David Hartzband, D. Sc. Director of Technology Research - in tribute

David J. Hartzband, D. Sc, our long-time colleague and friend, died suddenly, in April 2019.  David served as the director of technology research at the Foundation, where he spearheaded the organization’s continued evaluation, assessment, and findings dissemination related to health information technology. A brilliant mathematician and indeed, a polymath with broad expertise and interest in mathematics, artificial intelligence, concurrent engineering, cultural anthropology, systems thinking and food ways, among other subjects, David brought to the health center community his diverse and rich experience in the private (Boeing, General Motors, Resilient Network Systems) and public sectors as a consultant, executive, and technology industry leader. Previously, Dr. Hartzband was technology vice president of Collaboration in the Content Management Software Group of the EMC Corporation. He also served as the chief technology officer for several companies including Documentum, eRoom Technology, Agile Software (Oracle), Upstream Consulting, and Riverton. He had many years at Digital Equipment Corporation (DEC), including as Database Architect and Chief Scientist for Artificial Intelligence. He was founder and principal of PostTechnical Research (pTr), a trend analysis and technology strategy firm focusing on the development and use of emerging technologies such as machine learning and other forms of artificial intelligence, as well as their integration and use in evolving healthcare information systems.

David was raised in the Bronx, served in Vietnam, and earned a doctoral degree in mathematics from the University of Hamburg, with dissertation work in model theory that remains relevant to the foundations of artificial intelligence today. Bridging the practice and academic worlds, David served as an adjunct faculty member at Stanford University (Computer Science Department and Knowledge Systems Laboratory) and later, at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where he was initially Research Scholar in the Leaders for Manufacturing Program and, for more than a decade, an affiliate at the Institute for Data Science & Society (now Data, Systems and Society). The consummate mentor, David engaged deeply with his students and advisees and indeed, with each of us. He was both teaching, and learning, all the time.

David lived, with his wife Maureen Harvey and extended family, in the Boston area, and his trips to New York City to work face-to-face with our team here were always greatly anticipated as an opportunity to engage in long conversations about big data, game theory, recipes, epistemology, movies, sports, ethics, menus, and the use of social media in medicine, while drinking good coffee, sharing family updates and photos, and exploring new ideas.  

We will miss David’s extraordinary mind  – his keen observations and prolific writing – but more than that, his unparalleled humanity, because David was, more than anything, a people person, one whose work at the highest levels of math and computer science was driven, first and foremost, by his concern for how we live, and how we live together. That brought David to the health center community, and his contributions to our work went well beyond the technical. We are truly graced by what he leaves behind, and grateful for it. May David Jacob Hartzband’s memory be for a blessing.

You can read some of Dr. Hartzband’s work here at Posttechnical Strategist and  view  selected presentations and columns on our website.