My name is Kristine Wang and I just graduated this May with a bachelor’s in computer science. Wow, that feels a little bit weird to say. I’ve been working at CHEPS since the summer after my sophomore year and now through my senior year. Since that time, I have been on a wide array of projects and have gotten to know so many amazing people. I think CHEPS really solidified the course I wanted my life to take, and I thank every person I’ve been able to meet through CHEPS for that.
Before starting at CHEPS I already had some interest in healthcare, working on a project team that tried to address medical needs in various communities. Even then, I still felt that healthcare seemed like an odd path for a computer science student to take. I really did not know what to expect outside of a project team setting. Part of me thought I was destined to sit behind a computer not really knowing why I was doing something. CHEPS was not like that. CHEPS brought me to a side of healthcare I never really thought I would experience or could ever experience. Most of my work before CHEPS was more patient-centered, which I think is what most people think of when engineers work on healthcare challenges. Even if someone is working on a device or service for the providers to use it is generally centered around the patient. This makes sense, but the projects I worked on through CHEPS were mostly all focused on improving the lives of the providers themselves. Additionally, working in an IOE centered lab taught me some interesting aspects of scheduling and other engineering disciplines that I otherwise would not have learned. I think CHEPS gives an amazingly well-rounded insight into healthcare operations by giving me opportunities to learn about research topics, solve real problems, and interact with a wide array of people.
During my time at CHEPS, I mostly worked on Provider Scheduling projects and additionally the M-SAFETY project. Provider scheduling projects were projects that looked to automate the process of scheduling various providers (attendings, residents) while improving those schedules by understanding provider preferences. On the other hand, M-SAFETY was a project that attempted to make an additional display to the vitals monitor in a step-down ICU, that would improve communication between doctors and nurses specifically concerning pressure wounds and catheters.
Starting on provider scheduling was honestly a little bit confusing for me. In the computer science curriculum, scheduling is always said to be a “hard” problem and so no “fast” solution to solving them. At the time I had never heard of linear programming before and did not understand how you could use linear algebra to solve a scheduling problem. These were all important concepts that, although focused on an IOE perspective, showed me how my mathematical education could be used to solve problems. It was cool! So not only did I get to work on solving these problems, but I would also get to implement these formulas. I got the experience of working with a large existing codebase with Shift and scheduling residents, starting my own completely new codebase with Trauma scheduling attendings, and working on databases and web design with M-Safety. Each project although they had similar problems taught me, besides the code aspects of it, how to interact with people in every aspect of healthcare and what they seem to care about. I thought all these experiences thoroughly balanced the research, practical, and professional parts of working in healthcare. I love that I was given the opportunity to really make these projects my own and given so many opportunities to learn and participate.
In addition to the research experience, the CHEPS community has also been an important part of my college career. I’ve met people and watched them graduate and now others are watching me leave. It’s kind of a strange feeling because CHEPS has been such an anchor throughout my college career. Before when I was feeling a little lost at the end of my sophomore year, until now through this pandemic, it’s been great to see so many friendly faces. Summers in Ann Arbor would not have been the same without CHEPS: blueberry picking, cascades, volleyball. The school year would not have been as festive without the treats, holiday parties, and reunions. Thanks for always making me feel cared for. Now partly because of CHEPS, I’ll be off to Kansas City to work at Cerner a health information company. I hope to bring some of CHEPS there with me and hope to see anyone who happens to be down there 😊.