Oct. 27, 2021

Improving a patient’s quality of life brings greatest satisfaction

2021 Top 40 Under 40: Dr. Devon Livingstone, BHSc’10, MD’13
Devon Livingstone
Devon Livingstone Jared Sych, Avenue magazine

While training to become an ear, nose and throat surgeon, Dr. Devon Livingstone, BHSc’10, MD’13, 33, remembers becoming frustrated with an antiquated communication system in health care. Wanting to replace faxes, pagers and paper files, he began to study machine learning, which eventually led him to create Alethea. The Calgary-based company produces diagnostic medical devices powered by artificial intelligence and also doubles as an e-consultation platform that connects family physicians and specialists.

Dr. Livingstone is an otolaryngologist (head and neck surgeon) and clinical lecturer, University of Calgary, and chief medical officer of Alethea, a medical diagnostics and eConsult company focusing on delivering specialist-level care.

Is there anything you miss about student life?

I miss the social aspect of seeing all my friends on a daily basis, and the energy that comes from that. It’s a unique time of your life to be surrounded by like-minded people who are trying to figure out where to go in life.

Do you remember any classes or professors who were standouts?

Guido Van Marle was a standout professor. He was also a fantastic early mentor, and I was very happy to be able to work with him more as a surgical resident on a research basis.

What has been your biggest career highlight?

Being able to return to the institution that I trained at, with a broad scope of surgical practice, using all of the skills I learned throughout surgical training. I am most proud of the situations where, as a surgeon, I have been able to dramatically improve a person’s quality of life.

Where do you hope Alethea is in five years?

I hope that Alethea continues to grow and deliver on its mission statement to provide equitable and excellent health care to everyone. I hope we can create an environment where physicians can freely innovate and bring into practice those ideas that they know will work yet seem hard to implement. I enjoy the diversity of challenges that being an entrepreneur brings and the opportunity to work with new and interesting people.

What is the most satisfying thing about your job?

When I can, making people's lives better every day — though sometimes a little bit worse before they get a chance to heal!

If you were to go back to school, what would you take?

More time: everyone is in too much of a rush to get through and on to the next “bigger” thing.

Any advice for students or new grads?

At the risk of sounding like a fortune cookie: make sure you do the things you want to do in life now. When you get older and it’s more convenient, you lose energy, get distracted and make excuses. Go do stuff.

When you are not working, what do you do?

Rock climbing, skiing, working on my van, really anything so that I don’t start ice climbing again.

What’s your favourite board game?

High-stakes Jenga.

What are you reading these days?

I’ve been halfway through Salt: a World History for a solid year and a half, a book I received in a series of salt-themed Christmas gifts from my brother. Best read by Himalayan salt lamp.

With files from Avenue Magazine.