Martine Rothblatt: Innovating Through Radio and Therapeutics

This post was written by Lauren Emenaker ‘18

Martine Rothblatt, Founder and CEO of United Therapeutics, could easily be considered the most interesting and inspiring speaker anyone has heard in many years. Martine visited UVM on October 11, 2017 (International Woman’s Day) and sat with Green Mountain Power CEO Mary Powell for a conversation in front of a sizable crowd at Alumni House. Here’s a brief overview. 

During a break from undergraduate studies, Rothblatt was inspired by traveling and working with a NASA satellite station. She wondered if it would be possible to have something in the Earth’s orbit that could give music to the world. Feeling enthused, she returned to school to study communication. She continued onto grad school and graduated from UCLA with JD-MBA degree. All the while, Rothblatt’s passion for satellite communication continued to remain at the forefront of her life, leading her to become founder and CEO of SiriusXM Satellite Radio.

When you are least expecting it, life throws you a curveball. This is what happened to Rothblatt when her youngest daughter was diagnosed with pulmonary arterial hypertension, a disease for which there is no cure. The doctors explained that the best hope for survival was a lung transplant, and the waiting list was incredibly long. Rothblatt knew she had to do everything in her power to help her daughter. She spent many nights in the hospital library researching the disease and looking through past studies.

One study remained in her mind as a possible solution – something that had been designed for congestive heart failure and she felt had a possibility for alteration. She created a foundation to be able to do more research in the field of life sciences and, in 1996, founded United Therapeutics, a medical biotechnology company. As a lifelong learner, Rothblatt went back to school for a Ph.D. degree, which was granted in 2001. Her daughter is well and alive.

Today, Martine Rothblatt is the most recognized transgender CEO in the United States, but the path hasn’t been an easy one. The idea of coming out was always associated with fear. She launched SiriusXM Satellite Radio as a man, and had to decide whether or not to launch United Therapeutics as a woman. Thankfully, Rothblatt found a supportive and loving partner early on who encouraged the transition. They raised a forward-thinking family together and their kids were supportive of the transition as well. Rothblatt knows she will face hardship resulting from her choice, but wants to show people it is possible to have a successful life being true to yourself.

Four Pieces of Advice from Martine Rothblatt:

  • Universities are the deepest places of knowledge, so take advantage of your educational experiences. If you don’t know why you are at university, then you should travel, figure it out, and then go back to school.
  • Not everyone is meant to be an entrepreneur — you have to feel that your entrepreneurial mission is more important than life itself.
  • Innovations are a product of love, passion and hard work.
  • Find people who love and support you for who you are.

One Reply to “Martine Rothblatt: Innovating Through Radio and Therapeutics”

  1. Great blog post and I really enjoyed reading this… Also, the pieces of advice from Martine Rothblatt are very beautiful and those are very brilliant words – simply Great! The life story of Rothblatt is very amazing and a big applause for all her successes.

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