What is your current position and area of research?
I am the Procter & Gamble Professor in Total Quality in the Department of Industrial and Systems Engineering at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. I am also the director of the Center for Quality and Productivity Improvement and I lead the Systems Engineering Initiative for Patient Safety (or SEIPS) at the UW-Madison.
My research is about analyzing, designing and improving complex work systems such as those found in health care. In the past 14 years, I have focused my research on patient safety and other healthcare quality issues such as design and implementation of health information technologies. As an industrial and systems engineer, I am particularly interested in modeling complex system interactions in healthcare processes that can lead to medical errors and other adverse outcomes for patients and healthcare professionals. This applied research is done in collaboration with various healthcare organizations and is primarily funded by federal agencies such as the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, the National Institute of Health and the National Science Foundation.
The multidisciplinary SEIPS research program within the Center for Quality and Productivity Improvement at the UW-Madison allows human factors and systems engineers to collaborate with health scientists (e.g., physicians, pharmacists, nurses) in tackling healthcare problems in various care settings such as the intensive care unit, operating rooms, other hospital environments and primary care, as well problems in transitions across organizational and physical boundaries in health care.
What led you to this field/area of research?
I am an engineer who has always been interested in the people and organizational aspects of processes and technologies. During my engineering studies at the Ecole Centrale de Paris, France, I was attracted to courses in management, economics, statistics, etc… When I discovered the University of Wisconsin-Madison and its industrial engineering department, I had found a ‘home’ where I could develop my combined interest in engineering and the social and behavioral sciences. I was lucky to begin my Ph.D. under the guidance of Professor Mike Smith who had just moved to Madison, WI. Therefore, human factors engineering, and in particular macroergonomics, is a great fit for me as it involves applied research in real organizations and work contexts, which has both short- and long-term impact.
In the past 10+ years, I have been doing this research in health care. It has been particularly amazing and rewarding, as I have studied problems that affect all of us. We are all patients; we deal with the healthcare delivery system at multiple times during our life either as patients or as we accompany our loved ones and friends through health challenges. Preventable medical errors are the third leading cause of death in the US, right after heart disease and cancer. So we hope to make a difference through our human factors and systems engineering models, approaches and methods.
What has been the biggest change in Human system integration during your career?
The major change in HSI has been just that, i.e. the recognition that there is a system! Understanding, analyzing, describing and modeling the system and interactions between the person(s) and other system elements are now accepted as major research issues. It is important to look at specific elements of the system; but there is now greater recognition for and acceptance of research that looks at complex systems in their context, and the role of people in the system. People are affected by the design of the system (e.g., performance, stress), but are also actors of the system and develop strategies for interacting with the system. This calls for a greater variety of research paradigms and approaches, which increases our depth and breadth and, ultimately, our impact. It is an exciting time for HSI.
The other major change in HSI is its broader application. HSI plays a major role in domains as diverse as manufacturing, aviation, cyber security, health care, and sustainability.
What do you enjoy most about being a member of BOHSI?
Learning and interacting with a great group of people who are members of BOHSI or visit with our board. Being a member of BOHSI is such an honor; I am glad that I can contribute and work with a great group of people in thinking about we can make a difference.
What is the most important thing you would like to see human-systems integration achieve in the next 10 years?
HSI should be involved in discussions about all major societal problems. These problems, whether they relate to the environment, human resources, economic development, safety, security, etc…, involve people and system design. We are the group who can help with not only analyzing these societal problems in a more systematic manner, but also developing effective and efficient solutions. We bring unique expertise at the interface between engineering, design and the behavioral and social sciences. We need to continue spreading the word about HSI and think about how we can meet the demand for HSI in the future.
I would also like to see HSI become an integrated part of health care, e.g., within healthcare organizations, vendors and manufacturers of health technologies, educational programs in medicine, nursing, pharmacy, etc…
What is your favorite book of all time?
When I was a teenager, I read L’Albatros (The Albatross) by Charles Baudelaire, a French poet of the 19th century; it was a required school reading and I loved it! L’Albatros is a beautiful poem that talks about the importance of context. The Albatross is a great bird when flying with its long wings spread; however, when the Albatross is on the deck of a ship, it becomes clumsy and the fishermen make fun of it. Doesn’t that sound like HSI?