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- Google is going deeper into the healthcare industry after a past effort flopped.
- Starting when Dr. David Feinberg joined the company in 2019, the tech giant is building a team of health pros.
- Called “Google Health,” it includes more than 500 managers, scientists, and engineers – and plans to get bigger.
- Business Insider identified the 18 most important people shaping the new group’s strategy.
- For more stories like this, sign up here for our healthcare newsletter, Dispensed.
Google is going after the healthcare industry with renewed intensity.
Starting when Dr. David Feinberg joined the company in 2019, the tech giant is consolidating many of its health efforts onto a single team.
Called “Google Health,” it’s got more than 500 managers, scientists, clinicians, engineers, and product experts right now – and plans to only get bigger.
Read more:11 tech chiefs, analysts, and bankers in healthcare reveal how Amazon, Microsoft, and Google have used the coronavirus to make new inroads in the $3.6 trillion industry.
A past iteration of the team, which tried to offer online personal health records, never took off. The company shut it down nearly 10 years ago, citing a lack of widespread adoption.
But the new group is an ambitious, self-described “product area” within Google that’s hoping to transform the way everyday people get care, and how the system delivers it.
Inside Google, Google Health oversees artificial intelligence projects and work with Verily, YouTube, and search teams. It’s also known to be a kind of medical voice and advisor to higher ups like CEO Sundar Pichai.
Read more:As Verily looks to IPO, CEO Andrew Conrad says an inter-Alphabet ‘sibling rivalry’ with Google’s own health team is hurting both companies.
Externally, the team has ongoing projects with public health officials, academic medical centers, and health systems like Ascension.
Business Insider identified 18 of the top leaders steering this still-developing part of Google’s strategy into the future.
From members of former President Barack Obama’s administration to scientists on the cutting edge of machine learning, it’s a star-studded lineup given the difficult task of executing Google’s overall health mission: “improving the lives of as many people as possible.”
Here’s a rare look at the power players at Google Health, according to Google and other sources, listed alphabetically:
Afia Asamoah – Head of Legal
Afia Asamoah has a long history with health initiatives within Alphabet: She was the first lawyer to support Google’s health project back in 2014 when it was called Google Life Sciences.
Her early work included the licensing of Google patents for a partnership with Alcon on a smart contact lens. When Life Sciences became Verily in 2015, Asamoah remained as the group’s senior counsel, and becoming Verily’s first trust and compliance officer.
In 2019, she moved back over to the mothership and joined Google Health as their new head of legal.
Dr. Robert Califf – Advisor, Clinical Policy and Strategy
As the former head of the US Food and Drug Administration under Obama, Dr. Robert Califf is one of Google Health’s highest-profile hire for regulatory work.
Starting in the fall of 2019, he’s been leading clinical policy and strategy for Verily while also advising Google Health.
In fact, his work with Verily, which centered on provider-friendly tech, began before he joined Alphabet full-time.
“My hope is that Silicon Valley and entrepreneurs nationwide will collaborate on building an environment capable of linking the more than 300 million people in the U.S. to information that helps them live healthy, productive lives,” Califf wrote in 2017.
A cardiologist and researcher, he’s still an adjunct professor at Duke University, where he helped create the Duke Clinical Research Institute, the largest academic clinical research organization, and Duke Forge, a center for health science data, according to Duke.
Greg Corrado – Distinguished Scientist
A Google “Distinguished Scientist,” Greg Corrado is one Google’s brainiest brains.
Armed with a PhD in neuroscience and master’s degree in computer science from Stanford University, he heads Google Health’s research and innovations division.
Lately, Corrado is focusing on machine learning in healthcare, overseeing research in genomics, clinical predictions, medical image interpretation, and novel signals research, according to Google.
Prior to that, he cofounded the Google Brain team, which is laser focused on artificial intelligence. And before Google, he modeled human neural networks for a variety of applications at IBM.
Jeff Dean — Senior Fellow, SVP of Google AI
Jeff Dean has been at Google since 1999 and is something of a legend in the ranks. He was one of the earliest members of the Google Brain team, an autonomous research group, and now leads Google’s entire AI division.
Health has always been close to Dean’s heart. In the 90s, he worked on statistical modeling for the World Health Organization before joining the tech giant – and he now oversees Google Health group as part of his duties.
Dean has worked on research in using deep learning for electronic health records, and overseen the rollout of projects including a joint venture with Verily to use AI to screen for diabetic eye disease.
Feinberg reports to Jeff Dean, who is one of Google CEO Sundar Pichai’s small handful of direct reports.
Dr. Karen DeSalvo – Chief Health Officer
Dr. Karen DeSalvo is Google Health’s Chief Health Officer and the broader company’s “go-to medical expert,” according to Google. She’s meant to bring a holistic view of health to Google’s products and services, as she said in a recent Google interview.
Lately, DeSalvo, as one of Google’s most prominent voices in public health more broadly, is leading a lot of the tech giant’s response to coronavirus outbreaks. One such project includes getting Google’s search results to prioritize credible information about the pandemic.
DeSalvo is on the advisory board for Google’s sister company Verily Life Sciences, as well as the board of directors at Welltower, a real estate investment trust, according to her resume. She also served on Humana’s board until 2019.
Prior to joining Google, DeSalvo helped re-engineer healthcare in Louisiana after Hurricane Katrina. At the US Department of Health and Human Services, she facilitated upgrades to the US health system’s sluggish IT.
A physician and professor, much of her work and research has focused on barriers to care.
Dr. David Feinberg — VP and Head
When Dr. David Feinberg became the head of Google Health in January 2019, he took charge of a newly-formed organization made up of the Google Research health team, Deepmind Health, and one of Google’s hardware teams.
It was a major new effort to align Google’s thinking about health under one roof, and a big signal that Google was taking health seriously.
The health organization spans a range of consumer product and research projects, and insiders say Feinberg has spent a lot of his early term trying to determine what Google’s role in healthcare should be. Not to mention how the company’s various initiatives, including the life sciences arm Verily, should work together.
Feinberg started as a child psychiatrist at UCLA, helping patients with mental health needs. He later went on to become CEO of Geisinger Health, overseeing a community of more than 3 million patients.
Although David Feinberg leads Google Health, he reports to Jeff Dean – Google’s head of all things artificial intelligence – a signal of how important AI is to the company’s healthcare efforts.
Read more:We just got our first look at what Google’s grand plans are for healthcare after it brought in a top doctor to lead its health team
Kristen Gill — COO, VP of BizOps, Business Finance Officer
Kristen Gil has been directing business operations inside Google since 2007, working with leaders across the company on strategies to grow and monetize.
Gil now oversees Google Health as part of her role – with one of the busiest job titles in the organization.
She’s helped Google to continually re-architect its structure as the company has grown, and can occasionally be seen at conferences offering a glimpse into the inner-workings of the tech behemoth.
“I think [process] can both be a real way to unlock innovation and it can also be a real way to suck the life blood out of innovation,” Gil told an audience at a re:Work event in 2016.
Dr. Michael Howell – Chief Clinical Strategist
As Google’s chief clinical strategist, Dr. Michael Howell is focused on various applications of the company’s technology within the healthcare system at large.
Much of his work at Google and elsewhere is about improving and studying the actual delivery of care — like using data from electronic health records to figure out how people get infections in hospitals, according to the company.
Before Google, he was chief quality officer at the University of Chicago Medicine.
Alan Karthikesalingam – Research Lead, UK
Dr. Alan Karthikesalingam is the head of Google Health’s machine learning research group in London. A surgeon, he’s a key figure in Google’s work to aid medical diagnoses.
Prior to joining Google Health, he led DeepMind and Google’s teams through landmark studies about breast cancer screening, blinding eye diseases, and patient deterioration with the US’ Veterans Affairs, all of which tested various applications of AI, according to the company.
Now, Karthikesalingam’s work is largely focused on Google’s development of products for clinical care, AI safety, and algorithmic bias, according to Google.
With a PhD in vascular surgery, master’s in advanced surgical practice, and a medical degree, Karthikesalingam is still a practicing surgeon and lecturer at the Imperial College in London.
Dr. Dominic King – Director, UK lead
Prior to joining Google Health, Dr. Dominic King was the health lead on DeepMind, the UK-based AI research lab acquired by Google and later spun out into an independent Alphabet company.
Last year, DeepMind’s health team merged with Google Health, positioning King as the new director and UK lead.
“Under the leadership of Dr. David Feinberg, and alongside other teams at Google, we’ll now be able to tap into global expertise in areas like app development, data security, cloud storage and user-centered design to build products that support care teams and improve patient outcomes,” wrote King in a blog post last September, announcing the merger was complete.
Matt Klainer – VP, Business Development
Matt Klainer leads up business development on Google Health, putting him in charge of all efforts to commercialize the business and form key partnerships.
Klainer joined the Google Health team in January and replaced Virginia McFerran, previously of UnitedHealth Group, who was at Google Health for just seven months.
Klainer reports to Donald Harrison, Google’s president of global partnerships and corporate development, who’s a direct report of Chief Business Officer Philipp Schindler.
Klainer’s tenure at Google spans back to 2008 and has seen him working on areas such as Android and consumer communications products.
Michael Macdonnell – Director of Global Deployment
Michael Macdonnell leads the deployment of Google Health’s technologies to provide doctors and nurses with helpful patient information.
“Over the coming years, these tools will incorporate cutting-edge machine learning with the aim of predicting and preventing illness, or acute deterioration, before it happens,” he wrote on his LinkedIn bio.
Before it was absorbed into Google Health, Macdonnell was at DeepMind Health overseeing the development of Streams, an AI assistant for clinicians in the UK.
Macdonnell is very familiar with the UK’s National Health Service. His previous job was national director for transforming health systems at NHS England, giving him years of insight into the healthcare industry.
Paul Muret – VP, Product and Engineering
A company veteran, Paul Muret joined Google in 2005 when it acquired his web analytics startup, Urchin. He then led the Google Analytics for several years, later adding Display, Video and Apps to his title responsibilities.
In 2018, Muret moved over to a new VP role in AI and health, and CNBC reported that he advocated for the idea of forming the Google Health organization before Google named Feinberg CEO.
Now, he leads Google Health’s entire product division.
Mike Pearson – Chief of Staff
As Google Health’s chief of staff, Mike Pearson is responsible for the execution of the health team’s various projects.
Pearson, who has previously worked on business development across Android and Google Life Sciences (before it was renamed Verily), reports directly to Feinberg at Google Health.
Prior to joining Google’s health wing, he helped erect CapitalG, Alphabet’s private equity investment vehicle, led development of Android stores, and worked on strategy for apps.
Dr. Lily Peng – Product Manager, Research
Dr. Lily Peng leads the product management team for the medical imaging and diagnostics team at Google Health, which is one of the busiest in the organization.
Her team works with deep learning, with the goal of making healthcare more accurate, according to Google. Their recent projects tap AI to detect diseases, predict cardiovascular health factors, classify skin diseases, and more.
In fact, Peng’s team recently made an algorithm that identifies diabetic retinopathy. It’s already being used by doctors in India, Thailand, and Europe, according to Google.
Before Google, Peng worked at Doximity, an online networking platform for medical professionals, and cofounded Nano Precision Medical, a medical device startup.
Linda Peters – VP, Quality and Regulatory
Linda Peters started working at Google in the fall of 2019.
She’s tasked with making sure that Google’s portfolio of health products — which includes cancer screening, image processing tools, and far more — lands regulatory approvals and otherwise complies with the law.
Prior to Google, Peters worked for medical device giant Becton Dickinson, where she reported directly to the CEO and oversaw areas including FDA approval of drugs and software.
Dr. Alvin Rajkomar – Research Scientist
A researcher for Google Brain and product manager, Dr. Alvin Rajkomar is focused on a huge subset of Google Health’s work: provider-facing tech tools.
He spends a lot of time combing through big clinical databases with deep learning. The goal is to find ways of improving care based on information from the masses.
Rajkomar is also a key leader in Google’s oft-reported work with Ascension, which aims to create search tools for clinicians that call up patients’ information from health records, among other things.
His team of researchers, meanwhile, is similarly focused on tech that unifies patient information, from lab results to diagnoses, into one place for clinicians, according to Google.
Outside of Google, Rajkomar is also a practicing physician at the University of California, San Francisco, and holds an adjunct faculty position.
Read more:Google is working with a massive health system to gather data on millions of patients. Here’s an inside look at the tools they’re developing.
Shashidhar Thakur – VP, Engineering
Shashidhar Thakur – known as “Shashi” to friends and colleagues – made his mark at Google working on search products including Google Discover and the knowledge graph.
Thakur, who for many years worked closely with Google search guru Ben Gomes (now overseeing Google’s education initiative), jumped over to the Google Health team in 2019 where he’s currently VP of engineering.
Insiders say Thakur’s work in search and AI makes him perfectly placed for Google Health’s ambitious to bridge the divide between health and tech.
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