Billy Pozehl, HEPS Master’s 2014


One of the HEPS Masters students, Billy Pozehl is excited to graduate after 5.5 wonderful years at the University of Michigan. Currently deciding between great opportunities in Denver and Ann Arbor, Billy is looking forward to the projects he will get to work on to improve healthcare throughout his career and wants to especially thank Professor Amy Cohn, Dr. Jim Bagian, and all the faculty, staff and students at CHEPS and the IOE Department for their part in making his graduate studies a phenomenal experience!

Disclaimer: This is a transcript from a verbal interview

What kind of research are you excited about?
The research that I am most excited about is all the scheduling we have been working on for healthcare, from the residents shift and block schedules to the work we’re doing out in Colorado, placing the physicians into clinics and operating rooms. It’s all really fun and it’s a challenge to fit them all into one similar model that can handle it all so that’s really exciting.

What problems are keeping you up at night?
I think that is most taxing for me right now is trying to figure out how to unify the various models into a single, universal one. It’s something that would be incredibly beneficial. Imagine being able to handle all these different types of scenarios for scheduling by using a single model. Figuring that out keeps me up at night.

How do you think engineers and healthcare professionals can work together to improve patient care?
A lot of ways! There is all the low-hanging fruit in healthcare: simple process improvement and standardization across departments. Additionally, there is incredible variation between floor-to-floor or room-to-room and so assisting them in creating these processes that are uniform across the system and enabling them to work more quickly and more effectively is one of the best ways we can work together to improve care.

What makes CHEPS unique compared to other teams or projects you have been a part of?
I think the most unique part about CHEPS is that it is truly multidisciplinary. We have all of our collaborators from so many different spaces, so that we really can approach any problem in a lot of different ways. When we realize that we are lacking in some perspective and we don’t understand some aspect of the problem, Amy Cohn has been tremendous about bringing in collaborators with the right backgrounds in order to help us bridge our knowledge gaps and actually solve the problem.

What do you like most about working with CHEPS?
I like working with the other students who are super motivated. I think that’s what makes all the work here tremendous – everybody is really intrigued and invested in the problems. That commitment makes for more effective teams.

How has your research evolved with CHEPS?
I started out on the Transplant project when we were doing a lot of simulation to predict whether or not we would be able to adequately train residents, particularly for transplants. Then, we tried to expand that simulator in order to assess more than just transplants. From being able to generalize to other types of procedures and other types of experiences, we started realizing that a lot of these problems derived from the schedule. Now we are expanding the project further into the scheduling space of how to best schedule these residents to make sure they get the appropriate experiences and proper training.

What surprised you most about working with healthcare professionals?
I think what surprised me most is that so many of them are so willing and excited to try and learn about our perspective. They are much more open to understanding how we go about approaching the problem. For example, for the Pediatrics Shift Scheduling, we have worked with several chiefs and each one of them has come into the project not knowing anything about linear programing, optimization, or any other industrial engineering tools. Within a few months though, they do. For example, our current chief resident, Dr. Ed O’Brien, will say, “Hey, I have this issue with the schedule, but I think we can put it into model this way,” so he has actually come to understand how we are doing things. That understanding on their part allows for even better solutions.

How has working with healthcare professionals changed or altered your way of thinking about healthcare problems?
I think that it’s helped me realize and appreciate that they are far more open to our input than maybe we originally thought. Sometimes doctors might get a reputation for being kind of stubborn and set in their ways, but really they are incredibly data driven. Everyone in healthcare is motivated by the idea of being able to provide better care, so if you can show them the evidence for changing something, that your solution can provide that, they are going to take it and run with it. I always hoped that was the case, but my experiences at CHEPS have confirmed it.

How has working with healthcare professionals changed or altered your approach to tackling problems?
It has made me much more aware and appreciative of the multidisciplinary teams. In most of my previous academic team projects, we’ve been hindered by everyone being from the same department. Everyone has the same background and they bring pretty much the same perspective and the same ideas. Having such a diverse array of people collaborating has made me appreciate the value in taking a lot more time for planning and brainstorming for the right approach, because there are so many more things you can consider when you have a diverse knowledge base. Sometimes you have to brainstorm all these approaches and then you can go with one and see if it works. But if it doesn’t, you’ll still have all these alternative ideas now. On the other hand, for a team which is not so multidisciplinary, you feel kind of stuck and lost once your first attempt fails.

How has CHEPS influenced your plans for the future?
I always knew I wanted to go into healthcare so CHEPS has been a tremendous stepping-stone towards that. The center has given me a lot of opportunities to network with individuals that are like-minded and want to make a difference in healthcare. It really has reinforced my interest in making a career in healthcare.

How is CHEPS preparing you for the real world?
I have been exposed to many different projects, a lot of different people, new engineering methods, and I think those are all important experiences for going out and being able to apply the solutions to the real world.

What is one concrete example of something that has changed/improved or could change/improve in the future due to the projects you’re working on?
The goal for Pediatrics Shift Scheduling project is to create a more equitable schedule. It’s one that provides for the residents to get adequate rests between shifts, making sure they are not working bad sleep patterns or working super long days. This all translates to better patient care. Hopefully we can continue expanding the breadth of programs we are providing so that we can universally provide better medical care and provide better training for our future doctors.

Originally published on 1/8/15.