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Elizabeth Cooney is a health reporter for the Worcester Telegram & Gazette.
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Wednesday, September 12, 2007
Berwick and Herr win Heinz awards
Two Cambridge innovators are among five winners of $250,000 awards from the Heinz Family Foundation for their achievements in medicine and science, the foundation said today.
Dr. Donald Berwick (left), co-founder of the Institute for Healthcare Improvement and a professor of pediatrics at Harvard Medical School, won in the public policy arena. His organization has been central in the movement to increase patient safety through efforts to make healthcare systems work better. The 100,000 Lives campaign, followed by the 5 Million Lives effort, set goals to improve care in hospitals.
Hugh Herr (left), MIT professor and director of biomechatronics at the MIT Media Lab, won in the technology, the economy and employment category. He studies human movement, how it is controlled and how to engineer human-like structures, including prostheses for amputees and wrap-around devices for people who have suffered strokes.
"My philosophy is that there are no disabled people in the world. There are only technologies that haven't been invented yet or technologies that don't work," Herr said in an interview yesterday. He calls himself an end-user because both his legs were amputated. "We should not accept disability and society should always continue to work toward technological interventions that bring us closer to being sure no one has to live with a disability, whether cognitive or physical."
Yesterday Berwick said he might use his grant to advance IHI's work in developing countries, where the organization has been applying the same principles that work to reduce infections in hospital ICUs to ways that keep women from dying in childbirth in remote villages in Malawi.
"We take very good science around public health and then empower local groups to implement that science," he said. "The same improvement methods that are getting traction in wealthy countries can have tremendous effects in developing countries."
The other winners of the Heinz awards, named for Senator John Heinz of Pennsylvania and selected by the foundation chaired by his widow, Teresa Heinz, are:
Dr. David L. Heymann of Geneva, assistant director general of the World Health Organization, in the human condition category
Dave Eggers, San Francisco author and founder of the 826 Valencia writing laboratories, in the arts and humanities category
Bernard Amadei of Boulder, Colo., founder of Engineers Without Borders -- USA and -- International, and Susan Seacrest of Lincoln, Neb., founder of the Groundwater Foundation. They are co-recipients in the environment category