Going his own way

Ask Ray Funahashi (MD ’20) about his medical career, and he’ll point out: “I’m as nontraditional as they come.”

Instead of starting a residency after medical school, he learned to code. And, before beginning his postdoc, he became a drug discovery manager at Pitt’s Office of Innovation and Entrepreneurship partner, sciVelo.

He recently served as a postdoctoral associate at Pitt’s School of Medicine and also mentored students on entrepreneurial opportunities—a sort of “innovation fellowship,” as he calls it.

The mentoring was much needed, says Funahashi, because many students “have all of these ideas. [They] see and understand the problem space—but to execute some sort of solution is prohibitively difficult” because they can’t find people with complementary skills in tech or business.

Seeing the potential of tech innovation to advance medicine compelled him to reevaluate his own career path.

His reevaluation took him to Gesund.ai—a Boston-based startup, where he’s heading clinical affairs. For companies or academics developing medical algorithms, Gesund helps ensure their artificial intelligence is safe and effective. In February 2022, the new company received $2 million in seed funding led by the venture capital firm 500 Global.

Funahashi says his interest in medical research was shaped in part by his family history. Helping care for his grandmother, who suffered a brain injury when he was younger, made him curious about stem cells, which led him to research positions at the National Institutes of Health and Columbia University before medical school. Funahashi says he doesn’t reflect on (traditional) paths not taken.

“For health sciences students who are thinking about trying to make a difference that’s outside of a traditional clinical path—there are many ways to do it.”

Read more from the Winter 2022/23 issue.