The average user has 65 apps installed on his or her phone and more than three-quarters are used for games or social networking, according to Flurry, a mobile analytics firm. Suitable for much more than fun and games, apps developed by Unbound Medicine are a valuable resource for medical professionals worldwide.
ALTHOUGH HE grew up nurtured by computers, Philip Peterson ’91 majored in philosophy at Bloomsburg University, and it forms the underpinnings of his life in the business world. Take, for example, the list of skills a major in philosophy imparts: critical thinking, problem solving, communicating effectively and questioning one’s own values and commitments. Peterson uses them daily on the job.
“I see philosophy as being at the leading edge of every science,” he says. “It’s not so much about study- ing philosophers as about understanding what is the next question.”
Determining what that question is and how to answer it, as well as ruminating on the big questions of life, guide Peterson in his role as chief technology officer of Unbound Medicine, a maker of phone apps for doctors, nurses and students. For the “untechnological,” apps are computer tools installed in mobile phones that let people perform specific tasks such as getting the answer to a medical question or looking up a drug.
Peterson directs Unbound’s software development and product offerings. Based in Charlottesville, Va., the 12-year-old company forms partnerships with super-sources like Johns Hopkins University and develops software to deliver the information to medical personnel. Apps such as Nursing Central, Medicine Central and The Merck Manual Suite can provide references needed to help diagnose patients, answer questions and research information, Peterson says.
“I am lucky to be in an industry that is growing — health care and mobile technology,” says Peterson, 45, “and fortunate to be able to have a job that is, at its core, doing good things for people.”
In particular, Unbound produces Relief Central, a free app that supplies information to disaster relief personnel and includes the CIA’s World Factbook with details about every country on the planet. It arose from concern for the suffering caused by the catastrophic earth- quake and tsunami in the Indian Ocean in 2004.
Peterson says that he and Unbound president Dr. William Detmer are “passionate about solving information needs, which are greater in some places than others.” Those include African countries where telephone landlines are scarce, but doctors can find answers by mobile phone apps.
Closer to home, simply being an employer helps a segment of humanity “to be good people in their community and beyond,” Peterson notes. “It is my thought that people, when their basic needs are met, are much more likely to be good, loving people than not.”
Although he majored in philoso- phy in college, computer science ran a close second and, in fact, Peterson could have double-majored by taking a few more courses. Growing up in Newtown, Bucks County, he says he knew a lot “at the core level” about computers: “I was reared on them, probably centering around gaming.”
“I had a couple of jobs in computer science that I would fall asleep in,” he says of his days at Bloomsburg, where he followed his brother Chris ’80, now an anesthesiologist in Lancaster. “It was something like taking invoices and converting them into shipping labels. It was boring compared to what I was doing for fun.”
Peterson loved college, embracing the town and people of Bloomsburg itself. Oh, yes, and for a time that was him inside the Husky mascot costume driving around in a red and white microbus with “Go Huskies” painted on it.
At Bloomsburg, Peterson also served as a residence adviser, worked at a drug store and deejayed at a bar. He was part of a group of about two dozen students that started a chapter of the national fraternity Theta Chi. After graduation, he lived in Europe as an international sales manager and systems architect for Ovid Technologies, a provider of computer search systems for health-care institutions.
Dreaming of settling down in a farmhouse amid rolling hills, Peterson eventually returned to Pennsylvania, where he lives with wife Janice Kirkwood, stepdaughter Paige Frey, 20; daughter Haley, 14; and son Aidan, 11.
Today, his company employs people in Media, Pa.; Charlottesville, Va.; and Paris, France, including Bloomsburg graduates Ralph Nardell ’91 and Dan Kornegay ’93. For Peterson, time spent examin- ing one’s life philosophically is tempered by the frenetic pace of the mobile phone app business as
it hurtles into the future. Once, mobile phones only made calls, but devices including the original Palm Pilot, iPhone, iPad, Amazon’s Kindle Fire, Blackberry
Playbook, Nokia Lumia and Motorola Droid put an end to that.
Now, Peterson says, “You can never stop and look back at what you did. We’re constantly on our toes. If I’m planning more than three months out, it’s probably unrealistic.” •
Rebecca Rhodin is a freelance writer based in Wescosville, Pa