Q: How did your time at SHRS influence the work you do now?
Nahom: I think the neat part of it, particularly with biomedical engineering or what we might call clinical rehabilitation engineering, you have the baseline of engineering, which is to make sure that the product can stand up under its own weight and not crumple up, and can support loads from a user and can be usable, make sense, and not cause any harm. You have those standard engineering tests, but then you go to that biomedical and clinical rehab route and it's about improving health and well-being. Is the product making a change in one's participation in the community when we talk about disability studies, independence, and satisfaction?
You can have a product, like a wheelchair, that works but then you can have a product that meets its stated needs from a medical and well-being perspective. That's what I learned from SHRS and the Rehabilitation Science and Technology Department. It's saying okay, you're going to learn about how to do this statistical hypothesis testing and in the end is that going to help health care institutions make the change that they need to make? To be competitively providing better health outcomes? It's not about having a product that's not going to break while someone is using it but that it's going to go home with somebody and deliver on providing independence, satisfaction, and quality of life.
Q: What kind of larger impact do you hope your work has?
Nahom: That's the good thing about working for RAND -- we can win or make an impact in a number of different ways. For example, educating the public connects to our nonprofit status and our core goal of being here for the greater good. Also, we're all about informing policy decisions, giving a clear objective look at problems.
Q: How do you spend your time outside of work?
Nahom: Like most people, there's your pick of Netflix and Hulu. But there's also a lot of networking and meeting different folks, learning different skills. I do a lot with meetup groups whether it's Pittsburgh Code & Supply Meet Up, Health 2.0 Pittsburgh, or Accessible Pittsburgh. That's another way that I keep up with my industry-specific circle of friends. I do a lot of that kind of stuff around town because they're really nice touch points to gain visibility into other specialties.
I also spend time working for a startup company I founded, Navity, that is currently investigating ways to commercialize my dissertation work on driving data in partnership with the Cindy Cohen School of Driving.
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