New Tech Chief Guides Medical College Association’s Move to the Cloud


The new chief information officer of the Association of American Medical Colleges said he is upgrading the system medical students use to apply for residencies by moving applications to

Amazon.com Inc.’s

cloud.

Stephen Lopez,

who formally stepped into the CIO role last month, said he wants to increase the speed and agility of AAMC’s Electronic Residency Application Service, which experienced an outage in March 2021 because of capacity overload. Every March, students who weren’t accepted during the main round of residency applications, which lasts from September through February, have a matter of hours to resubmit before program directors begin viewing applications.

“That process is almost like a Black Friday,” said Dr. Lopez, who has been with AAMC since 2015 and spent the past year as interim CIO. He said that since the March 2021 incident, he has been working to increase the capacity of the system and migrate applications to the Amazon Web Services cloud to help with speed and agility.

AAMC’s cloud migration began in late 2020 as part of an effort to modernize applications and allow for “a much broader level of application functionality,” the group said.

Preparing for peaks in system usage is a primary benefit of the cloud for many companies, according to

Liz Herbert,

vice president and principal analyst at

Forrester Research Inc.

It is something retailers take advantage of during the holidays and tax companies take advantage of during April, she said.

The AAMC is a Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit association that administers the Medical College Admission Test and the American Medical College Application Service in addition to the residency application. Dr. Lopez reports to President and Chief Executive Officer

David J. Skorton

and succeeded former CIO

Marc Levy,

who left last year. Dr. Lopez, who has a doctorate in information systems, will supervise a team of seven direct reports and an information-technology staff of 200.

When the system went down in March 2021, there were about 12,000 applicants trying to submit within a three-hour window before program directors began reviewing applications, the association said. During this year’s March round, the AAMC extended that three-hour window to 22 hours.

The system, which was formerly on-premises, had been close to reaching capacity before, Dr. Lopez said, but the outage “was just the straw that broke the camel’s back.”

Dr. Lopez said that after the incident he helped identify the capacity of the database containing applicant information as the problem. He worked to expand the capacity, moving the system to the AWS cloud where the application could scale and respond more quickly.

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According to Ms. Herbert, by using the cloud, companies “no longer have to worry about peaks. They also don’t have to do all the time that’s involved with capacity planning, and more importantly, they don’t have to spend on this excess hardware for that one day of the year.”

There were no glitches during the March 2022 residency round. Dr. Lopez said he expects the total migration of the system to AWS to be completed by this July.

He said he is continually working to scale up the database in preparation for coming application rounds. Dr. Lopez said he is also working to rewrite and modernize business applications so that they can fully take advantage of the cloud environment, in turn contributing to the speed of the system.

Write to Isabelle Bousquette at [email protected]

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