Meet Dr. Julie Lauffenburger, serving as Co-Lead of the Aging Pilot Core at MassAITC, a position that places her at the forefront of innovative healthcare research. In her day job, Dr. Lauffenburger is an Associate Professor of Medicine at Brigham and Women's Hospital and Harvard Medical School, and also holds the role of Assistant Director at the Center for Healthcare Delivery Sciences at Brigham and Women’s Hospital. Her research is primarily centered around optimizing medication use and adherence in chronic diseases by leveraging pragmatic trials and other study designs to develop and evaluate behavioral interventions for improved healthcare delivery and outcomes. Dr. Lauffenburger's work significantly utilizes technology and health IT applications, aiming to address the disparities in technology use among older and vulnerable populations. Her commitment to this field is further accentuated by her interests in developing scalable, technology-driven solutions to support healthy aging. In this interview, follow along as we delve into Dr. Lauffenburger's insights on AI, AgeTech, and the challenges and opportunities in aging and dementia research; her valuable advice for emerging researchers in this space; and her perspective on creating impactful healthcare interventions.
#1 - Can you share with us a little about your work or research?
My research focuses on optimizing medications and adherence to medication in chronic diseases, where I use pragmatic trials and related study designs to develop and evaluate behavioral interventions to improve healthcare delivery and outcomes. Much of my work has leveraged technology and health IT applications.
#2 - What initially drew you to this intersection of AI, AgeTech, aging, and dementia? Is there a personal story or motivation behind your commitment to this field?
The rapid growth in technology and applications leveraging AI is fascinating, but we often see uneven use and uptake particularly among older adults and other vulnerable populations. Part of my goal with my research is to understand and address barriers to optimal medication use and prescribing, and whether or not technology applications (and which technology applications) reduce these barriers is still an open question. I am particularly interested in relatively simple and scalable solutions to optimize medications to support healthy aging. I believe technology has a role to play, but understanding what role is super interesting to me.
#3 - In your view, where is the biggest gap in the current landscape of aging and dementia research and care, and how can AI and emerging technologies help bridge this?
Related to the above, a big gap I see is understanding to what extent tools and interventions are ultimately scalable to support population health and aging.
#4 - Any words of wisdom for budding startups or researchers eager to dive into the AI and AgeTech space?
Building multidisciplinary teams and collaborations including, for example, clinicians, statisticians, implementation researchers, and patients and other stakeholders is critical to conducting work in this space.
#5 - What's the most constructive piece of criticism or feedback you've received in your career, and how did it shape your research or business trajectory?
Find mentors and collaborators who will both be cheerleaders and are also not afraid to provide constructive feedback.