Health Informatics – My Current Focus

July 29, 2014
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GIS opened new STEM opportunities

I took a sabbatical from my university in Italy and I went back to Arizona. I had kept in close contact and collaboration with the University of Arizona, so it was not difficult to find a project there. I also had the opportunity to deepen my collaboration with my colleagues at the Department of Geography and Geo-Information Science at George Mason University. I started to work on completely different issues with them, participating as a consultant on a project that brought me closer to issues in health care and, in particular, to the system used in the U.S. for allocating organs for transplantation. The goal of that project was to eliminate geographic disparities in access to organs. What I had to do was to develop new models to redefine borders of organ allocation regions by taking into account the role of time in the transplantation process as well as the spatial distribution of transplant centers.


Another thing that happened during that period is that I got lost in the eyes of my future husband.  When I finished my sabbatical year in Arizona, he quit his job and came back to Italy with me. We lived together in Salerno for three years, during which time we got married.


Once back in Salerno I continued to explore the modeling side of localization issues in logistics and transportation. However, my collaboration with George Mason had opened the way to new topics that I found and still find extremely interesting. I began to seek opportunities for collaboration in the United States to enrich my knowledge in this field. My current role at Georgia Tech was what I was looking for, and my husband did not hesitate for a moment to fly with me to Atlanta and start over here in the U.S.


I am currently focusing on issues in the area of health informatics. I am developing and implementing optimization and statistical models for measuring topics such as healthcare access across time and space, dynamic models for projecting physician supply, and health outcomes studies for specialized care of conditions such as asthma.

Certainly my path has not been linear, nor planned from the outset. Many of the choices I made were dictated by emotion: some from insecurity and others from the passion for my job. But, once again I am thrilled and very happy with what I am doing.


To conclude, I would like to use the words of a great woman, who made tremendous contributions to STEM topics. She was a symbol of dedication to scientific research and of inner strength to overcome difficulties:

“…In retrospect, considering my long journey, I can say that in scientific research it’s neither the degree of intelligence nor the ability to perform and carry out with exactness the task undertaken that are the essential factors for success and personal satisfaction. In all cases, what counts the most is having total devotion and closing our eyes in the face of difficulty.  This allows us to deal with problems that others, more critical and more acute, would not try to solve.” (Rita Levi Montalcini – Winner of 1986 Nobel Prize in Medicine)


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