Jonathan Resnick, Software Developer

Software engineer & designer, ClearCanvas

Jonathan designed, built and supported trailblazing imaging software that is revolutionizing medical diagnostics around the world.

The days of analyzing film-based x-rays of your broken bones on conventional light boxes are ending.  Medical imaging is becoming digital as clinics and hospitals transition onto computer-based radiology information systems (RIS) and picture archiving communication systems (PACS).  These systems let doctors and other health professionals easily see x-rays, MRIs, CAT scans and other information – from one computer screen. 

Doctors can now easily compare images, leading to more accurate diagnoses and better medical outcomes. Jonathan played a key role in developing the imaging software that is now used in many Toronto hospitals.

These technologies are revolutionizing health care. Here are just some of the benefits listed by Canada Heath Infoway.

  • Quicker diagnostics: Quicker exam turn around times means doctors are able to make decisions and treat patients faster, thus reducing patient wait times.
  • Eliminates film: Traditional film can be broken, lost and is expensive to replace.  Switching to digital increases storage space while reducing staffing expenses.
  • Saves time: The work involved in processing and reviewing film deeply hurts medical productivity.  Computer-based programs dramatically increase productivity for doctors, radiologists and technologists, equivalent to the work of almost 5000 extra practitioners.
  • Environmentally friendly: The American Dental Hygenists’ Association notes digital imaging doesn’t require chemical processing, which can contaminate water.
  • Networks: Digital images can be transferred, viewed from multiple locations simultaneously and kept indefinitely.

Jonathan's CareerMash

Jonathan is a software developer and development manager at ClearCanvas, a Toronto-based medical imaging start-up that designs open-source software systems for major hospitals, small clinics and researchers alike.  He works on the design and construction of ClearCanvas imaging products and manages a team of developers.  Jonathan has helped develop three editions of the software.  The clinical and team editions aid in diagnostics at hospitals and clinics. The community edition is open source, meaning anyone can freely use it for academic and research purposes.

Jonathan got into medical imaging during his university years.  He foresaw the career potential and was excited by the potential for imaging technology to make a real difference in health care.  The systems he’s developed are used on almost every continent, including areas where traditional, expensive medical imaging technology isn’t available.

He takes a keen interest in making the products more user friendly, so much so he went back to school part-time to study design.  “If you come from an engineering background you actually have a very one-sided picture of what your job is in building technology because you’re looking at it from a very technical view.  The more experience you get, the more you realize that’s only half the story. The other half is people using the product,” he says. “I care about the products being well designed both from a technical and a usability point of view.”

A day in the life

Jonathan’s days center around developing new products and envisioning new ways to use the products. In the early stages, he is heavily involved in design - figuring out what the product should do and designing the features. Then it’s time to create the software, write code, check with his team and oversee the project. 

For Jonathan, building software is creative work.  “It’s an art form.  You’re creating something from nothing, from building blocks.  It’s like playing with Lego, taking pieces and putting it together. I wouldn’t be interested if there was no creativity,” he says.

Why this job rocks

“I get paid to do something I like.  There’s a lot of demand and these careers generally pay well,” Jonathan says. 

“I enjoy the design and engineering work, and also implementing the software. It’s about solving problems and creating things.  At the end of the day I know I’m doing something that makes a positive contribution in the world.” 

Roadmap

  • Jonathan earned a degree in engineering science from the University of Toronto.
  • After graduation he landed a software engineer job at eFilm Medical, a start-up. Jonathan created a radiology information system (known as a RIS) for the University Health Network (a group of Toronto hospitals including Princess Margaret, Toronto General and Toronto Western).  The system is a database that tracks images, reports and patient information.
  • The company became Merge eFilm, where Jonathan moved to a more senior level. He coded, designed, built, tested and maintained the radiology workflow product.
  • Jonathan later joined ClearCanvas as a software development manager on a new RIS project. The project took over three years and is now used at Toronto Women’s College Hospital.
  • He is currently enrolled at OCAD University studying design, strategic foresight and innovation.

Speed Bumps

User expectations of what software can and will do for them is constantly growing.  Customers have their own ideas, and Jonathan has to make them happen – fast.  “People are constantly asking for more features. It’s a challenge to keep up,” Jonathan says.

Another challenge is to make applications that are standardized, yet flexible enough to meet the specific needs of different institutions and hospitals.  “Every institution has unique ways of doing work. To make a product to sell to lots of people it has to be complete and flexible enough to meet everyone’s needs, but custom enough to fit individual needs.”

Tips for success

  • Start now – If you like programming, start doing it while in school.  You can become a great programmer if you practice.
  • Figure out what drives you – Find projects that excite you. If you’re into video games, start writing video games!  If you’re into the medical field, explore open source software!
  • Study – Explore your options; learn about engineering and computer sciences, and the theory behind them.  Try to see things as both a software designer and a user.  Think about how you use technology and consider that when practicing programming.