UW-Madison engineer named to National Academy of Engineering

February 12, 2013 By Christie Taylor

David Gustafson, a University of Wisconsin–Madison industrial and systems engineer, was named Feb. 7 to the 2013 class of new members of the National Academy of Engineering (NAE).

Photo: David Gustafson


Gustafson is director of the UW–Madison Center for Health Enhancement Systems Studies and a professor emeritus of industrial and systems engineering. He is among 69 new members and 11 foreign associates elected to the NAE in 2013. The designation is among the highest professional distinctions accorded to an engineer, and membership honors those who have made outstanding contributions to engineering research, practice or education.

The academy cited Gustafson for industrial and systems engineering methods to improve care for aging patients and those who suffer from lung cancer, severe asthma or drug addiction.

Gustafson joined UW–Madison in 1967 after earning his Ph.D. in industrial engineering from the University of Michigan. His expertise centers around decision, change and applying information theory to health systems, and he designs and evaluates systems and tools that help people and organizations cope with major changes.

In the late 1980s, after more than a decade of research of how computer-based support systems can help people facing health crises such as cancer, suicide, breast cancer and prostate cancer, Gustafson and other researchers developed a computer-based health support network. The Comprehensive Health Enhancement Support System (CHESS) connects patients to health information and support systems that can help them be active participants in managing their health. CHESS provides patients information, skills training and access to networks of support.

Gustafson founded the Center for Health Enhancement Systems Studies in 2004, and in addition to computer-based support, center researchers also are developing mobile apps that could help people with addictions access behavior therapies and social support networks — two key factors in combatting addiction — more easily and cheaply than they might otherwise. CHESS and other center initiatives currently receive more than $10 million annually in funding to research and develop these tools.

Gustafson, who also studies how organizations can make and sustain organizational change, developed the Quality Improvement Support System, a computerized system that helps organizations implement quality improvement. His behavior change research, which focuses on aging, cancer and addiction treatment, has led to models for predicting and explaining how organizations initiate and adhere to change.

Gustafson is the author of several books and more than 200 publications. He is a fellow of the Association for Health Services Research, and of the American Medical Informatics Association. He is a fellow and past vice chair of the board of the Institute for Healthcare Improvement, current board chair of the eHealth Institute, and past chair of the federal government’s Science Panel on Interactive Communication and Health.

At UW–Madison, he is the director of the national program office of the Network for the Improvement of Addiction Treatment (NIATx), an initiative of the center, and leads two federally designated centers of excellence in cancer communications research and in active aging.