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CONTROL-ALT-DELETE: IU School of Medicine’s new CIO wants to help you view IT as an enabler, not an obstacle

Karen Spataro • 12/6/18

CONTROL-ALT-DELETE: IU School of Medicine’s new CIO wants to help you view IT as an enabler, not an obstacle

Rob Lowden will join Indiana University School of Medicine January 1 in the newly created role of executive associate dean and chief information officer. An IT veteran with two decades of experience in a variety of roles at IU, Lowden will be charged with collaborating across the school and developing and implementing IU School of Medicine’s strategic technology goals.

Rob Lowden

Rob Lowden

He shares his thoughts on his new role, what’s most exciting in IT, and his love of cream and crimson. 

WHY WERE YOU INTERESTED IN THIS POSITION?

As the largest school of medicine in the country, IU School of Medicine has a world renowned reputation, a clear mission, and a vision and core values that resonate with me personally.

From a technology perspective, I was most energized by the approach Dean Hess and his leadership took when creating this inaugural role. There are often two extremes when organizations are looking at information technology. On one end of the spectrum, there’s the custodial approach in which IT is viewed as a necessary cost center to be contained. On the opposite side is the view that IT is a strategic partner. It was clear to me that IU School of Medicine views it as the latter—that I would really have the opportunity to contribute to the successful mission of the school with my knowledge and experience in IT.

HOW DO YOU SEE A STRATEGIC, SCHOOL-WIDE APPROACH TO INFORMATION TECHNOLOGY SUPPORTING THE MISSION?

One must start with a strong appreciation for the size, locations and diversity of our organization. Our educators, researchers and patient care providers work all over the state of Indiana, in a variety of facilities and organizations, all with a consistent focus on advancing health in Indiana and beyond. From a technology perspective, supporting this mission is complex.

Fortunately, the School of Medicine has a strong foundation, and we can really begin moving the experience from IT as an obstacle to IT as an enabler. Part of that is meeting with people across the school, understanding what their business needs are, and making sure we’re applying the right technology to the right challenge.

I look at Anantha Shekhar and researchers across the school and the complexities they navigate daily just to do research. There are so many different systems. You log into them separately, sometimes with different credentials, and sometimes you have to input the same information or data multiple times. That takes time, and it’s time that could be better spent doing something of greater value. Unnecessary complexity comes at a cost, and we need to understand how we can leverage the right technologies to simplify that.

WHAT IS MOST EXCITING IN INFORMATION TECHNOLOGY RIGHT NOW?

It’s a very exciting time in technology right now, especially in the field of artificial intelligence and machine learning. We’re moving from a period when the user submits responses on a web form and the computer responds, to a time when technology anticipates what you want. And I’m not just talking about the fact that you bought golf clubs on Amazon and are then asked if you also want to buy golf balls.

I flew on over 100 flights this year. On the occasions when my flight was canceled, the airline systems immediately started searching for alternative routes. Instead of just getting a message that my flight was canceled, I received a message telling me I had already been rebooked. That kind of predictive analytics requires data and algorithms. We sit on mountains of data, and we should leverage those assets to achieve our strategic goals. Challenges like flight cancellations are a reality. Taking what we know and applying new thinking to our challenges will enable us to leverage advances in technology in new ways.

WHAT DO YOU THINK IS ABSOLUTELY CRITICAL FOR SUCCESS?

Communication. Communication is the key difference between success and failure when technology, people and systems are involved. Eight out of ten strategies fail in execution.  When you distill it down to what really happened, the strategies are typically sound but poorly communicated, which then trickled down to challenges in execution. Cooperation is critical in any collaboration and requires respectful communication across diverse constituents.

Communicating requires listening well. I’m not an accountant, I’m not an HR administrator, a researcher or a physician. I have to listen when colleagues are sharing with me what is uniquely required for their profession. Through that respectful collaboration we achieve success.

WHAT CAN YOU TELL US ABOUT YOURSELF PERSONALLY?

I’m an Indiana native and grew up in northeastern Indiana. I’ve visited over 50 countries and 40 of the 50 states. I absolutely love the state of Indiana and have loved being part of IU as the namesake institution.

My wife, Aries, is a pediatric nurse practitioner at Riley. We have four children—three boys and a girl ranging in age from 5 to 13 and a Border Collie.

Author

Karen Spataro

Director of Strategic Communications

Karen Spataro joined the Indiana University School of Medicine Office of Strategic Communications as director in 2018 and has two decades of experience communicating to a wide range of audiences. Reach her at keschbac@iu.edu or 317-278-3676.