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Communications of the ACM

Career paths in computing

How Computing Empowered Me to Tackle Big Problems in Medicine

Peter Small, M.D.

Credit: Hyfe AI

I would have been shocked (and frankly, still quite am) if someone told me at the start of my career that I would one day lead a team of medical residents at the University of California, be granted tenure at Stanford University, build a philanthropic product development effort at the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, and start a Global Health Institute at Stony Brook University. So how is it I've done all those things, and now I'm deeply immersed in the application of AI/ML to improve peoples' health—a domain I know next to nothing about?

I will not dispute the role of luck but in the words of Louis Pasteur, "chance favors the prepared mind." For me, part of being prepared has meant having a willingness to work across disciplines, which in turn has led me to the world of computing. Over the decades it's come to play a prominent role in so many aspects of my work and life.


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