Matthew Rizzo, M.D., F.A.A.N., BOHSI Member (interview conducted 5/18/2012)
Matthew Rizzo, M.D., F.A.A.N., BOHSI Member
What is your current position and area of research?
Professor of Neurology, Mechanical and Industrial Engineering, and Public Policy,
Director, University of Iowa Aging Mind and Brain Initiative
Vice Chair for Translational and Clinical Research & Director, Division of Neuroergonomics
Department of Neurology
Roy & Lucille Carver College of Medicine
University of Iowa
I am interested in the neural substrates of perception, cognition and performance in humans in healthy and disease states, interacting with real world tools, machines, technologies and systems. We aim to measure behavior and localize cognitive processes in the performance of real-world tasks and use this information to optimize safety, efficiency, health and quality of life.
What led you to this field of research?
I started as a kid with dinosaurs, moved on to stars, planets and astronauts, had a tour of biochemistry, then found a medical career with a focus on brain and behavior. I was impressed that people behave differently over extended time frames in the real world than they do in controlled laboratory tasks. Now we have sensors and data processing tools to measure performance, behavior and health, at home, work, play, and travel between. We have an unprecedented opportunity to define new phenotypes of behavior and to relate this to human biology.
What has been the biggest change in human-systems integration during your career?
Problem solvers in academia, industry, the military and the government often work in silos. They tackle similar issues but do not share intelligence for a bigger picture. Institutional cultures are changing to allow people to peer over their silos. For example, the provost and deans at UI agreed to a strategic set of college spanning cluster hires to advance the science in key areas, which might not otherwise be possible. For example, I am privileged to direct UI’s Aging Mind and Brain Initiative, comprising 14 new scientists across five colleges, namely Medicine, Engineering, Pubic Health, Liberal Arts and Sciences, and Nursing. This could be the harbinger of operational strategies for the 21st Century for universities and other organizations where “swim in your own lane” still applies.
What do you enjoy most about being a member of BOHSI?
BOHSI is a candy store full of smart people, including members, staff and invited guests. We get to tackle the nations’ foremost science and policy issues in collaboration with the world’s smartest people.
What is the most important thing you would like to see human-systems integration achieve in the next 10 years?
I would like to see HSI advance a robust global infrastructure for medical information and technology that unites medical records, practice, and technologies with patient treatment outcomes and translational healthcare research. HSI approaches can also tackle decision making under uncertainty at patient and health-team levels; human-mediated behavioral pattern and anomaly detection systems for medical diagnostics; healthcare information systems that track for early detection, prevention, and improvement of practices and procedures; integration of sensor technology and geographical databases to track human vectors of disease; activity monitoring of patients at work, play, during travel and at home for tracking trajectory of disease and response to therapy; and measurement of naturalistic behavior in context for fielded clinical research trials, including efficient drug development and safety.
What is your favorite book of all time?
From the perspective of BOHSI it is biologist EO Wilson’s Consilience: the Unity of Knowledge (New York: Knopf, 1998). He amplified the physicist CP Snow’s message (Rede lecture, 1959) that we need to rejoin the two cultures that got disconnected in the 19th Century—namely the sciences and humanities — in order to solve the world’s greatest problems.