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Mentoring the Next Generation of Human Factors Experts

MedStar Health Mentoring Program

Pictured above are Dr. Raj Ratwani, Vice President of Scientific Affairs for MedStar Health Research Institute and director, MedStar Health National Center for Human Factors in Healthcare, and Kylie Gomes, a graduate student at the University of Virginia.

Human Factors may not be a well-known field of study, but it plays a crucial role in helping hospitals run efficiently, reduce medical errors and enhance patient care.

Through a MedStar Health mentoring program, a new generation of students receive an opportunity to explore this important and innovative field, and contribute to research that can ensure patients receive the best care possible.

The MedStar Health National Center for Human Factors in Healthcare, part of the MedStar Institute for Innovation, is committed to the scientific study of how humans think, work and interact within the healthcare environment.

To further its mission, the center offers year-round mentoring opportunities for students seeking hands-on experience and education in the field of human factors. Participants range from high school students to PhD candidates.

“The caliber of students who have come to the program has been phenomenal,” says Raj Ratwani, director, MedStar Health National Center for Human Factors in Healthcare, adding that students have come from such prestigious institutions as Georgetown University, Catholic University and American University. “It’s a win-win because we get to benefit from these bright minds and their innovative ideas, and the students are able to work hands-on with researchers.”

Students with backgrounds and interests in psychology, computer science, engineering and various medical concentrations complete three months of rigorous study. They work side-by-side with human factors researchers sharing ideas, conducting research and learning from experts, as well as their peers, on ways to enhance efficiency and accurately in the healthcare environment.

For example, human factors may be applied when designing systems to ensure safe prescribing practices, clear communication among teams, and effective relay of patient information.

Source: MedStar National Center for Human Factors in Healthcare

“I saw this as an opportunity to do meaningful, high-impact work alongside highly skilled researchers,” says Kylie Gomes, a graduate student at the University of Virginia, who is majoring in Engineering Systems Development. “What made this experience so unique is that the students brought perspectives from very different backgrounds, both in training and in life.”  

Ratwani says one program participant even had his research published in the industry-leading Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA).  

“The program demonstrates that when we all come together, the best research can happen,” Gomes says. 

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