly enjoys developing new ideas for products and content.

At BoardVitals, Andrea oversees all of its products. She manages a large team, which includes more than 500 individual contractors, writers, editors, and reviewers who create, edit, and review content.

In addition, there are about 100,000 experts in various medical areas who review the content and provide feedback. This enables the company to continuously improve. As a result, BoardVitals can demonstrate higher board exam pass rates in its students.

Setting up Startup and Students for Success

BoardVitals was a self-funded startup. Initially, Andrea and a couple physician friends were the only ones creating products and content for the company.

To grow the company quickly and avoid competition, BoardVitals used Blueprint Health to help raise money and connect with experts who understand what the company wanted to accomplish.

BoardVitals sets up medical residents and other healthcare professionals for success by offering high-quality educational material that increases their knowledge and helps them pass their board exams.


Making the Transition from Startup to Corporate World

It was an adjustment for Andrea, but she's learned much since becoming part of a larger corporate structure. There are additional meetings and conferences to ensure alignment within Ascend. Different functions require a little more interaction than others. But, on a day-to-day basis, Ascend Learning allows BoardVitals to continue to grow in its own way.

If you liked this episode, you'll enjoy these interviews with other physician entrepreneurs:

Links for today's episode:

Dr. Andrea Paul
Ascend Learning
Inc. 500 List
Crane’s Fast 50 List
Blueprint Health Accelerator

Thanks to our sponsor…

Thanks to the UT Physician Executive MBA program for sponsoring the show. It’s an outstanding, highly rated, MBA program designed for working physicians. It might be just what you need to prepare for that joyful, well-paying career. You can find out more at vitalpe.net/physicianmba.

Thanks again for listening to the story explaining how I found my wonderful nonclinical careers. I hope to see you next time on the PNC Podcast.

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Podcast Editing & Production Services are provided by Oscar Hamilton.


The opinions expressed here are mine and my guest’s. While the information provided on the podcast is true and accurate to the best of my knowledge, there is no express or implied guarantee that using the methods discussed here will lead to success in your career, life or business. 

Many of the links that I refer you to, and that you’ll find in the show notes, are affiliate links. That means that I receive a payment from the seller if you purchase the affiliate item using my link. Doing so has no effect on the price you are charged. And I only promote products and services that I believe are of high quality and will be useful to you, that I have personally used or am very familiar with.

The information presented on this blog and related podcast is for entertainment and/or informational purposes only. It should not be construed as medical, legal, tax, or emotional advice. If you take action on the information provided on the blog or podcast, it is at your own risk. Always consult an attorney, accountant, career counsellor, or other professional before making any major decisions about your career. 

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