Pope said he had no idea that Time was considering him for this year’s listing, and that he only found out when he was contacted for a photograph. He said he was excited and humbled to hear their decision to include him, especially alongside other notable individuals like Bill and Melinda Gates, and he noted the pride he felt for his employees.
“It’s certainly an individual recognition, but it’s really reflective of everyone that has worked hard at TransEnterix to bring our Senhance platform to the market,” Pope said. “I’m just really proud that all the efforts of the team have really been recognized.”
Scott Smith, the senior director of development at the Kenan-Flagler Business School and another UNC graduate, met Pope through the business school’s Board of Advisers — of which Pope is a member — while Pope was still working at Cordis. Smith said Pope is a “great individual” with an “entrepreneurial spirit” and understands why he was chosen by Time for this issue.
“He’s somebody who’s got good vision — great vision — and knows how to run a company and make it better for the employees and expand it,” Smith said. “I think it does, again, show his innovation and his study of the industry.”
Though the two did not attend UNC at the same time, Pope was a player on the J.V. basketball team under Smith’s father, the legendary coach Dean Smith. Smith attributes some of Pope’s assiduous mentality to skills he developed during his time on the team.
“I think some of the instilled principles of hard work — really going to bat for other people, doing what’s right — I think those are some of the things that come through in Todd now,” Smith said. “These lessons he learned — they called it the ‘Carolina way’ back in the day — basically it’s ‘play hard, play smart, play together.’"
Pope attended UNC from 1983 to 1987, learning about the business side of the medical field and meeting his wife along the way. He cited the community interaction between Carolina graduates as one of the most important things to come out of his time at the school.
“I think the real impact for me has been, ever since I graduated from UNC, the network, the alumni have been incredible,” Pope said. “I’ve really been helped all throughout my career by people that I have met who attended Carolina, whether they were during my time or not.”
Even beyond attending UNC and serving on the Board of Advisers at the business school, Pope remains connected to UNC. He serves as chairperson of the Board of Directors of the Rams Club, and all three of his children have studied at UNC.
Pope’s son is a graduate of the business school, like his father, and both of his daughters are current students. One studies nursing, and the other, media and journalism. While Pope said the main reason his children wanted to attend the University was UNC's impressive reputation, UNC has become a family affair.
For those wanting to pursue a career in healthcare, Pope offered some advice. He cited his own example that you don’t have to be a doctor or nurse to make an impact on the field. He also said a problem-solving mindset is important for all students wanting to make a difference.
“When you see a really big problem out there, don’t rely on others to address it,” Pope said. “If you’ve seen the problem, you’re probably equipped to be a part of the solution.”