The Hippocratic Oath is primarily a commitment made by medical professionals to treat the ill to the best of one’s ability, preserve a patient’s privacy, and pass on one’s knowledge to the next generation of medical professionals. Little that the ancient Greek healer Hippocrates have foreseen how prescient his words would be in the modern age. In today’s technology, the issues of ethics and morality in healthcare are vitally important—and Varoon Mathur is committed to highlighting and addressing these concerns.
Varoon moved to Vancouver with his family when he was a preteen and knew from an early age that he wanted to pursue a career in medicine. After graduating from high school in Vancouver, he moved to Queens University in Kingston Ontario to pursue a degree in Life Sciences as part of his pre-medical education. “Healthcare really intrigued me from an early age,” he recalls, “and while at Queens, I realized that while I was gearing towards pursuing a career in medicine, I decided to slow things down and focus on some of the issues related to healthcare, such as technology and its role in health care.” He then returned to Vancouver to obtain another degree in Computer Science.
“It dawned on me that there are some issues technology highlights that technology could not address, such as serious social issues like structural violence and poverty.”
Varoon notes that computer programs addressing health issues use algorithms, but these are often based on data that may be somewhat flawed. For example, often the most impoverished members of a community may not access health care services in ways that those who are affluent will; therefore, the healthcare data used to address health issues (influencing policy) may be skewed towards addressing the needs of more affluent communities given they may be the population most often readily accessing health services. “If we use such algorithms, the needs of many prominent, yet vulnerable communities, wouldn’t be addressed. And if these algorithms are not reviewed, and the data isn’t transparent, then such systemic oppression will be reinforced.”
“I realized I needed to think about the longer-term politics and policy around technology and medicine.”
So, while his long-term goal is to remain a physician, Varoon has set his sights on more immediate goals around continuing to address these concerns. “While the recent security breaches at Facebook highlighted the concerns around data integrity and security, that concern is increasingly at risk of crumbling in the digital age of medicine.”
However, Varoon hopes that will change, and he is committed to being at the forefront for creating necessary dialogue to address the needs of historically neglected communities and ultimately contribute to a more transparent, responsive health care system. Varoon will shortly be leaving for a Technology Fellowship in New York, where he will spend at least a year to further study technology and its implications on public domains, such as health care. While he still intends to become a Medical Doctor ultimately, he feels this current path he is on will make him a much better health care professional. And given his dedication, drive, and passion we all—as health care consumers— will benefit from his efforts.