Former FDA Commissioner joins Verily and more digital health hires

By Jonah Comstock
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As Scott Gottlieb kicks off his tenure as FDA commissioner, former commissioner Robert Califf has a new gig as well. Califf revealed in a blog post that he has taken a job at Verily, the life sciences arm of Alphabet, as well as returning to professorial positions at Duke and Stanford. Although the details of his role are still unclear, Califf will work on Verily’s Baseline study, an effort to collect baseline health data on 10,000 people over the course of four years.

“Both giant information companies and our country’s universities—particularly those with large health systems—have critical roles to play in ensuring that all Americans, and ultimately the entire world, benefit from new knowledge and technological capabilities,” Califf wrote. “Generating and analyzing information are not enough—we must overcome barriers to using data to improve health and healthcare. I have no illusion that I have the solutions to these problems, but I am grateful for the opportunity to work with a company and a university that are letting me give it a shot!”

Kindara, a Boulder, Colorado-based digital fertility tracker company, has hired Tia Newcomer as Chief Operating Officer. Newcomer has highly relevant experience as Chief Revenue Officer at Prelude Fertility, a startup focused on helping women take control of their reproductive decisions. 

“Tia is a seasoned women’s health executive with extensive experience operating successful startups and international corporations, alike,” Kindara CEO Ira Hernowitz said in a statement. “We will undoubtedly benefit from her fertility industry insight and leadership expertise as we enter an exciting growth stage at Kindara.”

Digital nutrition coaching company Zipongo has hired a new Vice President of Data Science, Viet Nguyen. Nguyen, who previously worked as senior director of data engineering and advanced analytics for Gap, will help build out the company’s behavior change algorithms. 

"Food poses an exciting challenge for data science — we must both keep consumers engaged, and also gradually help them advance on a path to better health," Nguyen said in a statement. "Zipongo is the only healthy eating technology application I have seen that really 'gets it.' The focus is on meeting users where they are and working with them to change unhealthy behaviors in a personalized approach that really works.”

Solera Health, which makes a platform that connects community organizations with digital chronic disease prevention programs such as the CDC's National Diabetes Prevention Program (DPP), hired a new Vice President of Government Affairs and policy. Danielle Turpinseed will lead the company’s advocacy efforts in Washington D.C., with a focus on the Medicare Diabetes Prevention Program (MDPP).

“Danielle is an accomplished healthcare veteran with deep health policy expertise in population health and specifically in diabetes prevention, including her extensive work with health plans and employers,” CEO Brenda Schmidt said in a statement. “We are thrilled to welcome her to the Solera team as we believe her extensive industry knowledge and legislative experience will be extremely valuable as we continue to extend our impact on chronic disease prevention and management efforts at the national, state and hyper-local level.”

Healthcare communications company Spok has named Mark Costanza as its new senior vice president of professional services. He previously served as Chief Client Officer at Nordic Consulting, a firm which supports healthcare companies.

“We are looking forward to having Mark join our leadership team,” Spok President and CEO Vincent D. Kelly said in a statement. “With his background in building vision and cultivating relationships, as well as his track record of improving the operations of hospitals and other healthcare IT businesses, Mark is the right person to join our executive team as we build for future growth.”