CHEPS Pulse: Celebrating Doctors Richardson and Shehadeh, August 2019

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Celebrating Doctors Richardson and Shehadeh
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Celebrating Doctors Richardson and Shehadeh

We’re celebrating two long-term CHEPSters this summer. Karmel Shehadeh and Donald Richardson both successfully defended their Ph.D. dissertations. The good news is that they’re now Dr. Shehadeh and Dr. Richardson and will be moving on from CHEPS to do more brilliant work. The bittersweet news is that, for both of them, their graduation means leaving Michigan. However, it isn’t goodbye! CHEPS alums are known for keeping in touch and visiting us regularly; we wouldn’t have it any other way! We look forward to having them visit to attend our Symposium, share their work and advice in Lunch & Learns and seminars, and more. As our friend Merrill Bonder so eloquently put it once upon a time, “You can check out of CHEPS anytime you like, but you can never leave.”

Donald Richardson at his Ph.D. Defense.

Writing their dissertations and preparing to defend was difficult but both Donald and Karmel found their time at CHEPS had prepared them well. Donald said, “I received a lot of great input from my practice talks at CHEPS. At the end of my presentation, I wrote the phrase ‘It takes a village.’ along with a collage of family, friends, mentors, and colleagues who have helped me along the way. It literally took the village. It was a team effort. I don’t think anyone gets a Ph.D. alone and it’s just theirs; you need to add some other folks’ names in the fine print.”

He said he felt comfortable doing his presentation; the only issue was fitting five years of work into forty-five minutes. “After reflecting on my time at CHEPS, I realized Amy and the rest of CHEPS have prepared us to communicate effectively yet succinctly. I have been so fortunate to have practiced sharing my work at many conferences for five to twenty-minute talks about work I’ve done for months or years.” Donald’s dissertation is titled “Operations Research Frameworks for Improving Make-ahead Drug Policies at Outpatient Chemotherapy Centers” and you can read more about it and his defense here.

Karmel Shehadeh at her Ph.D. Defense with advisors Ruiwei Jiang and Amy Cohn.

Karmel said, “Preparing for the defense was a long journey. I keep remembering the first day I came here and met with Prof. Cohn. I told her that I wanted to be a faculty member in the future and she said ‘Okay, we’re going to work on that.’ So we started working on my dissertation and preparing for my academic career from day one. It took a lot of time. It was challenging but I had a lot of people supporting me. When you see people who are excellent around you, that pushes you to develop to their level. That helped me to do things that haven’t be done. That’s something we do here at CHEPS.” Karmel’s dissertation is titled “Stochastic Optimization Approaches for Outpatient Appointment Scheduling under Uncertainty” and you can read more about it and her defense here.

With his defense behind him, Donald is taking a quick break for some travel, including trips to Chicago, northern Michigan, North Carolina, and Punta Cana. He’s also working on writing a paper. After that, he’s off to start work as a Health Systems Engineer at the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Lab. He’ll be joining Jason Card, one of the first CHEPS graduates, and recent alum Bassel Salka who both also work at Johns Hopkins.

Karmel is headed to Carnegie Mellon University as one of the Presidential and Dean’s Postdoctoral Fellows at Heinz College. It’s a first step toward the faculty position she’s aspired to for nearly her whole life. Though she’s sad to be leaving CHEPS, she says she’s eager to be part of a new team. “I learned how to contribute significantly and positively here at CHEPS and I’m excited to continue contributing to the profession,” she said.

Donald says he too will be taking some CHEPS lessons with him as he moves on. “I’d say one takeaway from CHEPS is the interpersonal communication skills. I came to CHEPS and I was fairly comfortable in front of a group of people but being able to effectively describe the complicated problems and results to multiple audiences in engineering or healthcare is something I picked up here. I feel having these skills and not just working on the problems behind a closed curtain, especially in healthcare, is invaluable.”

CHEPS at INFORMS Healthcare 2019. L to R: Jakob Kiel-Locey, Amanda Moreno-Hernandez, Guyi (Michelle) Chen, Donald Richardson, Karmel Shehadeh, Amy Cohn.

Karmel also learned to communicate in new ways while at CHEPS. “I’m glad I got the opportunity to work with undergraduate and masters students at CHEPS,” she said. “It allowed me to improve my teaching and research skills and to present my research in an accessible way to any audience. I had the chance to work with very smart CHEPSters. It was gratifying to see them make progress as they worked on research problems on their own and developed their independent research around my basic ideas and instructions. It wasn’t all about me. It was literally ‘the team, the team, the team.’”

Both agree that what makes CHEPS remarkable isn’t just the excellent work and research. “I don’t think anywhere else you go is will have such a comfortable family environment like CHEPS,” Donald said. “You’re in the workroom working hard one second and the next second you’re cracking jokes and bonding. We get the work done but we also have a good time. I’ll miss everyone getting together for CHEPS events outside of work but look forward to catching up with everyone at the next CHEPS Symposium.”

“My time here improved me as a person,” said Karmel. “I got to be part of a diverse family – we have students from everywhere, we speak different languages, we know different things. Getting together at lunch or spending time together, taught me new things I didn’t know. I didn’t feel shy. I didn’t feel excluded. I didn’t feel like I was different. We get new students every semester and they immediately become best friends. Research you can do anywhere but being a part of a family is what I’ll take away from CHEPS.”

Karmel and Donald with their fellow CHEPSters at the summer 2019 kick-off.

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