CHEPS Takes Toronto: Aparna Reddy’s Experience at the 2023 INFORMS Healthcare Conference

Aparna Reddy, a Public Health student at U-M, reflects on her experience traveling to Toronto, Canada to present her CHEPS research at the 2023 INFORMS Healthcare Conference.

Aparna smiling and looking slightly upwards while typing on a laptop.

My name is Aparna Reddy, and I am a rising senior at the University of Michigan School of Public Health. Last month I had the opportunity to attend the 2023 INFORMS Healthcare Conference in Toronto, Canada, where I presented our work at CHEPS in a talk called “Modeling Resource Needs for Screening and Specialty Care in the U.S. Veterans Healthcare System.”

INFORMS (the Institute for Operations Research and the Management Sciences) is an international professional organization for practitioners in the field of operations research. The INFORMS Healthcare Conference occurs once every two years and focuses on healthcare-related research.

This year’s conference’s location in Toronto, Canada, paved the way for interesting discussions around different healthcare systems led by Matthew Anderson, CEO of Ontario Health, in the first plenary talk. His talk described the Canadian healthcare system, including policy and federal influence through the Canada Health Act and the role of centralized and decentralized approaches to care. I also enjoyed Dr. Timothy Chan’s plenary talk entitled “Got (Optimal) Milk,” which described how optimization models were used in milk banks to optimize macronutrients and reduce the variability in breast milk from a pool of multiple donors before distribution. In addition to plenary talks, I listened to a variety of other talks detailing disparities in patient portal use, tracking COVID-19 in prisons, and a panel on the role of artificial intelligence in healthcare. 

I also had the opportunity to present our work at CHEPS to determine resource needs for a lung cancer screening program at the Veterans Affairs. I prepared this talk with the support of our team at CHEPS and helpful rehearsals with supportive CHEPsters. While our day-to-day work on our projects can be very detail-oriented, focusing on specific deliverables, learning how to step back and convey the broader goals and impact helped me develop my presentation and communication skills to share our research.

Four students on the MERCI team and CHEPS Software Manager Hooman Niktafar smile in front of a CHEPS sign.
Aparna and her project team, MERCI. From left to right: Mengting Tu, Yufan Zhang, staff lead Hooman Niktafar, Aparna Reddy, Yiran Zhang.

In addition to all of the interesting talks I was able to listen to and present, one of my favorite aspects of attending a conference is the networking opportunities. As a Public Health undergraduate, I don’t have the same technical engineering background that most attendees at the conference have. Yet despite my different background, the community at the conference was very welcoming, and I was able to connect with other students and alumni at Michigan as well as from a variety of other institutions at networking lunches and dinners. Conversations ranged from career goals and discussions about types of healthcare systems to opinions about the famous Canadian ketchup-flavored potato chips.

While the conference lasted most of the day, I also found some time to walk around the city and explore the beautiful campus of the University of Toronto!

As an aspiring physician, this conference was an incredible opportunity to learn about the different initiatives to improve the efficiency of our healthcare system. The 2023 INFORMS Healthcare Conference helped me build connections and appreciate the need for interdisciplinary collaboration to create the change that I hope to continue to pursue in my career.

— Written by Aparna Reddy, CHEPS Student