Hugh Gordon is not like most medical students.

A Dean’s Research Scholar at the Keck School of Medicine of USC, Gordon has three years of medical school under his belt and hopes to be a critical care specialist. But the former Google software engineer also is an entrepreneur, co-founding the USC D-Health Lab and an affiliated company that aims to revolutionize the health information sector by tackling the difficulties of working with health care data that is protected by layers of privacy and compliance regulations.

“I co-founded the USC D-Health Lab to make a platform to solve innovation problems within hospitals,” Gordon said. “And out of D-Health came Akido Labs, which is a company that uses software and technology to help hospitals enable innovation through a variety of ways.”

Gordon’s work at D-Health and Akido Labs was born out of his twin passions, medicine and computer engineering, which he said happened largely as a result of the innovative culture at the Keck School and its affiliations with Keck Medical Center of USC and Los Angeles County + USC Medical Center.

“The administrators at Keck Medicine are really helpful,” he said, citing Keck Medicine’s CEO and Senior Vice President Thomas Jackiewicz. “(Jackiewicz) has really fostered an open and innovative culture at Keck.”

Early Love for Medicine

Born and raised in the San Francisco Bay Area, he knew from an early age that he wanted to follow his mother’s footsteps and become a fourth-generation physician. So Gordon trained as a wilderness EMT in high school and joined the volunteer ambulance corps as an undergraduate at Columbia University in New York City.

But while at Columbia, the multi-talented student also found a passion in computer science, which led to him being offered a job at Google.

“At that point, the doctor thing sailed out the window,” he said.

At Google, he led the team that rebuilt pieces of the tech company’s security software after it was hacked. But by his late 20s, he realized “it was now or never,” and began applying to medical schools with the goal of returning to California and finding a way to keep up his interest in engineering.

“I applied to the Keck School and they sent me a pamphlet in the mail about the HTE@USC program, which sounded like it was right up my alley,” Gordon said, referring to the interdisciplinary Health, Technology, and Engineering program that unites doctoral engineering students and medical students over four years to promote innovation within the two fields.

Building a Company

It was while working on a project for HTE@USC that Gordon and his D-Health co-founders, Jared Goodner and Prashant Samant, realized how difficult it was for them to write what they thought would be a simple patient engagement software program. Even with Gordon’s access to the hospital as a medical student, the project proved to be immense and D-Health was founded as a lab under the HTE umbrella.

Today, Gordon describes D-Health as an innovation arm of Keck Medicine, utilizing data and digital technologies to try to solve real problems for medical and administrative staff. In addition, D-Health supports members of the USC community in creating new startups and educates USC students on how to innovate in healthcare. Akido Labs, meanwhile, focuses on helping companies develop programs that will work within hospital systems.

Future Plans

Gordon hopes to return to medical school and become a practicing physician. And in May, he plans to marry his Keck School classmate Alexis Stevenson, who also is a Dean’s Research Scholar.

“The Dean’s research program is really cool,” he said. “My fiancee did bench research and that’s so cool to do as a medical student, while I’m doing this health IT thing, and they’re both under the same umbrella. The trust they place in you, that you’re not just going to squander your time, is amazing and the opportunities are enormous here.”

— Melissa Masatani