By Neely Brandfield-Harvey
How often have you heard people say when talking about a baseball player or a rock star, “It must be nice to get paid for doing something you love"? That is certainly the case with Dr. Art Papier ‘83, co-founder and chief executive officer of the medical technology company Logical Images, located in Rochester, N.Y. Although his journey has not been conventional, Papier has been fortunate enough to combine his creativity and love of art with his medical career to make innovative breakthroughs that benefit those in the medical field as well as patients seeking a rapid diagnosis.
Born into a family of physicians, Papier initially chose not to enter the family business. His creative side lured him to the Art Students League while attending Wesleyan University. After graduating with a BA in art, he was employed by the Guggenheim Museum and first studied drawing and printmaking when he decided he wanted to pursue a different path.
“Eventually I decided that I wanted to do something different, and I started to explore medicine after someone I knew who worked in a Columbia neurobiology laboratory encouraged me to apply for a laboratory position. I was hired, and the experience inspired me to apply and eventually enroll in the Postbac Premed Program,” Papier said.
Papier, who enrolled in the Postbac Premed Program in 1981, was among students like himself from diverse backgrounds and career paths.
“I really was heartened that there were so many other students with very diverse backgrounds. They were dancers, actors, business people, etc. When you are making a decision like that to change your career, you do not want to then be the only one who is doing something different. There is really comfort in the numbers,” Papier said.
After completing the Postbac Premed Program in 1983, Papier enrolled at University of Vermont College of Medicine, where he met Professor Lawrence L. Weed, M.D., a pioneer in computer-based medical records. During a brown bag seminar, to the dismay of the other attendees, Weed bluntly stated that physicians cannot possibly memorize everything and that the future of medicine lay with information technology, which resonated with Papier who began work on a research project about computer applications in health care.
Meeting Weed was extremely fortuitous, but his residency at University of Rochester was life changing. Papier was always very artistic, which prompted him to think about how he could incorporate his talents into a career. With his University of Rochester mentor, Dr. Lowell A. Goldsmith, who was the chair of Dermatology at the time, he visited Kodak in the early 1990s, where they began working on a prototype for VisualDx. Their goal was to create an image-based resource for emergency room doctors to help diagnose patients with a fever and rash by assisting physicians in the visual recognition of specific rashes and corresponding diseases in their patients. Given the everyday emergencies that are common in the ER, this was an area with which most of the physicians were not overly familiar and could not possibly memorize it all. The prototype was finished and available March 2001.
After 9/11 and the anthrax and smallpox scares that followed shortly thereafter, the Fever & Rash prototype received national attention, and VisualDx was licensed by public health organizations for bioterrorism preparedness.
Today, as an information expert, Papier, along with his colleagues at Logical Images, Inc., focuses on developing reference systems for physicians and consumers. VisualDx is in use in over 1300 hospitals in the United States, including the Veterans’ Hospital Administration, and VisualDx Mobile was released for Apple and Android devices in 2009. He was also awarded a $2 million grant from the NIH to create a standardized glossary for the field of dermatology.
Papier credits his time at Columbia with helping to shape his vision and put him on the path to a career in dermatology. The program changed his life and from time to time, he travels around the country, delivering speeches at various medical schools in hopes of inspiring the next generation of students to follow their hearts and think seriously about their careers in medicine.