Valerie Berg Rice, Ph.D., MHA, MS, OTR, CPE, FAOTA

Class 1982-1984

BA, Salve Regina College, Newport, RI, 1975
MS, Univ. Puget Sound, Tacoma, WA, 1977
MHA, Baylor Univ., Waco, TX, 1984
Ph.D., Virginia Polytech & State Univ., Blacksburg, VA, 1990

Certified professional ergonomist
Fellow, American Occupational Therapy Association

Director, Army Research Lab Human Research & Engineering Direct., Acad. Health Sciences, Ft. Sam Houston, TX, 2003 to present
Chief, Op. Aegis Injury Control, Acad. Health Sciences, Ft. Sam Houston, TX, 2001-02
Chief, Occup. Ther. Br., AMEDD Center & School, Ft. Sam Houston, TX, 1996-2001
Chief, Mil. Perf. & Neuro. Div., USARIEM Natick, Natick, MA, 1995-96
Res. Occup. Ther., USARIEM Natick, Natick, MA, 1990-95
Chief. Occup. Ther., Frankfurt AMC, Frankfurt, Germany, 1984-90
Resident, Landstuhl AMC, Landstuhl, Germany, 1983-84


Colonel Valerie Rice serves at the United States Army Medical Department Center and School, located at Fort Sam Houston in San Antonio, Texas. She entered the Army in 1977 and continued her education while on active duty. She completed a Master's degree in Occupational Therapy at the University of Puget Sound in 1978 and a Master's in Health Care Administration from Baylor University in 1984. In 1990 she earned a Ph.D. in Industrial Engineering and Operations Research (with Human Factors option) from Virginia Polytech and State University.

Col. Rice became aware of the field of ergonomics through her undergraduate college roommate, as they corresponded about their "first jobs." She reflects: "Occupational therapists (OTs) intervene to help people from childhood to old age. They help people who have been injured, experienced an illness, or have any other intervening factors that keep them from being able to assume their life roles to their fullest ability. This suggests that OTs help people learn to do the physical, cognitive, and emotional tasks/functions to be able to assume their roles as workers, family members, friends, etc. I realized that as occupational therapists, we were returning people to their work, home, and leisure lives and we didn't study ergonomics 'the study of work.' It seemed to me that connection made a lot of sense, so I endeavored to find a way to attain this type of education."

As an individual who does not take theories, including those in rehabilitation and patient treatment, as facts, Col. Rice found, "Many of the patient treatment methodologies I was using in the clinic were based on sound neurological and behavioral theories, but no one could prove to me that they worked. Little or no research results were available."

The scarcity of research results about medical care and about preventing injuries motivated her to seek a research-based degree and to conduct research herself.

"Therefore, I wanted to receive enough education to be able to do the research necessary to prevent injuries, and to show that treatment methodologies were or were not effective."

There is no doubt that Col. Rice would recommend human factors/ergonomics as a career, "to anyone who wants to make a difference."

She states, "I frequently encourage others to enter the field and focus on the areas that mean the most to them. There is such versatility in human factors/ergonomics that most people can find a portion that interests them. I do note that it is a research based field, and anyone who is interested should become comfortable with statistics. Since many folks who ask me about the field are already health care professionals, I also emphasize that it is not a patient treatment field. If they love helping people one-on-one, they will not get the same level of satisfaction they do from rehabilitation, counseling, or health care. If, on the other hand, they have a logical mind/ approach and they like answering questions in an applied manner, and they think they'd like 'making the world user friendly'...then they should consider a career in human factors/ ergonomics."

Col. Rice is currently involved with a variety of ergonomic projects. These include: * Being a project consultant to demonstrate the effectiveness (or non-effectiveness) of ergonomic assessment and intervention within field military applications. * Writing research results on lifting and on decision-making in acceptability of loads. * Directing the initial stages of research on an intervention project with hospital based laboratory workers and plans to begin a second project on imaging of cumulative trauma injuries.

Col. Rice has recently edited a new book, titled Ergonomics in Health Care and Rehabilitation. Col. Rice is also the current President of the Directors of the Board of Certification in Professional Ergonomics (BCPE), establishing certification standards for ergonomics and human factors professionals.