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Around The Health Tech World: WebMD CMO, John Whyte

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John Whyte

Now Chief Medical Officer at WebMD, John’s illustrious career also includes roles at the FDA, the Discovery Channel and Stanford University Medical Center.

John’s new video series Your Health on Tech is now available on WebMD.

1) What is your morning routine?

My morning routine is a bit chaotic. It starts off with an absolute necessity of coffee!  And then it’s focused on multitasking — getting two young boys ready for school and then quickly catching up on morning emails.

I find it’s my evening that is more relaxing when I can decompress a bit.

2) Which technology could you not live without?

Like everyone else I rely so much on my smartphone for my personal and professional life.  I’m too old at this point to go back to pen and paper!

3) How do you relax?

I relax by working out.  I don’t do it as much as I should, but I try at least three times a week for 45 minutes or an hour.  It really does release those feel-good hormones that make you feel you can accomplish anything!

4) Which quote resonates with you?

There’s a French phrase I really appreciate — “N’attends pas le moment favorable. Creez- le.” – Don’t wait for the favourable moment — create it.

Most of my job titles didn’t exist before I came to the organisation.  I’ve always been one that has focused on creating opportunity.

5) What is the best thing about your job? 

There are many great things about my job.  What’s most exciting is that I can help provide editorial direction around some of the most important topic for consumers — whether it’s keeping oneself safe from coronavirus or managing Type 2 diabetes more effectively.

If I can help provide better information, consumers are going to have better health.

6) If you could spend a day in someone else’s shoes, whose would they be and why?

I worked at Discovery Channel for many years, so I’d have to say Bear Grylls who was the host of Man vs Wild.  He’s dropped into the wilderness and has to survive and make his way back to civilization.

I think I’d learn a lot about myself and determination.  Plus everyone thinks I’m a city boy, so I’d show them what I can really do in the wild!

7) What is the one thing that we are not talking about?

We aren’t talking enough about how innovation can exacerbate disparities.  Even when all ships rise,  disparities still persist.

I’m concerned about people from disadvantaged communities not being take to take advantage of all the amazing technologies — especially digital — that we have to improve health.  They truly provide personalised data that can drive major advances in one’s own health.

But if one can’t afford them or don’t have access, they won’t get the same benefit.  We need to be discussing how and when insurance needs to cover some of these technologies.

8) Would you rather travel 100 years forward or back in time? 

I’d rather travel 100 years in the future. We study the past so have a good sense of what it was like.  But the future is really unchartered territory and that’s exciting.

9) What advice would you give to an 18-year-old you (and would you have listened to you!)? 

My advice would be that you need to be open to opportunities.  There’s really no way to know at 18 what your career will be.  I thought I was going to be a surgeon!  And then I thought I’d be a department chair.

But by being open to opportunities and listening to others, I forged a different career path which has been enormously fulfilling. Be willing to reconsider what you think you want to do with your life.

10) What is your biggest regret?

I really am not one that focuses on the past.  I tend to stay focused on the future and learn from experiences.

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