Meet the DeBrouwers
Recently, we announced several new additions to our executive leadership team who bring decades of experience across information security, community, as well as tech and artificial intelligence (AI) innovation. Although these leaders have impressive track records of individual career achievements, we’re also inspired by their personal stories and unique reasons for “sharing care.” In this special executive spotlight, you’ll see why as you get to know Walter and Sam DeBrouwer – co-founders of the doc.ai (which Sharecare acquired in February) and our company’s newly appointed chief strategy officer and chief scientific officer, respectively.
Sam and Walter are both powerhouses in their own rights, yet this husband-and-wife duo is even better together. Their work together ranges from facilitating the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s One Laptop per Child project in Africa to helping coordinate TEDxSanFrancisco, and the international couple has dedicated the last 17 years of their lives to improving healthcare for patients, caregivers, and families like their own.
Get to know Sam and Walter and part of doc.ai’s history in this double-feature.
Tell us about your role.
Sam: I joined the Sharecare team via the doc.ai acquisition, where I was previously the chief executive officer. In my role as chief strategy officer at Sharecare, I help augment the Sharecare environment with doc.ai’s products and solutions – using deep tech and AI – to create even better, more efficient healthcare experiences that scale.
As one of my current projects, I’m also working on a new innovation called Omix to accelerate digital clinical studies via smartphones. It’s a big and very exciting challenge to help advance our technologies while keeping everything running for our great roster of existing customers.
Walter: As chief scientific officer, my focus is on how we can help take the company to the next level of expertise and make the moonshot ideas of today a reality. Moonshot ideas don’t manifest overnight, but incrementally in nano-failures and by improving what we learn over time. The only thing you can’t buy is time; you must invest in the future today.
What was your first job?
Sam: My first job was as a design marketing intern for one of the first internet companies in Belgium.
Walter: I was an infantry officer in the Belgian army. It is equivalent to a U.S. Army Ranger.
What moved you to build a business in healthcare?
Sam: We all have a healthcare story. Most of the time we deal with chronic conditions, or our parents develop ailments in old age, or in the most extreme cases like ours, a life-changing event happens. In 2004, our son, who was obsessed with superheroes and wanted to fly to the moon, tested his abilities and experienced a 40-foot fall resulting in a severe brain injury that left him in a coma for months.
Through this experience, we saw for ourselves why we need two cerebral hemispheres. Our brains are architected to avoid death if one side goes down, though it may be severely damaged as it was with our son. The fall put him in a coma for months before he could start a lifelong rehabilitation while coping with a series of serious medical issues. It was during this time we came to the harsh realization that medical breakthroughs often happen through the trial and error of therapeutic approaches and tragic accidents like our son’s. We saw firsthand how the healthcare system is dysfunctional, full of bureaucracy and layers, and without enough machines to augment and improve care.
While medicine can be extraordinary — we admire the doctors who saved our son’s life — one of the biggest lessons we’ve learned is that medicine ultimately involves long-term research between patients and caregivers.
Even today, there are many things we don’t understand about our son’s accident and recovery. That’s why we’re so committed to accelerating every clinical research study, removing error from the equation with technology, and by making every point of data collection smarter and faster, so we can better connect research to care and improve quality of life of millions of people.
After building doc.ai together, what made you decide its future was with Sharecare?
Walter: I first met Sharecare CEO Jeff Arnold in 2010, but after meeting again last fall, we realized Sharecare and doc.ai together could complete the puzzle. We had lack of data and an abundance of algorithms. Sharecare had an abundance of data and needed algorithms. We were a great fit for each other.
Sam: Sharecare developed a strong footprint in all existing and future relevant touch-points in healthcare at an impressive scale, and is able to connect the dots in a single platform and end-to-end experience. At doc.ai, we developed a strong AI tech stack, cutting-edge digital health capabilities, and a suite of products and solutions validated by Fortune 500 customers. The combination of both companies will accelerate our impact and growth and help improve the health of millions of people in real time. From doc.ai, we bring a team of great human beings who I’m proud to say are very skilled, smart, and learn fast. We’re eager partners and execute projects in no time.
What’s the best career advice you’ve been given?
Sam: Always keep moving. This mentality has helped me avoid getting stuck in thoughts and simply move forward. Making mistakes is part of the process, but try to make small ones and learn from them instead of making big mistakes.
The boxer Muhammad Ali is the one who inspires me to keep moving with speed. I think his speed and mental determination were so impressive and key to why he won so many matches.
Walter: You can do so much more than you think you can do. Think about it deeply. You can do so much more than you think you can do, and no one before us has done what we’re doing at Sharecare. We can do so much more – like making a meaningful difference in healthcare – with swarm energy.
How do you keep your RealAge down?
Sam: I wake up every morning at 6:30 a.m. which gives me an hour and a half when the world is still sleeping and the sun is rising. It gives me time to reflect and make sure I don’t forget anything on the long-term horizon. I also eat healthy and recently started yoga and pilates.
Walter: Sleep is important and I try to keep a healthy biorhythm.
Also, you have to spend part of your time in solitary seclusion. In solitary moments, the best ideas come.
Who has been the biggest influence on your life?
Sam: My mother, because she is so smart and so wise.
Walter: My wife, Sam. She made me the person I am today. Her hometown is Paris, France, and my manners were much worse before meeting her.