Enid Montague, PhD, receives award from the Human Factors and Ergonomics Society

Thursday, January 29, 2015


Enid Montague, PhD, Assistant Professor in General Internal Medicine and Geriatrics, was recently awarded the Early Career Service Award from the Human Factors and Ergonomics Society. The term ergonomics in this sense does not reference the design of office chairs, but rather is a global term describing the field most often referred to in the US as human factors engineering. It is the scientific discipline concerned with understanding interactions among humans and other elements of a system. This field combines the disciplines of psychology and engineering to investigate theory, principles, data, and other methods of design in order to optimize human well-being and overall system performance. It is a rare and critical field that is growing in importance as our lives become more dominated by highly complex electronic systems.

 The award was created in honor of Dr. Ben-Tzion (Bentzi) Karsh, who died in 2012, and was a leader in the field and a long-time mentor of Dr. Montague. Dr. Montague was especially honored by having many members of Dr. Karsh’s family attend the award ceremony, several of them travelling from Israel to congratulate her and to represent Dr. Karsh and his life-long achievements.

 Following in the path of her mentor, Dr. Montague’s research interest is in applying theories of human factors engineering to health care systems, specifically focusing on understanding human capabilities and limitations and applying these findings to the design of technologies, systems and environments to promote health and wellness. Her most recent work has focused on patient and provider interactions with clinical and patient-facing technologies, pursuing new approaches that empower patients to better manage their care themselves and to augment physician capabilities so that they can provide more efficient and better-quality care without becoming fatigued. Asked about her focus on medicine, Dr. Montague explains that she wanted to “apply her knowledge and training to an area in which she could actually help people and improve overall human well-being and lives.”

 Prior to joining Northwestern, Dr. Montague received funding from the US Air Force for a study which examines how teams use technology. In describing the importance of her study, Dr. Montague explains that “team members often don’t have the same technical skill levels and many of the automated processes that we use frequently are overly complicated so that new technology is not used.” Equally dangerous is the other extreme, in which team members may “rely too heavily on the technology and neglect to provide sufficient oversight for the automated processes.”

 Dr. Montague is also the site lead for an NIH-funded study that aims to design and build a user-friendly tool that will help hospitals and clinics better use Electronic Health Record (EHR) data for research or clinical purposes. Such a tool would enable clinicians and researchers to better follow their patients throughout the health care system and therefore provide better care management. It would also enable researchers to access important data that can reveal significant findings in medication effectiveness and other important health and healthcare discoveries.

 Dr. Montague’s work in this area supports the overall mission of Northwestern Medicine by analyzing and developing new systems which will inform clinical education and clinical guidelines. She explains that “in the context of medicine, human factors engineering examines clinicians’ capabilities, limitations, and analyzes how they accomplish their work, so that systems can be developed to help and not hinder patience care.” This intersection of technology and medicine is an integral and growing part of modern health care and needs more highly skilled researchers like Dr. Montague to make all of this “big data” and technology more useable and efficient.

Dr. Enid Montague and her research team at Northwestern University's Division of General Internal Medicine and Geriatrics
Dr. Enid Montague and her research team at Northwestern University's Division of General Internal Medicine and Geriatrics. From left to right: Nova Hou, Maureen Satyshur, Enid Montague, Beatrice De Quero Navarro, Jie Xu