CIO profile: Jorge Silveira’s long journey to helping create and save human lives

The chief digital health officer at Virtus Health relates his journey from the São Paulo slums to becoming one of Australia’s top healthcare tech leaders.

jorge silveira virtus health
Virtus Health

Lying awake one night back in the early 1980s as the rain pounded the leaking corrugated iron roof of his cramped home in the São Paulo favelas (slums), a seven-year-old Jorge Silveira resolved he was going to take responsibility in striving for a better life for himself and his family. Mum was an underpaid school teacher, while Dad was an even worse-paid traveling salesman. The wolf was never far from the door, and Silveira recalls the day his family car was repossessed after his father was unable to pay the exorbitant repayments demanded by local loan sharks, or agiotas.

“I grew up where life was something you fought for; nothing was taken for granted,” he tells CIO Australia. Crime—especially drug-related—was everywhere, beckoning young people with the temptation of an easy way out. “I could see how drugs and crime and weapons were dominant around me where I was growing up and I didn’t want to become a statistic.”

Silveira soon discovered he had a talent for painting and began producing works in the fashion of Brazil’s ipiranga market tradition, which involves paint and layering with plaster, giving the effect of bas reliefs. With his mother accompanying him to local markets, he managed to sell a lot of work to impressed locals and soon opened his first savings account.

A few years later came the most important opportunity in Silveira’s life: the chance to apply for a scholarship to one of the country’s top schools, for which there was only one place for every 30,000 applicants. “I was super excited to try for that and I studied my backside off.” Suffice to say, he was accepted. But the hard work continued, including waitering in the school cafeteria serving his better-off classmates in between lessons to pay for his own lunch and his books and other materials.

Silveira’s move to tech

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