Tech Tonics: Ari Caroline: Broad Intellect Meets Deep Humanity

December 3rd, 2018 |
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An accomplished linguist who planned to take a job after college with a Russian oligarch (but rethought the notion after the man was nearly assassinated), Ari Caroline’s journey has taken him from language to economics to business to his current role as Chief Analytics Officer at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center (MSKCC), where he sees himself as a data intrapreneur, striving to use data to improve the care of patients with cancer.

The son of two scholars, Ari tells us he spent most of his childhood in Philadelphia. “I had a good sense of what I enjoyed,” Ari says that sports statistics, and science were his favorites, “but was less certain how to translate these interests into a career.” In college, he initially pursued languages – difficult languages including Russian and Mandarin – as he recognized he had a natural facility for learning them. He flirted with the idea of international business, and pursued quantitative finance at Yale before ultimately landing at MSKCC, helping to create and implement their data vision.

At MSKCC, Ari’s broad intellect and deep humanity have found expression in a range of initiatives aimed at applying data intelligently in the service of cancer patients and the care teams treating them. As Ari describes on the show, he looks closely at the costs and effects of different treatment regimens, and uses a range of techniques, including game theory, to try to understand how real world decisions occur. He also tells us why he agrees with Sean Parker’s comment that “tech people coming from tech to biology so dramatically underestimate the complexity of the human body.” In Ari’s view, building a data team in an academic center helps provide this much-needed domain expertise.

Ari also shares a deeply personal perspective of how religion – he describes himself as “conspicuously observant” – has impacted his life, from the superficial (patients mistaking him for a rabbi) to the more profound, including his affinity for mission-driven work, and his appreciation of the need to balance structure and chaos.

We are so delighted to welcome Ari to Tech Tonics!

This episode of Tech Tonics is 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.

Additional show notes:

New Yorker post-election cover

Henny Youngman’s doctor joke Lisa alludes to: “This guy asked his doctor, ‘Will I be able to play the piano after my operation?’ And the doctor says ‘Sure.’ And the guy says, ‘Funny, I couldn’t do it before.’”

Grammy Hall’s mental image of “conspicuously observant,” from Annie Hall, alluded to by David: here.

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Posted in: Audio Podcast, Healthcare, Tech Tonics, Technology