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Dr. Stephen Gilbert, our Clinical Evaluation Director, shares how he sees Ada making a real difference, 8 tips to tackle challenges, and his thoughts on the Golden Rule.
How are you taking care of yourself during the pandemic?
I use some of the time I previously used in commuting for going for a run. It’s a healthy exchange of a dark underground train tunnel for a sunny canal forest path.
What impact have you made at Ada since you've joined?
I had the great fortune of being recruited into a role where it was possible to make a large impact. I set up a new team to manage clinical studies, so a previously diffuse responsibility was consolidated into this single team.
We dramatically increased the rate of delivery of clinical studies and peer-reviewed scientific publications and enhanced our clinical regulatory dossiers to meet the demands of new regulatory requirements.
What's your favorite thing about working here?
The dynamism of the work and the challenges and the energy, intelligence, and commitment of all teams to deliver.
What innovations are you most excited to see come to life in the next 5 years?
In most people's lives, sickness just gradually creeps up on them as they get older. They lack the early warning systems that tell them the damage they are doing to themselves through bad diet, lack of exercise, lack of sleep, work, or personal stress. There is a barrier to accessing medical checkups or advice.
Digital health and Ada have a great opportunity to help people stop doing the things that are bad for them and start to proactively take responsibility for their physical and mental health. We will be able to guide people to the appropriate medical professionals for their needs and do this early enough to make a real difference.
What do you do when you're stuck on a challenge?
Go for a run. Sleep on it (and brainstorm in my sleep). Think, think deeper. Brainstorm alone, brainstorm in a team. By speaking with certain colleagues I can rely on to think differently. By adopting a helicopter view and getting a perspective on the real importance of the challenge. By examining if the challenge is difficult because there are more fundamental issues or there is groundwork we need to do before we can solve it. By applying pure pragmatism to the problem.
Being stuck on a challenge is one of the greatest things in work. I love to be stuck on challenges, to go through multiple layers and iterations of thinking and versions and evolutions of solutions. I hope I never have to work in a field where I do not get lots of really challenging challenges to be stuck on.
What's the best career advice someone has given you?
There are always choices. We are each responsible for our own career direction. In any walk of life, and especially in your career, caution and conservativeness come at a price. Take bold decisions. Be prepared to fail. Never undervalue the learning that comes from this.
Perhaps late in your career, there is a role for saying no, but when you are young, say yes to every new project, work longer hours if necessary, over-deliver. This is the amalgamated advice from several ‘someones’, but, like with all advice, I only remember what I wanted to hear anyway …
If you could have coffee with one great scientist from any time, who would it be?
I thought about it and thought again, I even searched Quora for other people’s answers to this question. I came to the conclusion that if I have to choose anyone to have coffee with from any time it would not be a scientist.
Would Sir Isaac Newton or Robert Hooke really make for the best conversation? I imagine they would spend the whole time trying to show how clever they were. I will break the rules. I choose the 16th century and the French doctor, writer, humanist, and master of the grotesque Francois Rabelais. Number 2 and 3 on my list, Michel de Montaigne and William Shakespeare, are also not scientists.
The world would be a better place if everyone____.
Was just a little bit nicer to each other. The Golden Rule has been around for at least 2,500 years:
Mostly, it is quite hard to do. We will still, somewhere, be trying and failing to obey the rule in 2,500 years’ time.
For the past 2 years, Stephen has driven a rigorous program of scientific studies that assess Ada’s impact.
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