Ben-Tzion (Bentzi) Karsh
Ben-Tzion “Bentzi” Karsh, a University of Wisconsin-Madison professor of
industrial and systems engineering who also earned three degrees from
UW-Madison, died August 18, 2012, after an 18-month battle with cancer. He
was 40 years old.
Karsh first arrived at UW-Madison in 1989 as an undergraduate, where he
majored in psychology and only touched on engineering in an elective course
in industrial engineering. But it was that class that set his future: “It
had sort of shown me the light,” he said in a profile written in 2001. “I
was so interested in it, and that’s why I decided to pursue a master’s and
PhD in industrial engineering.”
He earned master's and PhD degrees in industrial engineering in 1996 and
1999, respectively, from UW-Madison. He spent his postdoctoral fellowship
studying how quality improvement programs affect nursing home patient care
and employee job satisfaction, and designing better tools and technologies
for small-scale farmers. He joined UW-Madison as an assistant professor in
2000. Karsh earned tenure in 2007 at the age of 35, and became a full
professor earlier in 2012.
Karsh’s research focused on reducing medical errors, a leading cause of
death particularly among children and the elderly, and optimizing human
interaction with technology in healthcare settings. Known as one of the
leading thinkers in applying human factors to healthcare systems, he was
invited to lecture about medical errors and related topics worldwide, and
his papers are routinely cited as some of the best in the world.
He also was a passionate teacher and mentor, taking students to hospitals to
meet healthcare providers and patients. He was among the first engineering
professors to videotape his lectures and he taught summer and online courses
for healthcare professionals. Under Karsh's guidance, more than half a dozen
students earned their PhD; he once said that of all his accolades, he was
most proud of the PhD students who earned awards and fellowships under his
Karsh and his wife, Arielle, have two children, Nadav (3 years old), and
Emmanuelle (19 months). In lieu of flowers, the family has established
college trusts for Emmanuelle and Nadav through EdVest. To contribute,
contact either the family, or Industrial and Systems Engineering Professor
and Chair Vicki Bier.
A funeral service was held August 20.