Joe Kiani spoke only a few words of English when he arrived in the United States from Iran at the age of 9. Five words, to be precise.
“Yes, no and I don’t know,” Kiani says with a laugh.
Now, as chairman and CEO of Masimo, the Irvine-based tech company he founded, Kiani is building on his transformational advances in pulse oximetry, which monitors the oxygen saturation of a patient’s blood without breaking the skin of a fingertip.
He was educated as an electrical engineer and is a zealous proponent of new technology to reduce medical errors and hasten the end of preventable hospital deaths.
“I really think, given the limited time we have here, we have got to do things that make our world better,” says Kiani, a member of the Chapman University President’s Cabinet. “Art does that, and I’m not opposed to the things that art brings for the imagination. I do believe there’s a huge need to improve our healthcare system through technology and education. I hope engineers and people who enjoy programming will go help improve lives and save lives, not only for the income potential, but to make our world better.”
Kiani founded the Patient Safety Movement Foundation, and he has amassed a lengthy list of U.S. patents after earning bachelor’s and master’s degrees in electrical engineering from San Diego State University by age 22. He graduated from high school at 15.
“I think the key to mobility in our country is education, unlike many other system and a where-you-came-from system. That is not the country we have here,” he says. “The problem is many people stuck in poverty lack someone in their lives to show them the vision of education, of what it means for the future.”
Kiani’s inspirations were his parents – his father was an electrical engineer and his mother a nurse – but despite their education they had to start over when they immigrated to America, settling in Alabama and later California.
“We lived in poor conditions and for a while we lived in the projects,” Kiani says. “It was not an easy life, but one thing my parents always understood and we had a clear vision of was that education would be the ticket to a good life, a fulfilled life.”
Photo display at top/President’s Cabinet member Joe Kiani champions new technology to reduce medical errors.
This story appeared in the winter 2018 issue of Chapman Now.