Meet Rayna Matsuno

2022/10 6 min read


What brought you to Syapse?

Before coming to Syapse, I worked for the Department of Defense (DoD) and researched the health of military service members. I grew up on a military base, my dad had worked for the DoD, and my husband is a veteran – it was all meaningful and had a purpose. There was a lot of interesting research that I was doing, but it didn’t include much cancer research, even though that had been my academic and professional focus up to that point. I enjoyed my work there, and some of my studies were directly applicable to my own life (e.g., challenges service members face when they transition out of the military); however, I was working on so many different projects for different types of diseases that I never felt super knowledgeable in any one area. When a recruiter from Syapse reached out to me, and I looked at what the company does, everything clicked. I would be able to get back to what I had trained to do and in a way that would positively impact patient care. 

Did you have an ‘aha’ moment where you knew this was the right place for you?

Yes, in researching Syapse, I came across a video of a patient journey for someone with prostate cancer. It was a dynamic swimmer plot depicting the patient’s course of care and spoke to how unique Syapse is in that we collect data that spans all care a patient receives, not just oncology care.

Seeing this whole view of the patient journey struck a chord because it reminded me of my dad’s experience with bladder cancer. I had closely followed his care, from initial diagnosis by his urologist, to recurrence, to caring for him at home with my family in his final weeks of life. I worked a few minutes away from his hospital and visited him daily, meeting with his hospitalist and other providers, and I still have a copy of his medical records.  The visual reflected an opportunity to identify and find solutions to a lot of the gaps in his care that I observed. Syapse’s ability to scale these observations up to the population level was a huge draw for me.  

What's your hope for the future of medicine?

Greater health equity. We're focused on precision medicine and I think that's incredibly important at the patient level, but not every patient has access to genetic testing that would enable them to benefit from some of the advances we’ve made in precision medicine, for example. The fact that Syapse works with Community Health Systems to identify health disparities so they can be addressed is huge to me.

What motivates you day to day?

Being able to collaborate with our partners, who all share a common goal – helping cancer patients. I truly know we are making an impact. 

The other thing that motivates me is the intellectual stimulation. There are a lot of things that come up where I get to internally debate what would be the best methodologic approach for some very interesting research questions. It forces me to really flex my brain. In fact, I've purchased six textbooks since starting this job, and have had to refer to my 2nd edition copy of the infamous “Modern Epidemiology” textbook on more than one occasion. Not to age myself, but apparently there’s a 4th edition now. I love that I need to learn more about this or I need to refresh my memory because, at Syapse, epidemiologists are looked to as the study PIs so I want to make sure I meet that expectation. I love that it's intellectually challenging and never boring.

What has surprised you most since joining Syapse?

One thing that surprised me was the complexity behind the data we work with. I never fully appreciated the significance of our engineering teams and the whole data feed process and normalization of the data. Previously I had only worked with EHR data on a very small scale or relatively nice and neat claims data. 

The other thing that has surprised me is the pace. A project that would normally take two years at my old job is something that we would accomplish in four months here. It can be stressful but it feels so good to get things done. It feels good to be so productive.  

Lightning Round!

If you could become an expert at anything instantly, what would it be? 

Language. I would love to be able to speak any language I want to. 

It sounds like you’re learning a lot right now. What are you most excited about learning? 

Outside of work-related textbooks, I’ve been reading a lot of books on responsive parenting. 

I have a 13-year old and a 2-year old… so, between a teenager and a toddler, I need all the help I can get!

If you could switch roles for a day with anybody at Syapse, what would you choose? 

Probably someone on our leadership team. Either Vinod or Mary so that I can really understand the bigger picture. That would be pretty interesting. 

What is the last show you binged?

I am coming into the game super, super, super late, and I'd heard of the show, but I never watched it because I'm not really big on TV, but I've totally been into Queer Eye.