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.


Embrace The Grind

Sometimes, programming feels like magic: you chant some arcane incantation and a fleet of robots do your bidding. But sometimes, magic is mundane. If you’re willing to embrace the grind, you can pull off the impossible.

Jacob Kaplan-Moss

The Web is a Flat Circle

Twenty-something years ago, around my junior year of high school, I applied for an Independent Study project. The proposal: build a website for my school district.

That project was old enough that it predated, so I can’t even pull a screenshot out of the archives.  But a few times a week, I trudged along in assembling a website for the three schools in the district.

This was, strangely, not new work for me at the time: I was already holding a part-time job for the one web design firm in my tiny town. So roughing out a site structure, scanning photos via a SCSI flatbed scanner, hand-writing the HTML code and picking the right hex colors was a relatively familiar feeling.

The site launched at, which was a particularly weird domain, even then. (In a weird bit of internet trivia, the hosting was provided by John R. Levine of “Internet for Dummies” fame, who not only lived in my town but later became the mayor.)

It wasn’t a particularly great site or deep site – you get what you pay for having an angsty teenager design your theoretically professional website – but it felt good to build an internet presence for the place I spent most of my time.

Today, after 13 months of work, 639 tickets, and more meetings than I can genuinely remember, we pulled the trigger on the relaunch of

Nothing about it is what would qualify as a marvel of modern web engineering. There’s no blockchain, no bespoke node.js content management system, no deep social integration at the cost of your personal data. It’s just a nice website that tells some important stories about a medical school. (I’m big on storytelling this year.)

I’m grateful to have had a great team working with me every day to pull this off, even when I’m spitballing new ideas late in the project.

I’m grateful to have management above me who trusted my vision and my approach, even when what I’m explaining is confusing and foreign.

And I’m grateful that I got the chance to leave my imprint, however temporal a website may be, on an institution like WCM.