“One must forever search for answers with the utmost passion with whatever means possible.“
Dr. Richard van Praagh, Professor Emeritus, Harvard School of Medicine
My recent travels led me back to a special city where I spent my younger days as a new pediatric cardiology attending: Boston. I had the distinct pleasure of dining with one of my favorite mentors during my tenure at the Children’s Hospital and Harvard School of Medicine, Dr. Richard van Praagh (or as I affectionately call him, “RvP”).
I had a special opportunity to spend some time with RvP over dinner (made particularly interesting with the company of my six year-old daughter Emma). For Richard, every heart with congenital defect(s) has a special story and he often considers himself a privileged storyteller. Incredibly, after decades of being the premiere and most widely respected authoritative figure in congenital heart anatomy, he sheepishly but proudly informed me that he has discovered a new mathematical equation for a certain aspect of congenital heart disease. He is almost apologetic to his former student (me) that he has only now realized this mathematical relationship for cardiac anatomy. In order to assuage his near sadness about this, I reassured him by informing him about my relatively late foray into data science and artificial intelligence, and how this dimension has really reinvigorated my perspective in medicine and how I can contribute.
I was continually moved by his ardent passion and the youthful twinkle in his eyes as he told me about his nascent intellectual mathematical discovery. We even discussed one of my favorite mini topics, Fibonacci sequence in nature. As I drove away after dinner and peered at his fragile profile, I found it absolutely remarkable that he is still intellectually young as a 89 year-old. Perhaps our special bond is rooted in our eternal desire to look for answers with any means possible. The important lesson here: one can take on a new dimension, even one as difficult as mathematics or data science, at any age, as long as one has curiosity and passion.
Anthony Chang, MD, MBA, MPH, MS
Chief Intelligence and Innovation Officer
Medical Director, The Sharon Disney Lund
Medical Intelligence and Innovation Institute (mi3)
Children’s Hospital of Orange County