But Trotter took a side trip or two before settling into healthcare IT. His first job was doing Internet security for the Air Force Information Warfare Center as a contractor. During a subsequent set of lucrative Internet jobs, he met current collaborator Ashish Patel, an expert at security networking infrastructure of large hospitals.
The return to healthcare was prompted by Trotter's mother being diagnosed with ovarian cancer. "It's almost always progressed too far by the time you even know it's there, which is exactly what happened to my mother," he says. In short order, Trotter made major life changes, getting married, joining the Marine Corps Reserve, and taking over research and development at his family's business.
"The first question I asked of health IT was, what kind of system would need to exist that would be able to make a better guess about my mom's symptoms than what the doctor did?" Trotter says. Now he realizes he was imagining a system similar to IBM's Watson, emerging computer technology that understands natural language and reads vast amounts of healthcare data to generate hypotheses and different probabilities of various outcomes.
"I realized that there were just so many Lego pieces beneath Watson that needed to be built, that I was probably never going to get to that in my career, and I haven't," Trotter says. "I haven't even come close to those kinds of aspirations, but I had a significant impact on all these lower-level Lego blocks."