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October 16, 2017

On-Site Insights: From Gamer to Surgeon to Technologist… the Tale of Justin Barad

By Melissa Hart, Special Correspondent to Inspiring Success

screenshot13In previous posts, we defined the term “technologist,” a label that applies to people working in companies of all shapes and sizes across the country along a broad spectrum of industries – not just those that write software and make hardware. We explained that, while technologists have diverse interests and multifaceted personalities, most share five traits:

  1. A technologist thinks strategy first.
  2. A technologist has a passion for solving problems and a general sense of curiosity.
  3. A technologist sees technology in a constructive context.
  4. A technologist believes tech is about humans, not hardware.
  5. A technologist values respect, cooperation and collaboration.

JustinBaradA fan of gaming as a teen, Justin Barad set out to become a video game developer but switched gears in college to pursue bioengineering. From there, he figured he’d go into the medical device industry, until advice from a mentor set him upon another path.


“He told me if I want to invent something, I need to know what problem I’m solving, and the best way to do that is to be on the front lines as a provider, experiencing the problems that people are facing every day,” said Barad.


So, his passion for solving and knack for tech gadgetry led him to become a pediatric orthopedic surgeon, graduating first in his class at UCLA medical school, then a residency in orthopedics at UCLA and on to a fellowship in pediatric orthopedics at Harvard and Boston Children’s Hospital. Along the way, he was struck by how much he had to learn in relatively short periods of time – and how the training model often falls short of meeting this challenge.


One example of this problem is the training transition between working on cadavers to actual patients. Per Barad, to reach proficiency new surgeons must perform 50-100 procedures and “those are people you are practicing on until you can get to a safe level.” Not the best process for students or patients.


That’s why he co-founded OSSO VR and developed a virtual reality (VR) surgical training platform that is changing the way medical students and practicing surgeons hone their skills. In fact, a study by his alma mater, UCLA, found that residents who practiced surgical skills using Osso’s VR platform rose to the level of advanced residents more quickly than through conventional training.


Today, Barad serves as OSSO VR’s CEO. And while his organization works with complex cutting-edge technology, his organization’s mission remains simple and focused: “What we’re trying to do is help people. At the end of the day what we’re interested in seeing is providers and patients benefit.”


Barad’s advice for budding technologists? Understand the problem, and then apply technology as a solution. Don’t invent technology and go looking for a problem to solve. And in the process, he said, it’s important to network, assemble a strong team to support you, gain competence in the area you’d like to pursue and continue to make forward progress.


Most of all, don’t be discouraged when someone dismisses your ideas or determination to succeed: “Our brains are wired to reject things we’re not familiar with, so chances are no one has thought of it. That’s something worth pursuing.”


Have you met an impressive technologist while on-site at an industry event?

Inspiring Success collects stories about technologists, and then shares them with people considering technology careers. Send your story to Contributing Editor R.C. Dirkes at and inspire someone.