35, chief information officer
Ohio State University Medical Center
People were surprised to find that the manager running the project was "this young kid," as Ahmad put it. Fresh out of OSU graduate school in 1996, he was put in charge of coordinating the multiple designers and vendors responsible for building a research gem with magnet power 150,000 times the field of the earth. He also had enough expertise in MRI technology to contribute to the design himself.
In only six years since then, Ahmad has displayed a blend of technical acumen, business savvy and strategic vision that has helped the university establish prominence in such innovative areas as filmless radiology imaging and management, biomedical research and computerized medical records.
A gregarious personality who talks enthusiastically about goals and accomplishments that drive him, Ahmad draws on a family background steeped in medicine and a world view of the relationship between good healthcare and good health. A native of Pakistan, he observed that relationship first-hand from an early age, also living in Nigeria for two years and London the following two years as a teen-ager while his father, a senior Pakistan government official, carried out assignments.
"There's an engineer in me who wants to design things," he says. But influenced by a family that includes at least 20 doctors, medical technology is more than an intellectual pursuit. "How it relates to people is what really energizes me," he says.
On the practical side, Ahmad also has used a keen understanding of technology's underlying production costs to bargain with vendors and trim millions of dollars from their asking prices for products as well as negotiate lower maintenance costs each year for diagnostic equipment and information systems.
The university health system named him chief information officer in September 2000 at age 33. Recently the OSU College of Medicine & Public Health concurrently appointed him chief technology officer.
"Asif not only sees the `big picture,' but in our organization he often designs and defines the big picture," says Kam Sigafoos, associate vice president of health services. "His technical and clinical expertises are complemented by his tremendous skills in business and negotiations."
An electrical engineer educated at the University of Engineering and Technology in Lahore, Pakistan, Ahmad took a position in 1992 as a research associate in the OSU Medical Center's MRI department while enrolled in the university's graduate program in biomedical engineering. Two years later he was a manager in the clinical engineering department. He received his master's degree in 1994, specializing in MRI science, and added an MBA from OSU in 1996.
By the time the MRI facility opened in 1998, OSU had granted Ahmad more leverage to make an impact on future directions, putting him in charge of clinical technology decisionmaking for all hospitals and network facilities within the three-hospital Ohio State University Health System.
Ahmad says he saw in information technology the biggest potential for making a difference, and not just from a business viewpoint. "Coming from technology, I've seen how small projects, well executed, can make a big impact," he says. "Engineering workflow around a type of technology can change people's lives." %