Kirsten Ostherr, PhD, MPH

Director & Co-founder, Medical Futures Lab

Rice University – Professor of English


I’m a media theorist at Rice University specializing in health and medical visualizations. I research, write, teach, lecture, and experiment on the ways that images and sounds shape information, perception, and behavior, especially in the healthcare space.

I have written two books about public health, medicine, and media: Cinematic Prophylaxis: Globalization and Contagion in the Discourse of World Health (Duke University Press, 2005), and Medical Visions: Producing the Patient Through Film, Television and Imaging Technologies (Oxford University Press, 2013). With the support of a Mellon Foundation New Directions fellowship, I have recently completed a Master of Public Health degree. You can also find me at



Bryan Vartabedian, MD

Associate Director & Co-founder, Medical Futures Lab

Baylor College of Medicine – Assistant Professor of Pediatrics


I’m an Assistant Professor of Pediatrics at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston and attending physician at Texas Children’s Hospital.  Present in the health blogosphere since 2006, I’ve been an active witness to the social health revolution and its influence on doctors and patients. I write about the intersection of medicine, social media and technology on my blog, 33 charts.

I have served as a consultant to a number of health care start ups and have independently advised health care organizations and national physician groups in the area of social policy and strategy. As an active speaker in the area of social media, technology and the future of medicine, I have addressed numerous organizations including the American College of Physicians, AGA, American Association of Medical Colleges, Stanford Summit/Medicine 2.0 Congress, and the Mayo Clinic Transform Conference, on issue of MDs in the social space.



Peter Killoran, MS, MD

The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston – Assistant Professor of Anesthesiology & Assistant Professor, School of Biomedical Informatics


I’m an Assistant Professor of Anesthesiology and Biomedical Informatics at the University of Texas Health Science Center in Houston.  I am also an attending Anesthesiologist at Memorial Hermann Hospital and Lyndon B. Johnson Hospital.  As such, I enjoy the luxury of being able to divide my time between patient care, teaching, and research.

I followed a “non-traditional” path to my career in medicine.  Before starting medical school I had a decade of experience working in outdoor education, earned a master’s degree in geography, and spent 5 years developing software.  Currently, my interests focus on the impact of Health Information Technology on the safety, effectiveness, and efficiency of healthcare delivery.

I also continue to dabble in software development because I believe innovative alternatives to the current generation of Health IT applications can only be developed under the leadership of clinicians.



Tom Cole, PhD

The University of Texas Health Science Center of Houston – Director of the McGovern Center for Humanities and Ethics

I am a medical humanist and cultural historian and Director of  the McGovern Center for  Humanities and Ethics at the University of Texas Health Science Center in Houston.  My scholarly work (e.g The Journey of Life: A Cultural History of Aging, 1992; A Guide to Humanistic Studies in Aging, 2010) has centered around the moral, spiritual and historical dimensions of the question, “what does it mean to grow old?”  I am particularly interested in the production and use of film and of online resources to enhance critical understanding and compassion in health care.  I’ve created, produced or been involved in making four documentaries, two of which have aired on PBS: The Strange Demise of Jim Crow: How Houston Desegregated its Public Accommodations, (1960-1963) is based on my book  No Color is My Kind: The Life of Eldrewey Stearns and the Desegregation of Houston, 1997). The other two films, Still Life: the Humanity of Anatomy,  and Stroke: Conversations with Couples, are used widely in medical and health care education.  In 2011, my colleagues and I at the McGovern Center produced The Brewsters: An Interactive Adventure in Ethics for the Health Professions.  This fictional story follows three generations of the Brewster family encountering the health care system.  Using a “choose-your-own adventure” format,  students and readers become characters and make decisions, as a way of learning about ethics and professionalism in health care. The Brewsters  is available on Amazon and online at the iTunes book store; a full-fledged textbook is in production.


Olivia Banner, PhD

Rice University – Lecturer, Department of English and Centennial Scientia Fellow

I’m a scholar of media and disability. I’m interested in how people are making use of new technologies for the body — mobile biosensors, genetic testing, patient-networking sites — and how these can best be used to address some of the major challenges facing healthcare today; my forthcoming book, Biomediations: Identities after the Genome Projects (University of Michigan Press), focuses on these issues. I’m also interested in getting students excited about using these methods themselves, and in creating innovative teaching methods that integrate new technologies. To this end I’m developing an online exhibit around the history of medical records, which students can use to explore the changing nature of doctor/patient interactions, to think about how best to represent data about the body — both for doctors’ purposes as well as for patient satisfaction — and to learn the history of medicine itself.





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