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Providence St. Joseph Health executive challenges students to think big

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Aaron Martin, executive vice president and chief digital officer of Providence St. Joseph Health, spoke to students in Providence High School’s medical-focus and technology-focus programs on Friday. Martin spoke about digital technology trends in healthcare.
(Raul Roa/Burbank Leader)

Medicine’s future and learning to think boldly were some of the topics addressed by Aaron Martin, executive vice president and chief digital officer of Providence St. Joseph Health, during a forum Friday afternoon at Providence High School.

Providence St. Joseph Health is a nonprofit health system, serving 50 hospitals nationwide, 829 clinics and Providence, its lone high school.

Martin kicked off the school’s speaker series, addressing 159 students enrolled in Providence’s medical-focus and technology-focus programs.

“We’re lucky, as a school, to have a resource such as Providence St. Joseph Health and Aaron Martin,” said Providence High’s communications coordinator Allison Knowles.

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Martin began his talk with career advice.

“This is really important to think about,” Martin said. “When you choose an organization early in your career, you’re going to care a lot about ‘What skills can I learn?’”

Martin spoke about his own journey to Providence St. Joseph Health. The former consultant and banking-and-financial services software creator found inspiration working at Amazon for nine years.

“The first thing that matters is vision, and you have to have a goal,” Martin said.

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The executive presented a clip of John F. Kennedy’s “We choose to go to the moon” speech from 1962 when the president famously said such challenges were necessary, “not because they are easy but because they are hard.”

“The reason I play that is because vision matters a lot,” Martin said. “You think about what it took in terms of our national priorities to get to the moon, the kind of budget we had to put into place.”

At Amazon, Martin said he was tasked by founder Jeff Bezos to create the electronic books division with one specific goal for Amazon’s e-book reader, known as the Kindle.

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Executive Vice President and Chief Digital Officer of Providence St. Joseph Health Aaron Martin spoke to Medical and Technology Focus Programs students at Providence High School, in Burbank on Friday, Sept. 65, 2019. Martin spoke about digital technology trends in healthcare.
(Raul Roa/Staff Photographer)

“I asked him what is our goal for Kindle and this guy said, ‘Make every book ever written in any language downloadable in 30 seconds or less,” Martin said of Bezos.

Martin said by the time he left Amazon, about 10 million books had been downloaded.

“It’s kind of amazing to see how technology can help in certain fields,” said Providence student Nareh Agazaryan, a senior in the tech-focus program.

Martin described the Kindle project as a BHAG, or a big, hairy, audacious goal.

Electronics books, according to Martin, changed purchasing habits forever by eliminating middle men and providing consumers with products from producers quicker.

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The Seattle native said he is hoping to do the same in medicine.

Martin described the current healthcare system as “frustrating” because patients have to schedule appointments by phone, fill out paperwork, provide insurance information and make co-payments before seeing a doctor.

He said Providence St. Joseph Health is attempting to create a digital process that could provide patients with quick access to medical providers without all of the extra steps.

“You’re going to be able to see your medical supervisors without actually going there, which is a huge thing considering it could be outside of the country or super far away,” said Providence senior Elen Avetisyan, who’s in the medical-focus program.

Martin offered one caveat, though, saying as technology continually improves, the probability of more people getting left behind, or being unable to use those services, will likely grow.

“To me, that’s the most important thing, the user-friendly aspect,” said Providence senior Enrico Arambulo, a student in the medical-focus program. “Technology is great, but people have to be able to use it.”

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