Interview with Dr. Christopher Leonard

Dr. Christopher Leonard is the CIO at a physician management company, where he leveraged several opportunities in medical informatics. He now leads the team that designs and develops a proprietary EHR.

Christopher is a graduate of the University of Georgia, Kansas City School of Osteopathic Medicine. He completed his general surgery residency at the Medical College of Georgia, and Master's in Health Informatics at Northwestern University.

After transitioning from general surgery to health informatics, he focused on raising care quality by bringing data analytics and machine learning to post-acute care.

In today's interview, Chris provides a view into his transition from satisfied general surgeon to Chief Information Officer. And he gets into the details regarding what informatics is, and how it has evolved since he over the years. Finally, he lays out how he would approach a career in medical informatics, if he were starting out today.

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Combining Skill Sets: From Musician to Medical School to CIO

Let’s get back to my interview with Dr. Christopher Leonard. Before going into medicine, he came from a creative background. “I liked science, but I also liked art. I was a musician, and I wrote music and plays, did theater work…a vast array of creative things. Those kinds of things, even in science, are often very applicable” to an eventual career.

christopher leonard opportunities in medical informatics

Chris attended the Kansas City School of Osteopathic Medicine. “I wanted to do something that wasn't just solely restricted to the lab and academics. I definitely wanted to have social engagement, and that's where the combination of skill sets came in.”

Subsequently, he did a general surgery residency at the Medical College of Georgia. Chris enjoyed the camaraderie and operational aspects.

“I enjoyed the education I got there. They wanted us to understand nutrition and medicine. The most important thing they used to say was: ‘Learn how to not operate.’ It was really about judgment, rather than just operative skills.”

Despite the teamwork, an “us vs. them” mentality still existed: “The doctors in the trenches doing clinical work vs. the administration. One side doesn't always appreciate what the other side has to deal with, and the necessities of the other side. I remember that specifically because I ended up in administration.”

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Processes, Protocols, and Paperwork

Physicians have to deal with protocols. “A lot of things are protocol. So, why spend your creative energy on…parts of things that should be protocol?”

opportunities in medical informatics christopher leonard

When Chris went to a rural hospital to practice, he revamped almost every process to improve efficiency. “Through residency, when you see the same things over and over again, like a gallbladder or potential cholecystitis, you have sort of a routine in your head. Wherever there's a distinction, you make note of it.”


By revising those processes, Chris was already doing administrative operational and process work. “It didn't quite click that I was naturally prone to that. I kind of did it as a big bang. I went in and changed everything.”

However, not everyone was appreciative of his efforts. “Sometimes, that ruffles feathers. It's not like I was changing it for everyone else, but people say, ‘We've been doing it this way for a long time. Who are you to come in and change these kinds of things?’”

The curriculum in that informatics degree was very much in line with all the problems I was facing. I realized, ‘Wow, there's a science behind every one of these little nuances.'

Christopher Leonard

As he kept identifying new issues to address, he decided to look into getting more training. Looking at the Northwestern University master's degree in health informatics, he found that the curriculum addressed everything he was trying to accomplish with data retrieval and analysis, and process improvement. So he signed up and began the program, and loved it.

Opportunities in Medical Informatics Keep Arriving

People notice when you look at processes and make suggestions. “You see problems… get involved…solve those problems. That will naturally open up opportunities for you for that next step, whether it's in management or getting involved in quality or safety.”

For Chris, the trigger that changed his non-clinical thinking into process-oriented thinking was sharing ideas and suggestions. “I was very enthusiastic and I think they saw that interest in the innovative way that we could go about things and process change. I had lots of ideas I fed back to them.”

Voicing your thoughts and opinions can be risky and you're going to have to do extra work to make something simpler. But it's usually worth it. And demonstrating you're interest and ability to solve problems will make you attractive to employers and supervisors. Problem solving is a valuable superpower!

In Summary

Chris’ story is so compelling and interesting to me. I appreciate that he enjoyed his work as a general surgeon. However, he was naturally drawn to standardizing and improving care. And as he developed solutions to address those concerns, informatics became the obvious solution.

I’ll be presenting Part 2 of this interview next week. And it continues with the story of how Chris pursued his interest in informatics, acquired more pertinent skills, and eventually became CIO of his practice.

He also gets into how informatics has evolved, and the common roles that he sees currently. Finally, he then gets into some detail about how to pursue an informatics career in today’s environment, and to identify opportunities in medical informatics.

You can find a transcript of the interview, by going to the clicking on the blue button above. The transcript will include both Parts 1 and 2, so it will be twice as long as the usual download.

Check Out This New Career Course

As I mentioned earlier, I’ve created a brand-new course that will show you the process for pursuing a career as a medical science liaison. You can learn more about it by going to But don’t delay, I’m closing the course on June 29.

Links for today's episode:

Thanks to our sponsor…

Thanks to the UT Physician Executive MBA program for sponsoring the show. It’s an outstanding, highly rated, MBA program designed for working physicians. It might be just what you need to prepare for that joyful, well-paying career. You can find out more at

I hope to see you next time on the PNC Podcast.

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The opinions expressed here are mine and my guest’s. While the information provided on the podcast is true and accurate to the best of my knowledge, there is no express or implied guarantee that using the methods discussed here will lead to success in your career, life or business. 

Many of the links that I refer you to, and that you’ll find in the show notes, are affiliate links. That means that I receive a payment from the seller if you purchase the affiliate item using my link. Doing so has no effect on the price you are charged. And I only promote products and services that I believe are of high quality and will be useful to you, that I have personally used or am very familiar with.

The information presented on this blog and related podcast is for entertainment and/or informational purposes only. It should not be construed as medical, legal, tax, or emotional advice. If you take action on the information provided on the blog or podcast, it is at your own risk. Always consult an attorney, accountant, career counsellor, or other professional before making any major decisions about your career. 

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