What is the Medical Futures Lab?

Medicine is in the midst of a major technosocial shift that is redefining the roles of the patient and the physician. The doctor of 2050 will think and work in a way that can only be imagined by the current generation. But we are effectively unprepared to deal with what lies ahead.

The Medical Futures Lab (MFL) is dedicated to the study and understanding of medicine at its evolving intersection with technology. Our goal is to imagine and understand the future of medicine as a means of preparing the next generation of physicians, patients, and other healthcare stakeholders for the challenges that lie ahead.

The MFL is bringing the undergraduates of Rice University together with humanities scholars, computer scientists, creative designers, medical students and doctors from both University of Texas Health Science Center and Baylor College of Medicine. A few of our recent and ongoing projects include:


Health/Design was a one-day event that took place at Rice University in April, 2018 and brought together leading design thinkers in healthcare to explore the value of human-centered creative approaches for solving complex problems in healthcare. Our speakers included Bon Ku (Jefferson University), Joyce Lee (University of Michigan), Dana Lewis (Open APS), Matt Trowbridge (University of Virginia), Dennis Boyle (IDEO), Upali Nanda (HKS), Stacey Chang (Design Institute for Health, Dell Medical School), Tammy Cupit and Rachel Murphy (UTMB MakerHealth Space).

Medical Media Arts Lab

Built as a mashup of the design principles of IDEO and the iterative studio critique model of the Rice Schools of Architecture and Engineering, the Medical Media Arts Lab is a Rice University undergraduate course that teaches collaborative problem solving in health care through the principles of human centered design. Working with the the Texas Medical Center’s most vexing communication and visualization challenges, the Media Arts Lab trains the next generation of health care professionals to think differently. Our work recently caught the attention of the Association of American Medical Colleges – you can read about some of our students on their innovation blog, The Wing of Zock.

Medicine in the Digital Age

In the spring of 2012, the Medical Futures Lab offered Medicine in the Age of Networked Intelligence, a provocative high-level view of the radical disruption of medicine. The course was a huge success and drew the attention of the social health community well beyond the confines of Rice University and Texas Medical Center. We decided to share the course content with the world by creating a globally available MOOC offered on edX, called Medicine in the Digital Age. In addition to video lectures by Kirsten Ostherr and Bryan Vartabedian, the course features in-depth interviews with: Dr. Eric Topol, author of The Creative Destruction of Medicine (2012) and The Patient Will See You Now (2015); Dr. Roni Zeiger, former Chief Health Strategist for Google and CEO and Co-founder of Smart Patients; Dr. Peter Killoran, Biomedical informatics and EHR usability expert; Fred Trotter, Data Journalist and Author of Meaningful Use​ and Beyond (2011); and Dr. David Wetter, Director of Innovation for Behavioral Health on Mobile Data to Knowledge (MD2K) center, for NIH Big Data to Knowledge (BD2K) Initiative Tens of thousands of students from around the world have taken the course since it opened in 2014.

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