Special Seminar - University of Houston
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Special Seminar

So You Think You Can Innovate?

When: Friday, February 28, 2014
Where: PGH 232
Time: 12:30 PM

Speaker: Roberta B. Ness, MD, MPH, Dean, University of Texas School of Public Health

Host: Dr. Ioannis Kakadiaris

Why isn’t science solving the biggest problems of the modern age? Why, according to the blue ribbon National Academies report The Gathering Storm is America losing its hegemony in science? Top pundits argue that America is not maintaining its competitive edge in the skill at which we have always excelled: innovation.

Surely if innovation is so critical to our nation’s scientific enterprise, we must place great emphasis on teaching it.  Yet in a national scan of higher education curricula, we have been unable to identify almost any courses in the sciences that teach methods for how to think imaginatively.

Dr. Ness will convey the steps in a novel method she has developed for improving innovative thinking in the sciences.  She will share point-by-point the process of frame shifting; increasing keenness of observation, using analogies; examining problems from new points of view; and working backwards from an anticipated outcome, among other tools.  Dr. Ness’s method is currently taught in a course at UT entitled, “Innovative Thinking” and it is the basis for a large training program.

Examples from computer science will be used to demonstrate the use of each technique.  Together, these allow students and post-docs to find new paths to discovery.

Roberta B. Ness, MD, MPH is an internationally recognized expert in medicine and public health.  She is dean of The University of Texas School of Public Health, one of the largest such Schools in the nation.  Dr. Ness holds the M. David Low Chair in Public Health and is a professor in the Division of Epidemiology and Disease Control. She is an adjunct professor in the department of epidemiology at The University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center and at the University of Pittsburgh and adjunct professor in the departments of medicine and obstetrics and gynecology at The University of Texas Medical School at Houston.  Dr. Ness is a a fellow of the American College of Physicians, member of the Academy of Medicine, Engineering and Science of Texas and the Texas Philosophical Society, and member of the Institute of Medicine of the National Academies of Science.

Dr. Ness was formerly chair of the Department of Epidemiology at the University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public Health where she was a professor of epidemiology, medicine, and obstetrics & gynecology. She served as interim dean from 2005-2006. Prior to joining the Pittsburgh faculty in 1993 she was on the faculty at the University of Pennsylvania.

Dr. Ness received her M.D. from Cornell University and her M.P.H. from Columbia University. Dr. Ness has been at the forefront of women’s health research, being one of the first to propose the research paradigm now termed “gender based biology” in her book entitled, Health and Disease among Women (1999). In 325 peer-reviewed publications and over 20 federally funded grants, Dr. Ness has explored the epidemiology of ovarian cancer, preeclampsia, and pelvic inflammatory disease; adverse pregnancy and perinatal outcomes; links between reproductive history and cardiovascular disease; and bacterial sexually transmitted infections. Dr. Ness is also known for her work on teaching innovation.  She is currently principal investigator on a training grant on innovative thinking funded by the Cancer Prevention and Research Institute of Texas (CPRIT).  She recently authored Innovation Generation, an instructional program for innovative thinking (due out 2012, Oxford U Press) and Genius Unmasked, the story of genius scientists of the 20th century and how they thought.  Dr. Ness has been an advisor to the National Institutes for Health, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, NASA, and the Department of Defense. She has been a committee member or chair for half a dozen Institute of Medicine, National Academies’ reports and has provided expert testimony to many more.

Dr. Ness is President of the prestigious American Epidemiologic Society and past-President of the American College of Epidemiology.  She was founding chair of the Joint Policy Committee of the Societies of Epidemiology – the first organization to coordinate joint policy actions among 14 epidemiology societies. Dr. Ness is an Associate Editor of the American Journal of Epidemiology, and on the editorial boards of Annals of Epidemiology, and WHO STD Bulletin. She is an elected member of the prestigious American Society for Clinical Investigation, Delta Omega Honorary, and the American Epidemiologic Society. Other honors include a 1996 Leadership Award from the Family Health Council; 2006 Laureate Award from the American College of Physicians; 2013 Petersdorf Lecture at the annual meeting of the American Association of Medical Colleges; and 2013 Snow Award from the American Public Health Association. She was selected by the Society for General Internal Medicine as the 2008 Distinguished Professor of Women’s Health. In 2011 she was named as a U.S. Presidential appointee to the Mickey Leland Center for Environmental Air Toxicant Research.