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BMI Professor awarded prestigious grant


November 07, 2007

Biomedical Informatics (BMI) professor and vice-chair of the department, Vimla L. Patel, Ph.D., D.Sc, was recently awarded a five-year, $5 million dollar grant from the James S. McDonnell Foundation for a collaborative study on research titled, “Cognitive Complexity and Error in Critical Care.”

Patel’s research will be coordinated with medical teams from Banner Healthcare in Phoenix, University of Texas in Houston and Washington University in St. Louis. Patel will serve as the principal investigator (PI) for this project which aims to provide research that will form the basis of a more comprehensive understanding of medical error. Co-PI’S include Trevor Cohen, M.D., Ph.D., and Kanav Kahol, Ph.D., also from ASU’s Department of Biomedical Informatics. 

The abstract of their proposal notes that, “Medical error is only rarely the result of the actions of a single person, and several leading error researchers have raised the importance of systemic causes of medical error. Human error will always be a factor, but recurring systemic weaknesses are amenable to intervention and correction. A productive approach to error reduction and management requires a contextual understanding of how errors tend to occur.” A key element of the proposed research is to employ the developed models of complexity and distributed cognition into suggestions of relevant intervention strategies that can both predict and prevent future error.

Patel joined BMI in 2007 as interim chair, moving from Columbia University in New York. She also serves as the director of ASU’S Center for Decision Making and Cognition.

The James S. McDonnell Foundation was established by aerospace pioneer James S. McDonnell in 1950. Founded to “improve the quality of life,” the foundation awards grants that support medical research.