Like most others during March of 2020, I felt pretty lost in the destructive path of COVID-19. From the sudden shift of online learning to the looming threats of unemployment, college students during the summer of 2020 were hit particularly hard by the pandemic. Going into this summer, I had secured an internship in the network planning department of United Airlines – a position stacked with travel benefits and unique opportunities coveted by most – and I was busy worrying how I’d have enough weekends to visit all the exotic countries on my bucket list. However, when COVID began spreading rampantly throughout the US in early March, I knew the first industry to get hit hard was the airline industry, and I knew that I was bound to be unemployed soon enough.
As soon as I lost my job with United, I was quick to find a replacement opportunity. One of my good friends at Michigan approached me with a job as the Head of Gymnastics in a secluded sleep away camp in Ontario to teach gymnastics to campers aged 8 to 17. It would have been the experience of a lifetime, filled with endless nights by the fire, bunking with good friends, teaching things I was passionate about, and having constant exposure to nature. Once again, I was reignited with excitement and was eager to spend my summer in the wilderness of Ontario. But with the growing threat of COVID expanding into Canada and the US, there was lots of talk of the camp shutting down for the summer. Taking these threats of closure seriously as we were nearing the end of April, I had decided to reach out to Amy, Billy, and Julia to explain my predicament and inquire about an opening with CHEPS. Within a few weeks, I had received the good news that I was rehired for another summer at CHEPS.
Once I had started working remotely in Ann Arbor, I began to establish a pattern that revolved around my workdays – early mornings would typically consist of a run and subsequent swim in the Huron River, followed by my CHEPS workday, and finally the pursuit of my creative passions and outdoor activities in the afternoons. These activities would involve devoting countless hours to my slackline, scaling buildings in the diag (safely), playing tennis or volleyball with friends, or relishing in nighttime bonfires under the stars. Weekend trips were also a bountiful source of enjoyment. Some weekends would consist of backpacking and camping trips throughout Michigan or overnight canoe trips down the Manistee River, while others would be spent wake surfing in Clarkston or hanging around town in Ann Arbor. Though I didn’t get to travel to the exotic destinations that United had promised me, I was still able to explore all that Michigan had to offer and develop deeper connections with my best friends in town.
At the start of CHEPS in May, I was assigned to lead the Shift Scheduling project along with my co-workers Kate Burns, Matt Howard, and Kristine Wang. This project mainly involved scheduling pediatric residents in the emergency department (PEDS ED) of Michigan Mott through the implementation of a complex optimization algorithm. One challenge that we faced was dealing with the implications of COVID-19 while also working through a transition between chief residents – the individuals in charge of scheduling for the department. During this time, the PEDS ED was also thinking about making significant changes to the scheduling algorithm, including adding double shifts, implementing “resident teams”, and modifying the expectations for bad sleep patterns built into the tool. This proved to be a fun and innovative challenge to tackle with my team while also bringing the new chief resident up to speed at the start of the summer.
About a month into my summer, I was added to the State Hospital Staffing (SH Staffing) project to help develop an Excel staffing tool for five different psychiatric hospitals in Michigan. The project first began as a diagnostic tool to help resolve staffing shortages for the Caro Center during the onset of the COVID-19 outbreak. However, due to the staggering success and usefulness of the tool outside of COVID-19 relief, Caro decided to expand the project to include a personalized diagnostic staffing tool for the four other state psychiatric hospitals in Michigan. To tackle this challenge, my team consisting of leader Jordan Goodman and co-workers Renata Terrazan, Matthew See, and Ducminh Ngo were each assigned one hospital to act as the bridge of communication between the hospital leadership and our SH Staffing team. I was partnered with the Hawthorn Center, a pediatric psych hospital located about 30 minutes outside of Ann Arbor.
During the onset of my work with Hawthorn, I was wildly unconfident in my abilities to lead meetings and effectively manage doctors and nurses as an undergraduate incoming senior. However, after getting to know Hawthorn’s leadership team on a personal level and learn more about the problems within their healthcare system, I was eager to offer my ideas for improvement in this mini-consulting project. One of the biggest problems I recognized early on was the lack of electronic records at the Hawthorn Center. For years, Hawthorn had been taking detailed accounts of schedule alterations, overtime shifts, sick calls, and vacations on paper and pencil. Not only was this a headache for the Hawthorn staff who had to interact with the data daily, but it was also a substantial roadblock for my team to have reliable data when constructing the staffing diagnostic tool. After constantly asking questions and learning more about the system in place, I developed an Excel tool that would allow Hawthorn’s staff to directly modify the schedule electronically and view each day’s schedule more efficiently than their previous system. The staff was exceptionally relieved to finally be moving towards electronic records, and their willingness to modify their system significantly helped my team complete the staffing diagnostic tool.
My summer at CHEPS was also marked with countless social activities, workouts, educational healthcare modules, and internal/external lunch-and-learns during our CHEPS Lunch Clubs. My co-worker Kate Burns and I were in charge of leading our Monday Wellness Lunch Clubs, which typically consisted of social games or activities through Zoom, instructional yoga practices, or guided meditations. One of the most notable lunch clubs was our CHEPS midsummer no-talent show, which consisted of over 15 participants showcasing talents (and “fake” talents) to the entire group over Zoom. Though the lack of in-person engagement began as a barrier, we took it upon ourselves to spam the Zoom chatbox with endless words of praise and famous one-liners from Dr. Amy Cohn as participants showcased their talents for the group. These Monday CHEPS wellness activities proved to be a meaningful source of social engagement to bring the CHEPS community together, and I can confidently say that I’ve made close friendships with my co-workers despite the distance of COVID. This summer has undoubtedly created lots of disorder and chaos for myself and my co-workers, but with the help of CHEPS, we were able to regain a sense of order, composure, and a newfound community in the heat of COVID-19.