Virgil Wong, Self-Portrait, 2020. Pencil, ink, and Gansai Tambi paint on paper. 8″ X 10″.
When a doctor asks you to describe your pain on a scale of one to ten, you might ask, “One to ten what?” Pain takes effort not to feel in your own body – and an even greater effort to empathize in someone else’s body.
As a child, I read a Helen Keller biography and blindfolded myself to better relate to her life. Today, I create avatars and symptom data visualizations to help physicians see their patients more clearly.
Patients use my “time travel” apps to set health goals by designing simulations of possible futures. I write their stories as speculative fiction and help map the paths they may wish to live.
Virgil Wong is an artist and digital technologist transforming human health.
VR/AR/Design, The New School
Virgil Wong is the Chief Digital Officer of HGS, a global leader in business process management and optimizing the customer experience lifecycle (37,460 employees, 61 delivery centers, 7 countries, $737M annual revenue). He is also co-founder and former CEO of Medical Avatar LLC, a digital health company creating time travel simulations to improve healthcare delivery, reduce health care costs, and improve outcomes.
Previously, Virgil founded the in-house interactive division for Weill Cornell Medical College and NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital. For 15 years, he defined the Internet strategy for both institutions and created a portfolio of 120 web sites and over 76,000 web pages. WeillCornell.org was one of the first successful academic healthcare portals in New York, which empowered patients with their own medical records and the ability to interact with their doctors online. Virgil’s team won nearly 50 eHealthcare Leadership Awards, a leading industry recognition for healthcare on the Internet. In 2010, his team helped to raise over $100,000 online for Weill Cornell’s GHESKIO clinic after the earthquake disaster in Haiti. Virgil also served as co-chair of the Clinical & Translational Research Science Center (CTSC) Cross-Institutional Web Portal Working Group, whose mission is to leverage new technologies in rapidly moving advanced biomedical research from the laboratory to the patient.
As an independent artist and filmmaker, Virgil produced and co-directed “Murmur”, an experimental film that premiered at the 2002 Sundance Film Festival. In the previous year, he received a grant from the NEA for an art and medicine exhibition called “Corporeal Landscape”. He has exhibited installations, films, paintings, drawings, and prints visualizing the human body in galleries and museums around the world, including the State Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg, Russia; the Museum of Contemporary Art in Taipei, Taiwan; and Deitch Projects in NYC.
Since 2000, he has also been an adjunct professor in The New School‘s Masters in Media Studies Program, now teaching virtual reality, photography, film, and interactive media. Professor Wong received The New School’s Faculty Mentorship Award for Outstanding Teaching Award in 2005.