Darren J. Sommer, DO, FACOI, founder and CEO of Innovator Health, and assistant professor of medicine and technology, New York Institute of Technology College of Osteopathic Medicine at Arkansas State University, both in Jonesboro, Arkansas
Sommer 47, created Innovator Health with the intent to provide lifelike telemedicine experiences for patients so they can continue to build strong relationships with their physicians. The technology allows a physician to be at the patient's bedside in their life-size form, with direct eye contact and in 3D. He also personally uses his technology to ensure that more than 3,000 rural and underserved patients have access to telemedicine services annually.
In addition, Sommer created and teaches the first ever integrated telemedicine curriculum for first- and second-year medical students. Hundreds of student physicians are now more comfortable providing telemedicine services after having participated in his training program.
Furthermore, Sommer has more than 23 years of active and reserve military service and is currently a lieutenant colonel in the Army Reserves.
MHE: Why did you choose your profession?
Sommer: As a college drop-out, I never imagined I’d become a physician. However, after spending a few years in the military and being trained as an emergency medical technician, I fell in love with healthcare and helping people. Following the military, I was blessed to meet an osteopathic physician who mentored me and supported my pursuit of medicine.
MHE: What has been your biggest learning experience in the industry? What did it teach you?
Sommer: My most significant learning experience in healthcare was during my first clinical rotation when a frustrated, bitter physician trained me. This physician spoke in detail about the issues plaguing the healthcare industry, yet never once discussed how he planned to make it better.
Listening to this physician made me realize that I didn’t want to find myself in the same place 20 years down the road. As a result, I’ve focused my career on finding ways to make the healthcare industry a better place for future physicians and their patients.
MHE: What change would you like to see in healthcare in the next five to 10 years?
Sommer: I would like to see the complete integration of all electronic health records. Having a ubiquitous exchange of patient information will allow for a better quality of care and dramatically reduce the costs of healthcare services.
MHE: If you could sit down to dinner with anyone involved in healthcare who would it be?
My healthcare hero is Joseph Murray, MD. As the physician who successfully completed the first human organ transplant, I’d like to know how his peers received such a radical concept back in 1954 and how he persisted through what must have been a challenging experience both clinically and politically.