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Excerpted from a story originally published in the fall 2018 edition of Business Class magazine, by Natalie Bruckner. 

Kevin Feng, MGB ’14 and Data Governance Lead, Strategy and Analytics at Ontario Telemedicine Network, never saw himself pursuing a career in the healthcare industry. In fact, when asked where he saw his career going while still a student, he laughingly replied: “A musician, perhaps?”

But somewhere along the way he set his career ambitions on healthcare data analytics, one of the fastest-growing industries in the tech world right now. Gustavson sat down with Kevin to trace his career path from the Master of Global Business program to the Toronto healthcare data scene. Note: at the time of this interview, Kevin was working as Functional Manager, Analytics Operation Lead at Cancer Care Ontario. He has since moved on to his current role at Ontario Telemedicine Network.

Q: How did you become involved in healthcare data analytics?

It really wasn’t intentional! When I was a student, I started working part-time as a clerk in the ER at UHN. You learn a lot about the nitty gritty when you work night shift and weekends in ER. I was there for two years while I finished off my undergrad, and the summer between graduating and starting the Master of Global Business program at UVic, a project analyst position became available where I supported a major project to procure an enterprise hospital information system.

Q: Would you say your career path has been organic or structured?

My mother was in healthcare, so I come from a lineage of healthcare—and apparently the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree—but I never expected to transition into data analytics. I started out with a business angle as a business analyst at Cancer Care Ontario, but found the analytics component a lot more interesting. It was so foreign to me and was an opportunity to learn. I enjoy doing things that are outside my comfort zone. I then took a job as a senior business analyst before becoming a functional manager, analytics operations lead. Five years ago, I would never have imagined I would be working with a team that delivers high-quality analytic services to drive policy-making decisions, that’s for sure.

Q: How did an international business education prepare you for your role?

To work in data analytics, and in particular healthcare, it takes a certain element of entrepreneurship. It’s a relatively niche career, and you need to be able to take charge. Networking is essential, and a little risk taking is involved, too. The MGB gave me great foundations for all of this. It pushes you into unfamiliar environments with people from all walks of life, so you learn how to quickly adapt. The health system has a lot of moving parts, so this skill is essential.

Q: What exciting projects are you involved in currently?

I am working with four hospitals that provide specialized mental health data on mental health and addiction. It’s a private project that is planned to be scaled out to all mental health units and programs in the province. We are looking at not just patient access in the hospital but also what happens once they are discharged. How do we not lose patients in the gaps of the system? How can we ensure the continuity of care is available in the community? The project is trying to address that gap by unifying data so we can speak the same language and use that data to positively effect change.

Q: What advice would you give recent grads looking to get a foot in the door?

I feel lucky that I had the experience in ER as I got to see the realities of the frontline and feel I can now bring this into my role. However, having that experience isn’t essential. It’s more about being open-minded and recognizing opportunities. I was a business analyst with a business degree and somehow ended up in healthcare data, so don’t rule anything out. I think most people want to try to do something that will make a difference and save a life, and healthcare provides a great chance to do this.

Photo credit: Sue Holland