What are they thinking?

PUBLISHED ON  December 9, 2014

WRITTEN BY  Roni Zeiger

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  • Roni ZeigerWith a more reliable link this time: ,
  • Roni ZeigerHi folks, we're looking for a new teammate at Facebook, to be Director of Health Partnerships, Social Good. Warning, you might have to work closely with me :) ,
  • Roni ZeigerRT : 7yo: you know what I love? Me: what? 7yo: that every pencil has an eraser attached. It’s like the world expects everyone to make mistakes. That’s pretty cool. ,
  • Roni ZeigerRT : Took care of a homeless gentleman who sleeps in a park near my house. He asked to get discharged before 10am. I asked him why. “Because I volunteer to walk dogs at the animal shelter and I have to be there by then.”,

Yesterday, I helped my son with homework for the first time. He’s in first grade. The two memorable parts of this milestone were (1) I had to explain to him what a VCR is since it was part of a word problem, and (2) when he was done, he said: “Well, that was boring.” At least he thought it was interesting that we used to rent video tapes and pay extra if we forgot to rewind them.

Then this morning I biked to school with my daughter (in 5th grade). We ended up talking about how staying safe on the road means you have to get good at guessing what others are thinking. Do they see me? Are they going to try to exit the parking lot before or after I pass?

I realized that homework is often about the same thing: guessing what the person who wrote the question was thinking. This is actually a really useful skill, but I’m afraid he’s going to get good enough at in a few weeks.

Why hasn’t homework changed as much as VCRs?

Uber for tissue banking

PUBLISHED ON  November 22, 2014

WRITTEN BY  Roni Zeiger

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Soon, might a courier from Uber show up to the operating room to take your cancer tissue?

I’ve been learning a lot about how important tissue is for many cancer patients. In this era of molecular medicine, it’s often more important to know what mutations your cancer has (e.g. ALK positive) than what organ it happens to be in (e.g. lung cancer). That means a piece of your lung cancer tissue not only needs to be looked at under the microscope, but also tested for mutations. The basic tests we used to run were done — and done well — at every lab, including the one at the hospital where you had your cancer surgery or biopsy. These new molecular tests, however, are evolving quickly. In many cases, you might want a piece of your tumor to be sent to another medical center or a private lab that specializes in molecular testing. Here’s where it gets interesting.


The medical center that performed your surgery or biopsy has your tumor sample, and they are required to send a piece of it to another testing center if you request that they do so. But they don’t have much of an incentive to do this. They might prefer that you get more testing done at their lab or might prefer to keep as much of your tissue as possible for their researchers. Or they simply might not want to invest in making it easy for you to take your “business” elsewhere. This issue is going to get bigger as private testing companies and select medical centers are the ones investing heavily in next generation testing.

So maybe we need a new entity here, which I’ll call Uber for Tissue Banking, or just Uber for short. The incentives for this Uber are set up so that they focus exclusively on:

  • Handling your tissue professionally so that as much of it as possible is preserved for the tests you are most likely to need
  • Sending a sample piece of your tissue, when and only when you request, to the testing center(s) of your choice
  • Upgrading their technology for storing and preserving your tissue in the ways needed by the most current and promising testing centers
  • Alerting you of relevant new testing opportunities
  • Avoiding conflicts of interest, e.g., not setting up exclusive or preferential relationships with any testing centers

I’m not sure if I want Uber handling my tissue anytime soon, but I do think this is yet another area that is ready for some disruption.


PUBLISHED ON  November 17, 2014

WRITTEN BY  Roni Zeiger

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As I gain perspective about life and work, I continue to believe that the world will be a better and richer place if more of us can work at the sweet spot between our passion and our skills. Passion means we are seeking the impact we care most about and we can sustain our effort. Skills means we are serving the area we are most equipped to impact. Two quotes which bring that home for me:

“The word priority came into the English language in the 1400s. It was singular. It meant the very first or prior thing. It stayed singular for the next five hundred years. Only in the 1900s did we pluralize the term and start talking about priorities. Illogically, we reasoned that by changing the word we could bend reality.” — Greg Mckeown in Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less

“The way we spend our days is, of course, the way we spend our lives.” — Annie Dillard