20 Years of Changing Medicine

Twenty years ago this morning, I walked through the door of 1300 York Avenue ready to start a new role as a system administrator. I was looking forward to wrangling a few Mac OS X servers and seeing what life in the world of technology in academic medicine was like.

I’ve gone from racking and stacking, to conference room AV design, to software development, to web transformation, to IT experience, to institutional communications. I’ve grown from systems administrator through a complicated set of titles (and one very significant career pivot) to executive director.

I’ve worked through plane crashes, transit strikes, fires, hurricanes, crane collapses, office floods, power grid failures, earthquakes, and a once-a-century pandemic.

I’ve been welcomed with open arms, greeted with air kisses, and had my shoulder cried on. I’ve spent hours on the stage of Carnegie Hall. I’ve met Tony Fauci.

I have tried to shield equipment from a leaking ceiling, getting soaked in the process, only to be later told that the gross anatomy lab was likely the source of the fluids. I’ve unloaded a large truck full of computers in the middle of a busy NYC intersection. I’ve squashed a sizable cockroach, and disposed of it quietly, before the executive I was waiting on arrived. “Other duties as assigned”, as they say.

I’ve learned that I don’t mind public speaking, perhaps because everyone else dreads it so much. I have built some slide decks threaded with inside jokes just to pop myself.

I’ve had multiple team members pass away. No management training course prepares you to deal with death. I’ve written / edited enough institutional obituaries to lose count.

Per others, I have “solved the web”. I was once told in an annual performance review that I was “never wrong”, which went straight to my head.

On occasion, I’ve been mistreated, had doors metaphorically slammed in my face, and even had my (professional?) heart broken. But patience and fortitude conquer all things.

Some months before I started, I was entrenched in an interview with someone senior. He posed the question: where do you want to be in five years? As is my way, I was honest and open: I didn’t know. I just wanted to see where the job would take me. The interviewer scoffed: “You know that’s not a very good answer…”

I stand by it. For two full decades, I’ve absolutely let WCM take me where it needed me. I have seen my fingerprints and contributions on things, and I accept that someday they will fade. But for now, I know that I have more to do.