Vice President of Data Strategy

Data scientist, Marc d. Paradis combines the best of academia and industry know-how to drive the data strategy for Northwell Health which serves 11 million New Yorkers.

As Vice President of Data Strategy for Northwell Holdings and Ventures (which is the for-profit arm of Northwell Health) Paradis’s is responsible for targeted investments, joint ventures and innovations that leverage Northwell's data assets in support of Northwell’s patient-centered mission.

“My role within Northwell Health is two-fold, the first is within the holdings and venture side

to look at the companies and the opportunities in our portfolio from a Data Science, Machine Learning (ML) and Artificial Intelligence (AI) standpoint,” said Paradis who joined Northwell Health at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic in January 2020. 

“The second is to help the system as a whole think through data strategy, looking at how we can enrich and leverage the uniquely differentiable and defensible assets that we have. We have a decade of data on 11 million lives which is probably the most genetically, culturally and demographically diverse clinical data set in the world and that is a tremendous resource to have,” he said.  

Training the next generation of health graduates in technology from AI to ML is also the focus of New York-based Marc d. Paradis who was Vice President & Dean of Data Science University at Optum Enterprise Analytics prior to joining Northwell.

He started his career as a molecular neurobiologist and made the transition into industry doing business intelligence and data warehousing. “I was always very interested in trying to bring together the best of academia and the best of industry,” he said.

“I looked at ways to treat business data sets with the same methodological rigor and clarity of thought that we treat academic data sets with but on business timeframes and with a focus towards delivering products and services that work and provide value to people.

“I spent several years playing around with different models to support this vision. Eventually I had a chance to return to my roots in the healthcare and biomedical fields,” said Paradis “and it was then that I realised I had always been a data scientist - we just didn't have a term for it until 2007 - 2010 and that’s when I formally started doing Data Science, ML and AI.

He continued his quest to bring together the best of academia and industry at Optum Enterprise Analytics, where he led Optum’s Data Science University, he started with only 12 students in 2016 and by the time he left in 2019 Data Science University had trained more than 2,200 unique employees. “I personally taught nearly all of those employees through virtual and on-site lectures, forums and workshops,” he said.

“That experience was the first proving ground we had to take 15 years worth of ideas and experiments about combining the two worlds of academia and industry. We discovered that data science has to be more than just maths and programming. For a machine learning model to make its way into a successful product, that model has to be touched by hundreds if not thousands of people and they all have to understand how machine learning and AI enabled products are different from standard products. We found ways to incorporate product management into data science, ML and AI and we had programs for project managers, program managers, analysts, vice presidents and ethical programs on AI - a lot of great, great content, including a lot of often neglected content on critical thinking, the scientific method, the ethics of machine learning and AI.”

Commenting on what he considered the traits of an effective leader, Paradis said for him it is all about communication.

“Leadership is a relationship. All relationships are two-way streets. You have to listen, oftentimes before you talk. Leadership requires mutual respect on both sides that comes from openness and candour.  It's always my goal to make sure that anyone I am working with knows as much as I do about where we are, where we want to go and what we will and won’t do to get there. Then they are fully empowered to make decisions – decisions which more often than not are far better than anything I could have thought of.”

In light of the challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic, Paradis named Northwell Health CEO, Michael J. Dowling as an inspirational leader in a crisis situation. 

“In many ways he embodied core aspects of crisis leadership. He focused very heavily on communication being clear and upfront about the facts. He made sure that he was always very calm in the face of the crisis and conveyed his trust and belief in each and every employee, even at the peak of the pandemic when the system in the New York area was really on the brink. He was able to give everyone a common sense of mission and purpose to all of us so that we could each do our part to make things better and to keep moving forward,” he said.

Paradis has a Master’s in Cellular & Molecular Neurobiology from MIT and a Bachelor’s in Chemistry from Cornell University.

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