CHoR doc’s curiosity for research and random facts proves handy as Jeopardy! contestant
February 24, 2022
CHoR doc’s curiosity for research and random facts proves handy as Jeopardy! contestant

    Dr. Henry Rozycki, neonatologist and Jeopardy! champ

    Dr. Henry Rozycki’s love of research has come in handy for more than improving health care for kids, though that’s still his true passion. His knowledge of facts in subjects from history to sports and many things in between served him well as a contestant on Jeopardy! The world saw this for themselves the episodes that aired February 21-23.

    When asked about the parallel between being a physician researcher and a Jeopardy! whiz, Dr. Rozycki responded – “Curiosity.”

    “Researchers and trivia enthusiasts want to know about something and everything. I think this is the perfect fit for leading the Child Health Research Institute, where I’m so excited about ALL the kinds of pediatric research we do, from molecular cardiology to creating smartphone apps for improving vaccine acceptance,” he added.

    It’s been more than two months since Dr. Rozycki’s show recordings, but he’s had to keep mum on the results until now – perhaps the greatest feat of all. Though his extra Jeopardy! research paid off in the form of cash winnings – $29,700 to be exact – he plans to keep his day job caring for the smallest and sickest babies, sharing his incredible knowledge with future neonatologists and leading pediatric research at CHoR. For that, we consider ourselves and our patients the winners.

    The journey to Jeopardy!

    Dr. Rozycki, CHoR’s vice chair for research and a neonatologist by background, has aspired to be on Jeopardy! for years but didn’t try out for the first time until 2017.

    The lengthy screening process begins with a 50-question timed online quiz, followed by an in-person live quiz, then a short mock game and interview. If a contender passes each of these phases in succession, they move on to a contestant pool of 3,000-4,000 people – out of more than 70,000 who begin the process – from which only about 400 are then selected to actually appear on the show over the next 18 months.

    While he made it to the contestant pool in 2017, it didn’t turn out to be Dr. Rozycki’s year as a finalist. He continued watching Jeopardy! nightly and decided to give the audition process another try this past spring. He again passed the online quiz, live quiz (via Zoom this time, like everything else during the pandemic), mock game and interview. Then he went back to his everyday life, not thinking much about it until November 8 when his phone chimed with a text during a Zoom meeting. It was someone from Jeopardy! asking him to give them a call.

    “They explained that I was picked and they needed me to come out to Los Angeles to tape sessions on December 13 and 14. They told me I had to get a PCR test within 48 hours of the flight, then another on December 12, bring up to five changes of clothes and a few other instructions. It’s all kind of a blur,” said Dr. Rozycki.

    Beyond pediatric medicine – brushing up on little-known facts

    Once the initial shock wore off, it was time to get serious. Dr. Rozycki could tell you anything you might want to know about caring for preemies – and he’s even quite a whiz when it comes to history, geography and, being Canadian by birth, most things related to The Great White North. But he admittedly had some areas that needed serious brushing up.

    "I started watching old shows, reviewing questions from previous Jeopardies and boning up on common categories where I’m not quite as strong, of which there are many,” he said. “Obscure Shakespeare plays, all the vice presidents, things like that.”

    Then the big day finally came.

    “I arrived at Sony Studios at 7:15 a.m. and met the other 12 contestants. Jeopardy! does a fantastic job of getting the contestants relaxed and comfortable. We had two rehearsals so when the real thing came, we knew how everything worked,” he said. “I’ll admit that when I stood on the stage during rehearsal and the music started playing during Final Jeopardy, I got a little emotional. I’ve been watching Jeopardy! since before Alex Trebeck became host.”

    Ken Jennings, the Jeopardy! contestant with the longest winning streak, was host during Dr. Rozycki’s stint on the show.

    Back to babies – Returning to his passion of improving health care for infants and kids at CHoR

    “Dr. Rozycki is a uniquely talented individual. He’s intelligent, inquisitive, kindhearted – all the things that make an outstanding physician and scientist. Add his sense of humor to the mix and he’s the perfect Jeopardy! candidate too,” said Dr. Karen Hendricks-Muñoz, interim physician-in-chief for CHoR and William Tate Graham Professor and chair of the Division of Neonatal Medicine. “As colleagues, we were thrilled he was able to experience this lifelong dream. The opportunity couldn’t have been presented to a better person, and it’s been fun for his friends and colleagues at CHoR to follow along.”

    Congratulations, Dr. Rozycki!

    Discover more about Dr. Rozycki’s work in the Child Health Research Institute.

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