Editor’s Note: Jeff Tangney is Doximity’s CEO.
Epocrates, a company I co-founded, was one of four apps Steve Jobs chose to
present on stage during the AppStore launch back in 2008. He told us his own
doctor wouldn’t switch to an iPhone unless it had Epocrates. This lucky bit of
customer research gained us admission to a round-the-clock three-week
code-a-thon inside a guarded Apple conference room. After successive cuts, only
four of the 12 companies invited made it to the Apple stage. Through it all, no
one worked as hard as Steve. He sweat the details, the demo’s, the script;
left emails and voicemails at all hours; and somehow got us to work harder than
we ever had, for free. It was, to use a much-debated term of late, genius.
Last week, Steve Jobs’s biography was officially released, and with it, a
second round of well-considered articles about Jobs and his legacy. It has
launched a rich, detailed, almost “too soon” debate about Jobs as a man and how
we have come to define genius in this day and age. Here at Doximity (an Apple
fanboy shop if there ever were one), our head of design has already joked that
after reading Isaacson’s biography, he will now scream, swear and then cry to
get his way because “it’s what Steve would do.”
Isaacson’s biography concludes that history will place Jobs in the “pantheon
right next to Edison and Ford.” I don’t think that’s the right place. Edison
and Ford were brilliant engineers and shrewd businessmen who built incredibly
functional life-changing products. But they weren’t artists. And while Jobs was
an enormously effective engineering manager, he was not an engineer. He was a
businessman first and an artist at heart. His genius rose from creating
art–elegant design, playful flourishes, indeed happiness–out of other’s great
Physicians have always disproportionately favored Apple products. At Epocrates,
our physician users were four times more likely than average to have a Mac. At
Doximity today, iPhone users outnumber Android three to one while Android leads
iPhone in overall market share. Overall, seventy-five percent of US
physicians own not just a tablet or smartphone, but specifically some sort of
Apple device. Most chalk this up to the many years physicians spend in
academia, where Apple’s share is higher. But I have an alternate theory:
physicians appreciate art.
Hippocrates said it best: “life is short, the art long.” Medicine is an art. It
is rooted in science and utilizes the latest engineering, but healing is both
complex and subtle. It draws in those with an appreciative eye, an intuitive
aesthetic sense. From Hawkeye Pierce to House MD, our pop culture lionizes
gutsy individualists as physicians, and with good reason: doing the best for
your patient sometimes means breaking the rules. If Andreas Gruentzig, a German
cardiologist, had followed the rules, we wouldn’t know that catheters unclog
In this sense, Jobs was the ultimate physician. He healed our technology pains.
He broke the rules, creating new products that not only functioned
mechanically, but also displayed the subtle vigor and glow of a healthy
patient. And on a subconscious level, I think, physicians appreciate that
symmetry more than most.
As a person, Jobs put nearly all of his individual self into his professional
work. Like many physicians in practice today, his personal life was public and
his public life personal, not so much in the tabloid way we’re used to seeing
those words, but through his pride in and personal attachment to his work.
It is then doubly ironic that he was such a poor healer for himself. Our
sadness is mainly for ourselves, Steve. You had so much more to give us.