Tech Tonics: Susannah Fox, Learning from MacGyver Patients

January 16th, 2017 |
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Susannah Fox eloquently described her job as U.S. HHS Chief Technology Officer – a role which just came to an end in the transition to a new administration – as “helping Health and Human Service (HHS) leadership harness the power of data, technology, and innovation to improve the health and welfare of the nation.”

It sounds like a tall order, but Fox was uniquely suited to take it on given her previous experience at the Pew Research Center and as Entrepreneur-in-Residence at the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. Yet her most relevant experience may well have been her training in anthropology; Fox views technology as “a Trojan Horse for culture change,” as MobiHealthNews reporter Jonah Comstock nicely summarized.

She refers to herself as an “internet geologist” rather than a policy person.
Fox has also recognized the importance of field discovery, the innovative contribution of folks on the front lines of healthcare — as MIT professor Eric von Hippel has championed, as well as UCSF’s Aenor Sawyer (see this 2016 TechTonics podcast). She has strongly emphasized the role of patients as partners in discovery, eschewing the idea they should be passive subjects in their healthcare experience (David, in particular, has long been especially passionate about this topic – see here).

Fox’s legendary empathy and commitment – to patients, to innovation, to collaborators – contributed to her exceptional impact in her role as HHS CTO, and we’re so privileged to have her on our program (which was recorded shortly before she left office). Join us as we discuss Susannah’s life and work to make a meaningful difference in the healthcare lives of everyday people.

This episode of Tech Tonics was sponsored by DNAnexus (, the secure and compliant cloud platform that enables enterprise users to analyze, collaborate around, and integrate massive amounts of genetic and other health data.

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Posted in: Audio Podcast, Healthcare, Tech Tonics