About Me At Age 65

This is me, Joe, at age 65, about 20 years after I had left Sperry Gyroscope in New York to return to my home state of California.

When I returned to California I felt that I had done enough marine engineering for the time being and should try something else. The two most important subjects in the background of my family were marine engineering and medicine. So I decided to take up medical engineering, and by this time had been at it for about 20 years. From this picture you might get the impression that I had been quite happy as an imagineer in these two fields. If that is your impression you are absolutely right.

After leaving Sperry I worked at the Stanford Research Institute for the next fifteen years. At SRI I was mainly concerned with the engineering of preventive medicine improvements. I and my team undertook a number of such projects. The following project has a couple of important aspects that you may find interesting.

Medical studies generally have to be large to produce significant results, and being large they tend to be expensive. During the time I was working at SRI some very large cardiovascular disease studies were being carried out by U.S. government teams, and their degree of success was low or even zero. I and my team decided that we should try and see if we could improve things for at least one study.

The study we choose was a study of several intervention factors for cardiovascular disease applied to participants who were all medically normal individuals without any cardiovascular problems. The study was called MRFIT, Multiple Risk Factor Intervention Trial. We analyzed the situation very carefully, and concluded that the participants had been screened to be too normal and that the study would either have a very low result or no significant result at all, unless they somewhat raised the risk level of the study participants. We suggested that the risk level could be raised by exposing participants to a stress test and using those with a low level of risk coming out of that test.

We presented our findings to the Council on Epidemiology, but the findings were not accepted, and the study was carried out at the originally planned risk level. When it was all over, the study had not achieved significant results even though its duration was extended to at least double the originally planned length. This poorly designed study cost $300 million and produced no significant result.  It they had followed our advice they would have had a very successful study at a cost of about $50 million.