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Where Medicine and Product Design Meet

Dr. Emmy Betz was a scientist’s child. A Denver native, with both parents working at the medical school, her family dinner conversations were about genes, nerve endings and neurophysiology. She was taught not only about the essence of education, but how you can apply it to change the world.

And so she did.

After graduating from Manual High School as prom queen in 1995, Dr. Betz went to Yale for undergrad and then John Hopkins for her medical school and her Masters in Public Health, before returning to Colorado for the sunshine, deep family roots and the forests of Silverthorne.

Now, as an emergency room physician, Dr. Betz’s job puts her in the “now” like only an ER doctor can understand. Her lens is constantly colored by human crises. Some very solvable. Others more chronic. Many crushing to the spirit.

The other half of her time is about preventing those same ER situations from ever occurring. Funded by grants from the NIH and other foundations, she goes beyond behavior-based tactics (don’t smoke in bed, lock up your guns, keep your brakes in good condition), toward understanding how product engineering and design can prevent death.

Stuff like self-extinguishing cigarettes. Bullet-load indicators. Runaway truck ramps. Roadside rumble strips.

Within this realm, Dr. Betz focuses on two areas. The first is motor vehicle safety and how that intersects with senior citizen drivers. She says that older drivers are often unfairly stereotyped and restricted.

“Deciding when people should give up their keys is tricky,” she says. “We want them to keep their mobility and independence as long as possible.”

When not improving the world, Dr. Betz finds peace in the mountains and motherhood. She encourages her fiery, red-headed daughters to seize their own feminine power, but to keep in mind that we all make mistakes. And that “leaning in” should be done together, with support, partners and community.

This medical visionary will talk for a mere six minutes at TedxMileHigh. She will be brief, be brilliant and be gone. Don’t miss it.

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