Who We Are

Michael Howell

The Short Version: Researcher, clinician, teacher, husband, father. Not necessarily in that order.

More Details:

I’m an ICU doc and a Healthcare Delivery Science researcher at the Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center and Harvard Medical School in Boston.  Before entering medicine, I consulted in materials purchasing workflow analysis and automation for the company which built most of the space shuttle.  This longstanding interest in putting the right person in the right place at the right time flowed naturally into my current career, which focuses on improving the value of care for acutely ill patients by blending research-in-the-midst-of-actual-patient-care with operational improvement strategies.

My group tries to answer the question, “How many resources does a sick patient need?” This need varies tremendously and rapidly over time, particularly during acute illnesses.  When we fail to provide enough resources, patient outcomes suffer.  When we provide more resources than a patient needs, we create waste, not value.  Our fundamental goal is to improve value in healthcare by creating knowledge that helps us to understand the exact level of resources that patients and families need right now, and to test systems of care that provide these resources in a highly reliable, reproducible, and generalizable way.  To reach this long-term goal, our research focuses on (1) health care quality, (2) quantitative and qualitative assessment of team function, and (3) identification of novel risks for healthcare-acquired complications, with a particular focus on risk prediction. We also spend a fair amount of time look at risk representation, an important problem for public reporting, healthcare policy, and reimbursement issues.

Shala Howell

The Short Version: Writer of things ranging from optical network switching white papers to genetic testing patient education materials to historical fiction set in an 1880s asylum.

More Details: Although in 2011 I converted to being a full-time novelist, there’s a part of me that will always think of myself as a freelance technical writer whose most marketable talent is my ability to translate product specifications from Engineer to English. I’m also a spouse and parent.

Like every other tech writer you will ever meet, I’ve been working on the next great American novel for several years (well, unless you happen to meet that one tech writer in Concord, Massachusetts, who paints. I’ve also heard that there’s a technical writer in California who’s in a band, but I have yet to personally confirm this outrageous accusation).

When I’m not scratching my head over pesky characters who refuse to do things how I want them done or dreaming of my next book (which will of course be much easier to write and research than the current one), my writerly self can be found sifting through the stacks in my church’s archives looking for a few good stories to tell, blogging about exploring the world with a very curious Five-Year-Old at Caterpickles, or musing about books and the process of writing them here at BostonWriters.


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