Caroline Hirth, Industrial & Operations Engineering Undergraduate

Caroline Hirth

I actually learned about CHEPS through some family connections. My dad (Hi dad!) works in the School of Public Health at UM and has known Amy Cohn, the Faculty Director of CHEPS, for several years. When my older sister, Lauren (Hey Lauren, too!), started out as an undergrad at Michigan, she met Amy through my dad and discovered the wonderful organization that is CHEPS. As a BME student, she ended up working at CHEPS for several years during her undergrad career and later encouraged me to check it out. 

When I was a freshman in the College of Engineering and my major was undecided (like, very undecided), it was Lauren who convinced me to set up a meeting with Amy to learn more about IOE. I didn’t even know what industrial or operations engineering was at the time, but Amy’s enthusiasm and ability to connect everything back to people made me very intrigued. And clearly, she was persuasive, because here I am about to graduate from the IOE Department! 

Alright, enough with the nostalgia. Let’s talk about my time at CHEPS. I’m going to break down the rest of this blog into the 4 P’s that I believe make CHEPS what it is: the people, the projects, the personal connections, and the provisions. 

  1. The People. The people and staff at CHEPS are what make it such a great place to work. An example I’ll give of this is from last April when Covid vaccines were just starting to be distributed to the public. I remember feeling overwhelmed and unsure of where or how to snag an appointment. But the CHEPS staff were on it, sending daily emails with any information they had about ways to get vaccinated. Many students chimed in, too, adding any clinics they knew about and offering each other rides. I can also name several other instances where the CHEPS community came together to support one another (helping each other find a flu shot, delivering care packages to students, etc.), but I believe this example alone speaks to the great sense of community at CHEPS. 
Grabbing some bubble tea and walking around North Campus with Amy, Laura, and Jiaqi last April
  1. The Projects. This is my 2nd semester at CHEPS, and I’ve had the opportunity to work on two exciting projects so far. The first was “Pharma,” a project with the Department of Pharmacy at Michigan Medicine where we assessed the appropriateness and effectiveness of their workload staffing model. I loved this project because I got to join it from its very beginning and because it was so challenging. Pharmacy felt like a foreign world to me (and it still does!) but I had to dive in anyway. Above all, this project taught me how to get out of my comfort zone and that no question is a dumb question.

    The second project I’m currently a part of is “Trauma.” And no, it’s not what it sounds like! I love this project because it’s a direct application of IOE – a good old optimization problem. And since we’re scheduling attendings within the Trauma Department at Michigan Medicine, our program’s output has a real impact on those attendings’ work schedules with their personal lives and safety in mind (for example, you probably wouldn’t want an attending performing surgery on you when they’re on their 48th consecutive hour of working). These projects have definitely met and exceeded my expectations of working at CHEPS. 
  1. The Personal Connections. CHEPS is great about connecting its students to healthcare professionals, CHEPS and IOE alums, recruiters for job or internship opportunities, and many other people in the world of healthcare and engineering. My favorite learning/networking events have been the CHEPS lunch and learn, where alums and professionals are brought in to speak on their work. I attended one talk last winter where an Mark Van Sumeren, an IOE alum, showed us his predictive models of Covid-19 immunity rates. He ended up accurately predicting the month I would receive my vaccine – I thought that was pretty cool.
  1. The Provisions. Specifically, the provision of food. It is amazing how much free food I’ve gotten through CHEPS. Ice cream, cupcakes, bubble tea, hummus wraps, popcorn… I could go on. In addition to the free food, I’ve had the pleasure of exchanging several vegan recipes with one of the wonderful staff members, Liz. (I promise to try your lasagna recipe soon!). The food truly has been a cherry on top of working at CHEPS, and yes, pun intended.
Making apple muffins for the CHEPS care packages last March
Eating my CHEPS-provided popcorn and watching Soul with other CHEPsters last April

That’s it from me! I hope you enjoyed hearing about my time at CHEPS, because it has truly been a highlight of my college career. And don’t forget to hit subscribe below. Just kidding. ☺