Mina Hsiang, 34
Healthcare Director, U.S. Digital Service, White House
Hometown: Fayetteville, NY
How did you get here?
I used to build robotic arms! My role at USDS is a bit of a change, but in some ways very consistent. I started out as a medical device engineer and I discovered I really liked talking to patients and clinicians. I built blood diagnostics, robotic prosthetics, and orthotics, but I always enjoyed figuring out the part where the technology and the person intersect, which to me is the most interesting interface that sometimes gets overlooked. Over time I moved on to healthcare informatics systems, both on the business and the tech side, building systems for large hospital networks. Then I got the call to go help fix Healthcare.gov. I went back to my informatics job after that, but when USDS started doing work in healthcare, they asked me to come back – and it’s the greatest work, how could I say no?
Who or what has been the greatest influence on your career?
My Grandfather, Jordan Baruch. After serving in World War II, he received his PhD at MIT and started an influential company, where he was truly a pioneer in using computers. He helped bring the first computers into hospitals, and eventually worked at the Department of Commerce, helping enable technology and building relationships for collaborative innovation.
He loved to have in-depth conversations with us kids about what was really important in life, talking to us like adults. He would ask hard questions, and not shy away from talking about what was wrong and right, and why things mattered. My favorite activities were working with him in the shop building the project of the day, or debating some new idea that one of us had. It always seemed natural to me that technology could and should be used to enable extraordinary good, and through the example of his life it seemed obvious that doing the greatest good would require experience in both the private sector and government.
What do you consider your greatest accomplishment during the Obama administration?
Being part of building a healthcare team full of incredible people who are so willing and able to jump in on really hard problems, and who work in such seamless partnership with our agency colleagues. From Healthcare.gov to Precision Medicine, USDS and our agency partners act together as one team, bringing different areas of expertise. The close work with agencies has been transformative for both us and them. Across the board, we are working on making the data in healthcare more useful and useable, and the interactions easier and more intuitive. Every single time we go out and work with users to vet what we’re building, I learn something new from my colleagues, and something new from the users. It’s a hallmark of continuously growing as a team, and I’m proud that we’re there.
Can you describe your time working for the Obama administration in 10 words?
Great challenges, no problem unsolvable, the most brilliant and caring people.
Complete the sentence: “When I’m not working, I…”
Am outside. Ideally climbing a mountain, or just jumping up and down because I’m so excited to be outside.