Dr. Devin Singh: Tackling the Barriers to Efficient Care

Cover art for episode 65 of Healthcare Change Makers with Dr. Devin Singh

(Access show transcript) Devin Singh is a multi-faceted entrepreneur and physician who is helping put patient safety and technical innovation at the forefront of care.

Show Summary

Dr. Devin Singh refused to be a bystander when he recognized inefficiencies in health systems, and he jumped into action by co-founding Hero AI – a clinical automation platform which aims to improve patient safety and wait times. Devin fuels Hero AI by tapping into his experiences and expertise as Emergency Physician at The Hospital for Sick Children to recognize the needs of providers and patients.

“It was really important to think through what the real barriers are to improving care in our institution and beyond”, says Dr. Devin Singh when explaining the early stages of creating Hero AI.

In this episode, Devin shares his journey on becoming an entrepreneur including the barriers and lessons learned, advice he would give to other healthcare leaders on driving innovation and change, and how the sports space inspires his career. 

Mentioned in this Episode


Imagine you could step inside the minds of Canada's healthcare leaders, glimpse their greatest fears, strongest drivers, and what makes them tick. Welcome to Healthcare Change Makers, a podcast where we talk to leaders about the joys and challenges of driving change and working with partners to create the safest healthcare system.

Philip De Souza: Hey listeners, thanks for hitting play. We really appreciate you listening. It's Philip here, from HIROC.

Abi Sivakumar: And Abi, and we're tag-teaming on today's episode.

Philip De Souza: Artificial Intelligence, these two words likely strike up an emotion in you.

Abi Sivakumar: But it doesn't have to be all that scary, and that's exactly how we felt after we chatted with Dr. Devin Singh, who is an emergency physician at the Hospital for Sick Children and one of Canada's first physicians to specialize in clinical artificial intelligence.

Philip De Souza: Devin is also the co-founder of Hero AI. Our conversation with him touched on many aspects, such as the critical importance of patient safety, problem solving, capturing a variety of voices when co-designing, and how he values continuous learning. For those startup entrepreneurs listening, Devin also shares a number of great tips of things to consider when mapping your innovation journey.

Abi Sivakumar: We also appreciated his points on clear communication. It truly can shift perspective when everyone is on the same page. So, let's get started.

Philip De Souza: We're so delighted to have you with us to join us today. Devin, how are you doing?

Dr. Devin Singh: Yeah, really great. It's an absolute pleasure to be here talking to you, Philip and Abi, really excited to dive into things with the two of you.

Philip De Souza: Excellent, so let's get right to it then, Devin. Tell our listeners a bit about yourself, where you work and what you do.

Dr. Devin Singh: Yeah, so my name is Devin. I'm an emergency doctor from SickKids Hospital and I strictly practice emergency medicine there. A bit about myself. So I did my pediatric residency training and my emergency medicine subspecialty training at the Hospital for SickKids at the University of Toronto. Then I actually added on a clinical fellowship in AI. It was something that I just invented at the time because it didn't exist. Really, the motivating factor for doing that was just working in the health system and seeing a lot of inefficiencies, but also having some really tough patient cases where I've seen patient harm. Just felt that we needed to think through creative ways on how we change the way we deliver care to our patients, and discovered that machine learning could be a really great avenue for doing that. I did this extra one year of clinical machine learning and then formalized that with a master's in computer science at the University of Toronto, working under these giants such as Dr. Mike Bruno and Dr. Anna Goldenberg, who were my mentors then and still to this day.

So now I specialize in emergency medicine for pediatrics, but also in clinical artificial intelligence with a real bend around clinical automation and building machine learning tools and integrating them into real world clinical workflows. Actually it was in that journey that we were building these really amazing algorithms, but quite frankly, there was no way to deploy them. So I could write a paper on it, which is great I guess, but that's not why I went into it. So in order to deploy the tools, we recognized that there was no agile platform built for healthcare to do this. So this is where Hero AI was born, which is a healthcare technology company that I co-founded and am the CEO of in partnership with the SickKids. This company is really focused on getting these really powerful tools directly into the hands of patients and healthcare providers.

Philip De Souza: That's amazing. So I guess you've done quite a bit and you've worked with some amazing people. So I guess a question popped into my brain is like, oh, how did you get everything off the ground and just create Hero AI? Did you have any barriers or did you feel, oh, I can't do this with my full-time job?

Dr. Devin Singh: You know what? Lots of barriers because this was a net new technology, but I was just going to start off. I was going to say, you know what, a real strong motivator is having that clinician perspective and quite frankly, seeing at times the way care is delivered, especially when a health system is strained and overwhelmed and looking at how hard our nurses are working and our physicians. We're trying so hard with what we have in our health system to deliver outstanding care. We do that really proudly at SickKids, but just thinking, there's got to be a better way to improve this, was a really strong motivator.

So despite there being a lot of barriers, I've always held that, and a few patient cases really close to my heart, when trying to break through the barriers that we're talking about. Quite frankly, there were lots of barriers like, how do you approve an AI technology to deploy and go live at your hospital? Then, how do you think through the data governance, the privacy, the security and the way data flows? How do you put in the quality and the safety parameters in place to know that the AI models that you're going to deploy into a real-time workflow are actually safe now, but also remain safe as they're deployed? How are you going to monitor the way that these machine learning models are performing prospectively and ongoing so that you know that safety from a patient perspective and quality is actually maintained? That's just the tip of the iceberg of a lot of the things we had to think through. 

Then there's also these concepts around, we're bringing together an entity, Hero AI, with SickKids. How do we think through ownership? How do we think through IP? How do we think through not only deployment at the hospital but then scale across multiple sites across the country and internationally? These were all things that we had to tackle and I'm just so blessed that SickKids was willing to take this on. These are hard questions to tackle and as an institution, rather than shying away SickKids said, you know what? This is important, let's figure it out. It didn't happen in a month though, let me tell you. There was a lot of meetings that had to occur, but they were willing to do it.

Philip De Souza: That list you rhymed off, I know it just off the cuff now, you basically just created a nice framework for startups. You want to start up something, follow this checklist from Devin and you'll be on your way. So that was fantastic. Thank you for sharing that.

I also appreciate that you brought in the point about your personal perspective and the lens of your colleagues throughout the whole organization at SickKids, you didn't just emphasize one particular audience and I really appreciate you mentioning that as well, because everyone is involved in care at your organization and all healthcare organizations, at that.

Dr. Devin Singh: Absolutely, to derive impact from any type of technology deployed, it actually has very little to do with the technology and it truly is all of the people surrounding that technology to bring it to life. That's why it was really important to think through, what are the real barriers to improving care both at our institution but beyond? Engaging the humans on the ground to figure out in a really authentic way what those barriers are, and then solution-ing afterwards and bringing it to life.

Philip De Souza: Speaking of the solution-ing, when we first chatted, you shared some interesting insight on the hype versus the concerns around artificial intelligence. So, what's your personal take on that?

Dr. Devin Singh: I actually think that if we look at the Hype Cycle around machine learning and AI, we are starting to hit, I hope, the pinnacle of the hype and a bit of a plateau. What I mean by that is, even three, four years ago, there was a ton of excitement and hype around on what machine learning is going to be able to do, but as we're starting to build our, what I'll call AI literacy into the health AI space, both from a clinician, a nursing perspective, and up skilling people to understand AI literacy in the clinical domain, but also as technical innovators working in this space. We're really starting to anchor now on projects that are very feasible, things that we're deploying today. Where we're able to leverage machine learning in a really powerful way to improve throughput through the emergency department, to improve patient safety at scale. So I think we're starting to move beyond the hype as the technologies are quite literally being deployed. I'm so proud of the role that Hero AI has had at Sickkids and helping to enable both the technology development and the deployment of these tools.

Philip De Souza: Since you mentioned, you brought it up at the beginning and I'm happy you brought it up again just now, for our listeners, just walk us through Hero AI is and what solution you're aiming to solve.

Dr. Devin Singh: So Hero AI is this healthcare technology company that spun out of SickKids as we identified this need to have a platform that was super agile to be able to deploy these machine learning models into production. I guess at a high level, you could think of us as the automation layer for your healthcare institution. So what do I mean by that? Well, we actually can take any type of electronic health record data in real time. Right now, we stream electronic health record data out of the emergency department in real time. Then we're able to talk to the institution and say, okay, now that we have this data coming to us, where are the areas where you want to see improvement and process improvement or improved patient safety or where are there challenges that you want to target?

Then once we understand what a particular challenge is, we very quickly, in a matter of hours to days quite literally, can model a solution that then integrates into a pipeline and a platform that then deploys automation into a workflow. That could look like automated alerts being sent to a healthcare provider. It could look like an actual dashboard or alerts that are even patient facing.

Right now we're actually working on building an integration to autonomous bots. It could look like an automation that triggers a bot to go collect a patient and move them from point A to point B in an efficient way. So really, we're focused on bringing to life real-time data and powering automated downstream aspects of care. I can give you one example to make it more concrete because that almost sounds a bit abstract, in a sense.

Philip De Souza: I was about to ask you that. Yeah, give us an example.

Dr. Devin Singh: Yeah, and so right now we have a tool deployed in the emergency department called the Beacon app. So the Beacon app is a mobile app device that our providers have on the ground, some nurses, our physicians, and even some subspecialty consults. So we realized that there was a problem with kiddos who presented with acute mental health crisis were just waiting really long throughout the pandemic to receive the care that they needed.

Just empathize with that scenario for a second. Imagine you're a parent or you're an adolescent, you're going through an acute mental health crisis, maybe it's the first time you're experiencing this. Then you're sitting in a waiting room waiting for many, many hours to then be seen and to receive your care. It must be the worst experience for that patient, to be sitting there in distress in a chair waiting. So we knew that we needed to tackle this head on.

So now thinking about what we do in this platform, we can take that real time triage data as it gets created, identify that there's a patient who's just arrived in an acute mental health crisis, and then our models can recognize that and then automate the notification to psychiatry on call, which allows psychiatry to receive a simple notification through the Beacon app provided by Hero AI, and it brings psychiatry down to see that patient even before the emergency doctor has seen the patient. What does that mean? It means that that kiddo is getting care now much faster than what they were before when they had to wait for the ED doc and then get the consult going in.

From a numbers perspective, we've now been able to reduce the time that an acute mental health patient is sitting waiting on average when our alerts fire, to less than 90 minutes from the time that they arrive to that they're being seen by our psychiatry support services and support team. It also is translated to almost a two-hour reduction in the length of stay of that acute mental health patient sitting, waiting, and spent in the ED. So not only are they getting care faster, but we're freeing up space in the emergency department to then see other patients faster. It's through just this simple intervention of using basic machine learning modeling and AI techniques and automating an aspect of downstream care, is driving a really massive improvement.

That example could ripple to so many different things like if an institution is struggling with maybe patients who have transplant end up waiting too long, or maybe patients with acute surgical conditions they find are waiting too long for a particular aspect of care. We can look at that data, add automation to it, and really drive care improvements. That's what Hero AI is all about.

Philip De Souza: Wow. No, that's fantastic. The story you told is, it just opened my eyes. I can hear the passion in your voice and out of all this, I guess, I'm sure there's many lessons, but what's one lesson that pops to the surface that really helped you along this journey that you're like, oh, you know what, when we did this or did this, the team and I really learned some valuable aha moment from this? Was there a moment like that for you?

Dr. Devin Singh: There was actually, because when you start your journey into machine learning and AI, and I'm hoping there's a lot of clinicians and health leaders who are going to listen to this, who are excited to jump in to AI because we need that and we need to up skill the health workforce with AI literacy. But when I started that journey, it's naturally... Like the process, you're thinking technical. You're like, I'm learning how to code, I'm learning how to critically appraise machine learning models, and I'm working with data. You're sitting in front of a screen and you have to make sure that you don't lose sight of the reason why you're sitting in front of this screen and building this model and this code. It's for a human, it's for your patient. These cases that I kept close to my heart were always the north star to help me understand, is what we're building actually the right thing for that kiddo? Would it have solved that particular case?

So I guess the lesson that I'm saying here is that although there's so much cool technology that's evolving, the technology isn't the most important part. It actually is about the humans and it's about the workflow that is being adopted and enabled by the technology. So the way you solve the problem has to be fueled by a design methodology, by deep stakeholder engagement. You have to validate your assumptions around the problem and make sure that you're really using the technology to solve a real world human problem in the right way. But then also on the other end of the pipeline, the way you then deploy your technology is 100% dependent on humans in the workflow. Getting adoption and the change management and making sure the workflow is actually the right one and building in aspects of iteration as part of the deployment, that knowing that I'm going to deploy something and I'm not going to assume that it's going to be perfect right at the get go. We're building into that process. Real stakeholder engagement with nurses, clinicians, patients and families, so that we adopt and change the technology in a rapidly iterative way is the most important part to all of this.

Imagine you're building a tech company, I'm learning computer science. Temporarily, you're disconnected from that reality. It's when we started to think through deploying an impact, we realized the real lesson here that I would encourage everyone to keep close is that this is really about human workflows, improving human workflows in lives, and you can't lose sight of that because if you do, you'll develop the wrong thing and your technology won't be adopted.

Philip De Souza: I'm so happy you brought up the human aspect. So we at HIROC and our subscribers all across the country, we're all in a mission to turn the corner on patient safety. So you just rightly so, brought up the fact that these efficiencies, yes, they're created with the use of technology. But, how do they link with the patient perspective or what feedback have you received on how safety is addressed?

Dr. Devin Singh: This is a really great question. So both with my SickKids hat on and with my Hero AI hat on, and the two worlds can sometimes overlap in a cool way, we've engaged with families and patients. So what we wanted to understand was, what were the concerns that families had while sitting and waiting? Of course, one of the root causes of parent and patient anxiety when waiting is them thinking that, are they going to experience harm because of that wait? So that was one thing. 

Then also another thing that rang through as we interviewed families in the waiting room was around, there's a deep sense of anxiety related to not knowing what's happening. When you check into the emergency department and then you sit in this chair and now you're going to sit there for four-plus hours with no idea on what's happening. Where you skipped over? Are you actually getting closer to being seen? How long is the wait time going to be? Where are you at in the queue? We even had some families give feedback saying they were scared to get up and go and use the washroom because they didn't want to be skipped over. So just then, we love to empathize and we create at Hero AI, we create these empathy maps and to understand what's actually happening. I'm just sitting there thinking, okay, if I had to pee really, really badly and then I'm also worried about my care and I don't want to go because I don't want to be skipped over. Just think of how terrible of an experience that is. So then we start to then build in tools to address that. We have a patient facing application that shows families where they're at in their queue, what might their wait times be? We automate notifications to families so they can build their health literacy based on the reasons why they're presenting, and we try to address that head on.

Then the main thing that actually rang through though as a cautionary tale from families was that they love the idea of using tools to make them in the loop and more situationally aware. They love that the idea that maybe even automation could get them seen faster, but they didn't want technology to equate to less human interactivity and less human facing time. They didn't want the richness of that encounter with their provider to be replaced. So that's one of the things that we're starting to balance here is that really, when you look at the solutions we've deployed at SickKids Hospital, it's really about connecting you to the right person faster. It's about identifying when there might be a latent safety issue rising in a period of prolonged wait times and making sure they don't happen, but it's not about replacing the quality in the time that you spend with our human providers. I think that's really important.

Philip De Souza: Absolutely, and I obviously ask both when you talk a lot about the patient perspective, but what about your colleagues? How have they taken to the technology?

Dr. Devin Singh: It's a really good question, and I'm just laughing because thinking about it from the emerge doc in me. The last thing an emergency doctor wants is another alert about something that is not relevant to them. One of the lessons we've learned is you have to be really thoughtful about who you're alerting and when you're alerting them, and is there actually an expected workflow paired with that alert for that specific provider?

We experimented with this. We had a set of alerts when we initially a few years ago, they just alerted, went out into the ether. They weren't related to patient safety but more like logistics and flow. We were just tracking who's engaging and why are they engaging, and what alerts do people just naturally engage with versus don't? We monitored that all through the platform and it gave us a really good idea around what just at a baseline might be useful or not. But the most important thing that started to drive the impact, particularly around the mental health use case that I described, was it's paired with a workflow that is co-designed by those providers. That's key about this. Emergency doctors and nurses, the last thing they need is an alert or some sort of interruption that they don't need to know about. So that's what we're really focusing on right now, is then starting to pair formal workflows and alerting the right provider at the right time for the right scenarios.

Philip De Souza: It's really cool. We're all about co-design too, so I love that you brought that up. So I don't know, you don't have to give a full story on it, but your co-design process working with the providers, is it, do you have a committee? Is it a council? Do you have key advisors you go to or people who just volunteer? How does that work?

Dr. Devin Singh: It's a mix of all of that actually. So we have quality practice committees on the SickKids' side that are both from the departmental perspective in the emerge, but also an institutional wide perspective, and patient and family representatives as well, that do a lot of great volunteer work at SickKids. Again, both patient and family reps in the emergency department as part of those committees, but also across the institution as a whole. So SickKids has been really forward-thinking in having those types of committees already in place.

So what's been such a cool opportunity for us is as we're conceptualizing novel machine learning projects or even thinking through, here's a potential front end interface through an app. Is this useful, yes or no? We've been able to take that to these committees and get really great feedback.

One of the things that we didn't appreciate, and just a lesson learned as an example of going to one of these committees, is that families don't really understand triage at all. I thought this was interesting because we had some language that used the word triage and it would be facing a patient immediately after they finished triage. We started talking to families about triage in the waiting room and they were like, what's triage? I was like, oh, that's a process you just did. Oh, I didn't know that was triage. So this co-design, this engagement, really is so valuable because you then start to realize that a lot of the assumptions you're making could be false, and it's helped us build a really high quality patient facing product.

Philip De Souza: Another thing I'm actually grateful you just brought up is the fact that the words we use, they matter so much. In healthcare, sometimes we use acronyms or we use words that someone may not understand, whoever your audience is may not get it. Sometimes they may not ask, they may not say, oh, can you please explain? Because fear or shame or whatever, they just feel unsure of themselves, etc. Then that can lead to further complications down the road, but I love the fact that you brought up that clear communication and using words that patients use and using words that providers use will be beneficial to all involved.

Dr. Devin Singh: The way you do that, if your listeners are thinking through, okay, well how do you actually operationalize that type of engagement? Again, it really goes back to design methodology and design methodology for health. So I've been so lucky to be able to work alongside Dr. Sasha Litwin, she is an incredible emergency doctor here at SickKids, but she also has a master's from OCAD University of all places, in design methodology.

Philip De Souza: Wow.

Dr. Devin Singh: So super unique skillset to have. So she helps to bring to life these really rich engagements that bridge the gap between the technology, the assumptions that we make around the problem we think we're supposed to solve and how we're going to solve it, and then that stakeholder engagement that then helps us validate the assumptions. I'll tell you, the assumptions are often wrong. Even as the emerge provider, you are like, well, I live and breathe this problem. I must know what the other stakeholders will think about it, but you actually don't. So these design methodology frameworks and exercises are so valuable to making sure you get the solution. Ultimately, it may seem like more front-end effort, but it leads to more success when you get to the deployment phase.

Philip De Souza: That's fantastic. I think I have one more question before I pass it over to my colleague, Abi, but you're super passionate. I can hear you again. I can hear your voice about healthcare professionals stepping into the role of being an intrapreneur at the organization. So I guess, what advice would you give to other healthcare leaders listening today on how they can harness their knowledge but also bring in their passion to drive change and innovation at their organization?

Dr. Devin Singh: Yeah, it's a really good question because when you're trying to, either you're an entrepreneur or intrapreneur, if you're in that space, it means that you are creating something that probably doesn't exist anywhere widely. So it means that it's like a net new idea or solution or product that you're trying to develop. Anytime you are trying to do something for the first time, you're going to face a lot of friction. So sometimes people can think that, well, there's too much friction here, that's a bad thing. But anytime I'm going to a new institution deploying something and then suddenly there's a lot of people are getting involved and wait a minute, wait a minute, slow down, what are we doing? It actually means that we're breaking ground in something new. That's actually quite exciting.

So I think the first piece of advice would be, don't let what feels like brick walls you run into again and again early on in the journey, actually feel like these are reasons to not continue. They're actually exciting opportunities to break ground on something that's totally new and novel. You'll be surprised, a few years later you'll look back and you'll have laid a groundwork for others to follow, and you also will likely have created something that's novel, new, and exciting. That's really the story of Hero AI. It was a journey to get going initially, and it felt like you're meeting with everybody under the sun across the institution, but that engagement is leading to downstream efficiencies now as we're deploying and accelerating forward. So I would just say to your viewers or your listeners, take those roadblocks and pieces of friction as validation that you are doing something new and just search forward and just break through them. It will be really exciting on the other side.

Philip De Souza: I'm also happy you brought up the point about when something is very different comes to an organization, it's true, everyone does gravitate to, do they want to be involved in it? Some of them may want to be involved to find holes and some of them may want to be involved in it to help and support it. I think you brought that, hit the point about, you have this captive audience, keep at it with this group, the naysayers and the supporters.

Dr. Devin Singh: Yeah, you actually early on in the entrepreneurial or intrapreneurial journey, or even if it's just an innovation journey, you want to find the people who are going to say no quickly. Don't let them take the wind out of your sail, but it means that they represent a really different opinion or potential landmine or roadblock down the road. So I love finding people who will say no very, very quickly, understanding their perspective, and then working with them to get over those roadblocks early on in the project. So these are positive things to find. Someone who is like, wait a minute, no, I don't think we can do that. That's not necessarily someone who's not supportive, but it's an opportunity for you to understand and tackle this situation because if you really are going to scale to other hospitals, you're going to get the same person again and again. So it's actually like a blessing and an opportunity to figure out how to solve it now versus down the road when you're looking to scale and you've already put in all this investment.

Philip De Souza: Absolutely. Abi, just ping me. So Abi, you have some questions too for Devin, right?

Abi Sivakumar: I do. Hi, Devin, it's great to meet you. You touched on the mission and impact of Hero AI thus far. So I'm wondering, what's next? What's next for you and Hero AI?

Dr. Devin Singh: Yeah, so we've had some really great and powerful impact in at SickKids in the emerge and honestly we're just the tip of the iceberg in the emergency department at SickKids. I'm really excited for this year on the new workflows that we'll be deploying into the ED at SickKids and just how powerful that's going to be, but we're now at this awesome stage where we're starting to scale out to other sites.

So we're looking to scale across Canada. We're having really great conversations with health authorities in multiple provinces looking to do deployments and to really spread this positive impact widely across Canada. We also are looking to international opportunities. So we were selected by the UK Trade Commissioner's office or import side of the UK government as a potential company that should be imported into the UK and as a promising AI company. So we just finished a tour through the UK, which was amazing, just such a great time. Had recognized that there's a lot of synergy to be had between how we solve problems in Canada and the set of problems that emergency departments are facing in the UK as well. So we're going to look towards scaling across both Canada and the UK together and try to bring these shared innovations and lessons across both so that we're really elevating the way we deliver care both across the UK and Canada. Then of course into the US represents a really great opportunity for the company.

Abi Sivakumar: That sounds amazing, and we wish you all the best in what's to come next, Devin.

Dr. Devin Singh:  Thank you.

Abi Sivakumar:  You touched on traveling to the UK recently, which actually leads me to my next question. So you traveled to Scotland and London on behalf of your company, Hero AI. So what value do you find in attending events and networking internationally?

Dr. Devin Singh: I wasn't sure what to expect, to be honest, and this was just incredible. So in Scotland, particularly in Edinburgh, we found that the University of Edinburgh has an incredible AI hub. Really deep expertise on robotics, really great programs as it relates to the development of novel machine learning models and algorithms. I think the value of me physically going there and just seeing it, it was starting to open my eyes to realize that there are really awesome opportunities for our health systems in Canada to be collaborating with places like Scotland.

I was also super impressed by both London and in particular, Cambridge University. Cambridge obviously world renowned, but around technology and health tech has an incredibly powerful ecosystem where I think there's opportunities for our academic centers to share around learnings on how they approach innovation and sustainability. So those are conversations that I'm brokering right now and there's really exciting times on the Hero AI front, and hopefully we'll be making some big announcements about our opportunities in the UK.

Abi Sivakumar: You made great points because every new environment and space has new people and new perspective, which in turn helps you grow, and that's so important.
    Speaking of growth, who do you look to for inspiration and motivation? This can be anyone in healthcare or even outside of healthcare.

Dr. Devin Singh: One of the things that I find really inspiring, and this has nothing to do with healthcare, but just in the sports, I'm a huge sports fan. When I think about, I'm pretty into reading bios and just understanding people's journeys. I always find that in the athletics or in the sports space, it's surprising to see how much failure someone has to go through in order to become great. So that's something that I've really taken to heart around this idea of truly promoting a fail fast, fail safe culture, in the way we think about the deployment of our technologies. Strategically planning to fail in certain spaces, such that you aren't actually creating harms, like fail ahead of time.

Imagine if I owned a rocket company, and you've seen this with SpaceX, those rockets will blow up time and time again, but when someone's physically on the rocket, knock on wood, hopefully this doesn't ever happen, but the rocket doesn't blow up. I think that that happens because of this idea of being open to failing early, learning lessons from those failures, and promoting that to actually happen quickly and efficiently, such that when you do launch something, it's a huge success. I think that that's a really important lesson in the tech space, particularly as it relates to healthcare when stakes can be high when you bring something into production. But it's something that I first gained exposure to from just sports and following people's journeys and professional athletes. That the mentality they bring to success is one that understands that failure is part of the journey, and they quite frankly, embrace it.

Abi Sivakumar: Yeah, I appreciate that you would draw inspiration from something actually so far removed from healthcare, and it really does go to show that inspiration is really all around us. With you working as a doctor and with Hero AI and sitting on boards, it definitely sounds like you're a go-getter who is constantly motivated.

You touched on your love of sports. You were on the board of directors as Special Olympics, Ontario. So, tell us a bit about what this organization means to you and why you decided to join.

Dr. Devin Singh: That was a great segue, Abi, to Special Olympics, that's cool. Yeah, well, I mean I love sports, and so Special Olympics was a great fit, but I'm going to talk a bit selfishly, actually, on not necessarily what Special Olympics is getting from me, but what I get from Special Olympics.

When I work in the emergency department, I see kids sometimes when they're in their sickest moments. They need help, they need care, and I love being able to provide that care both medically, but also just that personal touch with families and it's super rewarding. But what I rarely get to see when I work at SickKids, especially as an emergency doctor, is when these patients are thriving at their best. So when I go to these Special Olympics events and I go to the different games that they host, and I quite literally see these kids and these adults truly thriving at their best competing in sport, and just the joy that brings to them, I don't think people understand how much joy that brings to me as well. It gives this full circle purpose to the really hard work that I do in the emergency department as a clinician, seeing that those efforts do ripple into our patients truly thriving. That's something that I think about and anchor to when it's 4:00 in the morning and there's lots of patients to see, and I'm working really, really hard. So I actually think Special Olympics, being on the board of directors, has given way more back to me than I could ever give to them for that alone.

But one of the things I am trying to give to them is around leveraging machine learning, AI, and technology to improve the way we promote health promotion amongst all of the athletes. So just earlier today, had an incredible meeting with folks across the Special Olympics organization, and we're thinking through, how do we leverage mobile apps that Hero AI has built and pairing that with generative AI tools to make health promotion far more accessible to our athletes across the globe. So it's a project that I think is going to have a massive impact. Quite frankly, we were just mapping out what this is going to look like and I think it's going to leapfrog most companies in how awesome and innovative this tool is going to be once we develop it. So that's one of the ways that I'm trying to give back my technical expertise back to Special Olympics.

Abi Sivakumar: I love that answer. This definitely seems like a breath of fresh air and a factor of motivation for your career. As I mentioned before, it's so interesting to see you sit on an organization that isn't directly healthcare or medical related, and it really does show how wide your passions and your interests are.

Speaking of wide passions, after you became a doctor, you completed a master's degree in computer science and artificial intelligence. So what's one piece of advice you would give to professionals on taking that leap to follow multiple passions and continue their education?

Dr. Devin Singh: I think the advice that I would give is that it's actually really hard upfront, but the reward afterwards is incredible. It's totally worth the effort. If you're a practicing clinician and now you're thinking about up skilling or building a new skill in a totally different domain, it's a lot of work. You're managing your schedule, which is already pretty demanding if you're working in the healthcare space, and you're trying to think through, how am I going to have both the time, capacity, the mental capacity, and then even the family support side of things, to then take this effort and time and energy and channel it towards something else? So it could be a lot of work upfront and the barriers to entry might seem really high, but now that I'm through it on the other side, it is honestly the best thing I've done in my career. Being able to have this skillset and sit in between these two worlds, and it almost feels like this superpower I have sometimes to innovate and to help improve the way we deliver care, it's just such an honor and a blessing.

I'm really glad I took the advice of my division head of emerge, actually, Dr. Jason Fischer. I remember clearly sitting down and asking him, should I go into this internship into a tech company and just try to be super applied, or should I go through this path of formally doing a master's in computer science knowing that it's going to be super painful? It was actually amazing journey, but it's hard. You're working as a doctor and then doing a master's in computer science, of all things. He told me, no one can ever take away education from you, and it is a skill that I don't think you understand how important and how powerful it will be for you down the road. That piece of advice stuck with me, I acted on it, and I am so grateful that I did.

Abi Sivakumar: Thank you for that advice. It definitely resonated with me, especially that point about no one can take education away from you and factoring in risk versus reward with every big decision that you make. I appreciate you being so honest about how hard it may be to balance everything. So I'm sure our listeners will appreciate and resonate with that advice.

Philip De Souza: We have a few lightning round questions for you, and you can answer them with one word, a sentence, whatever, however you feel. So, what was your first job, ever?

Dr. Devin Singh: Okay, so in the same week I got hired by two different places, and then I worked them. Funny story, my big sister actually applied to both of them on my behalf. It was the YMCA, working as a camp counselor at the YMCA, and working at the Gap. I was just randomly an awesome salesman for jeans at the Gap.

Philip De Souza: I love that.

Dr. Devin Singh: Yeah. Yeah.

Philip De Souza: Tell us about your definition of a perfect day.

Dr. Devin Singh: Sitting by the water with the sun shining, and then having day transition into a starry night, being surrounded by a fire with my family. That is my perfect day.

Philip De Souza: That is nice. Then it's already sunny outside, so hopefully if you're not working today, then you can start that.

Dr. Devin Singh: Yeah, that's the plan.

Philip De Souza: Finish the sentence. If I wasn't in healthcare, I'd probably be doing?

Dr. Devin Singh: I would want to be a famous movie director. That was my other career path that I was thinking of going down before deciding to go into medicine. So I was super into film and media production. Maybe I could have been holding an Oscar this past Sunday. Who knows?

Philip De Souza: Right. Do you have any advice on managing your time? Do you have any apps or hacks you do to save time?

Dr. Devin Singh: It's something I think about often. I guess the quick advice would be if you can act and get something done and out of the way super fast, just do it. If you thought about it, just execute on it immediately and get it out of your pipeline. Then honestly, my biggest supporter is my wife, Sarah, so we tackle this together. So we are a team, she helps manage the logistics and the operations. Even though I wear three different hats, she makes it feel like one. So I know that's not advice for people because I mean, you can't have Sarah, she's mine, but it is just a nod to say that the support you get from your family can be hugely helpful.

Philip De Souza: That is good advice, leaning on the supports in your life. My last question for you, if you could have lunch with anyone in the world, famous or not, who would you want to have lunch with?

Dr. Devin Singh: Michael Jordan. He's my childhood hero.

Philip De Souza: This was such a fantastic conversation. I know it was so good that we went over time, but we want to thank you so much for Devin for chatting with us. We really appreciate this.

Dr. Devin Singh: Yeah, thanks Philip and Abi, for having me join. This was such a pleasure, and I hope your listeners get something out of it.

Thank you for listening. You can hear more episodes of Healthcare Change Makers on our website, hiroc.com, and on your favorite podcasting apps. If you like what you hear, please rate us or post a review. Healthcare Change Makers is recorded by HIROC's Communications and Marketing team and produced by Podfly Productions. Follow us on Twitter at @HIROC Group or email us at communications@hiroc.com. We'd love to hear from you.