The 2016 MedTech Boston 40 Under 40 Healthcare Innovators


John Brownstein, PhD
CIO at Boston Children’s Hospital, Co-Founder at Epidemico
John Brownstein, PhDLike many of his colleagues, Dr. John Brownstein initially thought he was going to be an MD. “Along the way though, I realized that I had a much stronger passion for population-level work, or epidemiology, and shifted my focus in that area,” he explains. After traveling to Kenya and Uganda and witnessing the powerful connection between environment and disease firsthand, Brownstein decided to pursue a PhD in epidemiology at Yale.

When Brownstein arrived at Children’s Hospital in 2005, he discovered a way to combine his interest in large-scale models of disease with his other interests, namely mathematics, geography, ecology and computer science. “I realized that the hospital, like just about every other hospital at the time, was sitting on a huge amount of untapped data in the form of electronic medical records,” says Brownstein. The discovery of this and other data collections led him to develop HealthMap in 2006, an online public health surveillance tool that enabled epidemiologists to monitor emerging public health threats. One year later he spun off Epidemico, a private informatics company that offers advanced monitoring and consumer engagement tools for public health threats.

“I suddenly found myself at the forefront of a kind of epidemiology that didn’t have a name yet,” says Brownstein. “Today it’s most commonly referred to as digital epidemiology.”

Currently, Dr. Brownstein is the Chief Innovation Officer at Children’s Hospital where he uses his experience as an entrepreneur to help innovators “shepherd promising ideas to the point of licensing the technology or forming a startup.” In 2015, Brownstein and his team launched the Innovation & Digital Health Accelerator, which provides innovators at BCH with the tools and support their startups need to succeed.

For Brownstein, involving doctors and institutions in the creation of digital health tools is essential to providing patients with the best possible care. “Digital health is really going to be the cornerstone of what we do,” says Brownstein of the future of healthcare. “Brick and mortar will always be important, but so much of that crucial health-related interaction is taking place virtually.”

As someone who has had a fairly itinerant career path, Brownstein has the following advice for young innovators: “The really successful young professionals of the future will be the ones who find ways to bring their diverse interests to their healthcare work,” he says. “You can’t see where your career will lead you, but focus on the subjects you have a passion for and you’ll be able to create something very unique and valuable.”

MedTech Boston Staff

    Abigail Ballou, Alexandra David, Shreya Iyer and Casey Nugent contributed to this story.

    6 Comments

    1. Sraliceop@netscape says:

      Congratulations to Call9! I admire the motivation and purpose behind your work. May it enhance the Gift of Life for many people. And it all started with Al and Estelle! My best wishes and prayers!

      Alice Reichmeider, O.P.

    2. Chandra reddy says:

      Nina
      Way to go
      We are all so proud of you

    3. kusuma rao says:

      Hi Nina my name is KusumaRao classmate of your parents at MMC.i want you to know how proud i am of you not just the intelligence but the compassion for others at such an young age.To tell our own self for nthe good of others in not known in indian community. you made all of us feel good keepup the goodwork and God bless you love Kusuma aunty

    4. Dr. Harneet V Thakur says:

      Hi Anshuman,

      I am very proud of you and lucky to have you as my student. It was known during your M.tech project that you will shine. Many best wishes and congratulations. I wish you grand success in all your endevours.

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