Q&A with Alumni: Garry Choy
July 24, 2019
Meet Dr. Garry Choy, MS&E alumnus and Chief Medical Officer at Q Bio.
Garry graduated from Stanford with a degree in Management Science & Engineering (Economic Engineering Systems and Operation Research), received a Bachelor of Science in Chemical Engineering from Columbia University, and a Masters in Business Administration from Johns Hopkins University. He also completed medical training at Albert Einstein College of Medicine as well as Brigham and Women's Hospital/Mass General Hospital.
"Being an MS&E alum means that I'm practicing what I've learned in the intersection of multiple disciplines, such as medicine, engineering, and business. When I look back, MS&E ties a lot of my previous educational and training experiences and career opportunities together."
Why did you choose MS&E?
I joined the department the year they changed the name to Management Science & Engineering (MS&E). I chose the program because it provided a great multidisciplinary approach to combining multiple areas of study, including engineering, business technology, and innovation. Moreover, the faculty really impressed me. The faculty came from all over, from business to engineering to computer science to electrical engineering to statistics.
Also, MS&E provided a very unique combination of courses that would allow me to learn more and learn how to approach the real world. The diversity of thought allowed me to entertain multiple interests at the intersection of multiple disciplines. I was interested in medicine; I was interested in engineering. MS&E was extremely applicable no matter what you end up doing and what I learned was useful in my everyday life.
I really enjoyed the company of my classmates as well. They came from different disciplines. I recall students who also completed an engineering undergrad, as well as people who completed their undergraduate degree in English. It was a very interesting combination of people and subjects.
What does it mean to be an MS&E alum?
Being an MS&E alum means that I’m practicing what I've learned in the intersection of multiple disciplines, such as medicine, engineering, and business. I'm drawing back upon the things I learned within MS&E, and it's the connector. I feel as if every single job I've held draws upon things from this program. MS&E has been an anchor to my professional career.
How did your time at Stanford impact what you do now?
It has made a significant impact on my life, even simply by knowing more people and being a part of this network. I feel extremely connected to Stanford. Moving back to the Bay Area, it's as if I never left when it's been twenty years. I've been very excited to meet more current students and alumni and other faculty members, reconnect and brainstorm new ideas, as well as learn more about what they are doing. Stanford is more innovative than ever. Their research programs are moving as fast as ever. Innovative companies coming out of Stanford have made such a strong impact in the Bay Area. Being in the geographic region has been very helpful and exciting.
Was there a particular class or professor that really stuck with you?
The "Global Entrepreneurial Marketing (MS&E 273: GEM)" course taught by now-retired Adjunct Professor Tom Kosnik was one of the most memorable classes. There are a few more courses that made a strong impact on me, such as Decision Analysis and Tech Entrepreneurial Ventures. I really enjoyed the projects and met so many amazing individuals. That class stuck with me because the learnings were so practical and so real. I recall one project in particular with Prof. Kosnik where he asked us to answer the following questions: "What do you want to do with your time? How do you maximize value from that, and how do you put a value on that?"
I answer these questions almost daily or with any project that I am working on. It may not be about me, but also about how we approach different projects at work. It was the best marketing class I've taken, and I went to business school after completing the MS&E program.
Another class that stood out was Decision Analysis. It made such a strong impression on me that I ended up taking all three courses. Decision Analysis was such an interesting approach to how to make better decisions both intuitively and, more importantly, quantitatively. That course was with Professor Ron Howard. He made such a technical subject understandable and applicable to real-life, from doing projects to evaluating when you should harvest your crops in Napa valley to make the best wine, to how to optimize FedEx delivery networks. That class was so influential that I've applied what I’ve learned to many projects in my professional career.
Can you tell me more about the work you're doing now?
My current work is focused on how to make health information more useful for clinical decision-making and early detection as applied to preventative medicine. How do you leverage the increasing amounts of information that we have about human health at the individual and population level to improve health care at large? We are currently focusing our work on tracking longitudinal changes in personal health profiles with a multinomial approach where we look at anything from genetics to radio MX, which is the imaging to proteomics, metabolomics. How do you actually track all these changes in health data within these areas to be able to provide a personalized baseline, as well as how your health might be changing, how your trajectory towards disease might be occurring?
If you look at doctors, they need the information to make an informed decision. When Hippocrates was practicing medicine, all he possessed was his eyes, sense of smell, and hearing to diagnose an individual. Now we have technologies that can look inside the body, such as non-invasive imaging techniques like whole-body MRI and increasingly cost-effective methods to sequence the genome. And we also have smartwatches enabling us to monitor everyone's heart rate. Arrhythmias can be detected. With a smartwatch, we're collecting so much information, and this massive amount of data is allowing us to become physicians of the future with the amount of clinical information collected ever increasing. This represents a significant opportunity to leverage the power of computation to improve human health. We can have the physical of the future, just like in Star Trek.
What are one or two things that have made you successful in your career?
Having the environment, including the right educational opportunities, and also having supportive parents and a family environment that allowed me to pursue my interests and to work hard within those interests. Definitely, hard work in general, putting in the time and pursuing challenging opportunities within the right environments. Stanford is an excellent example of endless possibilities. And even in medical school, being able to learn and process all that information. I had an environment that provided those types of opportunities to be able to work hard, and that strongly influenced my career.
The other thing that has enabled me to be successful in my career is timing and luck. I was lucky to be born to parents that were strong and supportive. I was lucky to have the friends and professional contacts that I have had along the way. I have been lucky enough to continue this journey and to continue making new connections and learn new things. I was lucky that the right opportunities crossed my path, providing me a way back to the bay area, allowing me to embark on a career in health and tech.
What advice would you give to a current MS&E student?
Explore as much as possible while you are in the MS&E program because it will pass by quickly. When I reflect on the time that I spent in the MS&E department, I would do it all over again and take even more classes. Explore all the different opportunities outside of class as well. Learn more about various companies that interest you.
I would also suggest sitting in or auditing courses that interest you and participate in projects with your friends, explore entrepreneurial ideas, whatever might be of interest to you because the time here is limited. I would challenge you to use your MS&E thinking to think about how would you optimize your time and experience here. Think about what you want to maximize as your own personalized target.
Can you offer some words of wisdom for MS&E alumni and students interested in pursuing a career similar to your own?
As I examine how one pursues a career that is at the intersection of multiple disciplines, I would recommend shadowing folks that might have done it. Find a mentor, talk to someone that's done it and get their advice. The wonderful thing about the current time is that you can really customize your own path; but of course, it's very challenging sometimes. You must explore and talk to people that have done it because there might not be a book about it. Talk to people you might find on Linkedin, people who might be speaking or teaching at a class or event. Do not be shy about reaching out.
Is there anything else you would like to add?
I'm open to giving advice and also providing mentorship to any MS&E student interested in healthcare and technology. In addition to that, I would say enjoy your time at Stanford, but in particular within the MS&E program.