Music-Maker with a Taste for Technology

By: Andrew Forde October 18, 2012


Andrew Forde: Music-maker with a taste for technology

Source: City Centre Mirror

Becoming tongue-tied isn’t a natural occurrence for Andrew Forde, an engineer, tech entrepreneur and trained violinist, who can now add 2012 Harry Jerome Award winner to his list of accomplishments. Forde, who just turned 25, can easily speak at length about the software application, developed by his Toronto-based company Sommerfeld Solutions, that he believes will revolutionize the health care industry. And he’s eager to express his passion for the violin that began at the age of three and hasn’t abated since.

But when asked what it feels like to win a Harry Jerome Award, Forde was at a loss.

“You can’t construct into words what this means,” he said, before a long pause.

“It’s beyond humbling,” he began again. “To live up to what Harry Jerome represented…”

Forde, a University of Toronto graduate, was named Young Entrepreneur of the Year at this year’s awards show for his work on an online software application, The Electronic Chart (TEC), which will allow health care professionals to receive real-time updates on patients’ conditions via a tablet computer.

When it launches, TEC will allow care providers to view X-rays and lab results, schedule dosage reminders, update patient data and record video and photos in addition to other features.

“It’s a replacement for the traditional doctor’s chart,” said Forde, who came up with the idea for the app while working on a research project at McMaster University, where he is working on a master’s degree in engineering entrepreneurship.

A beta version of TEC will launch for a pilot run at several Ontario hospitals later this year. Forde admitted to feeling anxious about the upcoming trial but felt confident that TEC will get the thumbs up from medical practitioners.

“This isn’t a top-down solution; we shadowed doctors and nurses and directly sought their advice on how to make the prototype better,” he said. “Their input was vital.”

As a child, Forde was constantly pulling objects apart to see how they worked, often to the chagrin of his family. When he was three, he watched a performance of the New York Philharmonic Orchestra on television and became infatuated with the violin. Soon after, his sister fashioned a toy violin out of craft materials that he lugged around everywhere.

“It was my security blanket,” said Forde. “I carried it around for a whole year before my parents got the message and bought me a real violin.”

Since then, he’s performed the instrument in concert in front of thousands, been considered for a Juno Award and recorded songs that showcase a love of all types of music, from classical concertos to hip-hop inspired melodies.

Whether making music or designing technology, Forde said he relies on the same set of skills to come up with creative and original ideas. The thought of being ordinary or conventional troubles him and he’s fine losing sleep trying to squeeze in all of his pursuits.

“Honestly, I think it’s wrong to sleep a third of your life away,” he said.

Forde said he felt proud to uphold the legacy of Harry Jerome, the Canadian Olympic medalist who set several world records as a sprinter in the 1960s and in whose honour the awards were named.

“I feel like I’ve taken up Harry’s cause.”