IBM’s Watson Health Gets a Prestigious New Leader

November 20, 2015, 7:12 PM UTC
YORKTOWN HEIGHTS, NEW YORK––IBM has created a computer, called Watson, that will play against the b
YORKTOWN HEIGHTS, NEW YORK––IBM has created a computer, called Watson, that will play against the best Jeopardy contestants for three nights, Feb. 14, 15, and 16. The host of Jeopardy, Alex Trebek, rehearses for the upcoming show. (Photo by Carolyn Cole/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images)
Photograph by Carolyn Cole, LA Times via Getty Images

IBM named Kyu Rhee as the new Chief Health Officer for its Watson Health Unit, Fortune has learned. Rhee, who has both an MD and a masters degree in public policy, will drive the business forward with a focus on clinical and population health expertise.

Rhee will report to Watson Health General Manager Deborah DiSanzo, who recently joined IBM from Phillips Healthcare.

The new title adds to an already prestigious resume for Rhee, who will continue to be the Chief Health Officer for IBM’s workforce. Before he landed at Big Blue, Rhee held top positions both at the Health Resources and Services Administration and the National Institutes of Health where he worked to address gaps in medical access. Prior to that, he served as the Chief Medical Officer for the Baltimore Medical System and worked as a primary care physician.

“This is really the natural evolution of what I’ve been doing for the past 20 years,” said Rhee. “I remember being in a clinical setting with my paper-based charts and medical textbooks, facing the pressure to try to read all that data and digest it. It wasn’t humanly possible.

“Now, Watson has the cognitive computing power to deliver those insights quickly when they’re most needed.”

Dr. Kyu Rhee is now Chief Health Officer for IBM's Watson Health unit.
Dr. Kyu Rhee is now Chief Health Officer for IBM’s Watson Health unit.Courtesy of IBM
Courtesy of IBM

Rhee has been instrumental at pushing for better health initiatives within IBM (IBM), including the most recent Apple (AAPL) Watch and Watson Health partnership. IBM will provide employees access to Apple Watches to better track their health via the CaféWell concierge app, a program that will likely launch publicly next year in coordination with Denver-based Welltok. “It’s about empowering patients,” Rhee told Fortune when it launched.

Rhee will carry over that same mentality to larger initiatives at Watson Health, which takes advantage of the powerful data analytics technology to develop innovative solutions for health care providers on both the clinical and administrative sides. The IBM unit already has partnerships in place with major industry players like CVS Health (CVS), Johnson & Johnson (JNJ), and Medtronic (MDT).

“Ultimately, we’re aiming to improve the health of the populations our clients serve, reduce waste, and find new ways to help personalize and predict outcomes,” said Rhee.

Watson Health’s initial areas of focus under Rhee’s leadership will include building a strong community of health professionals, ensuring new offerings are meeting doctors and providers needs, and discovering new avenues of growth for the health data platform, according to IBM.

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