Rishindra Reddy, MD, Associate Clerkship Director – Surgery


Dr. Reddy’s clinical interests include lung cancer, esophageal cancer, mesothelioma, and lung transplantation. Other academic interests include teaching of residents and medical students and his participation at a national level to rework the cardiothoracic training paradigm and increase recruitment into cardiothoracic surgery.

Disclaimer: This is a transcript from a verbal interview

What kind of research are you excited about?
I guess anything that contributes to improved health care delivery! Two areas that I have really been interested in are lung cancer and education. I think the role of a surgeon performing cancer research is important. There has been a shift in the last 20 years in terms of clinicians, and specifically surgeons, playing less of a role in cancer research and I think that is a problem. There are things we bring to the table in terms of how we can bring novel treatment strategies to the bench.
My overall goal in terms of worldview would be how we can improve the clinical care of our patients. And for me, most of my patients have lung and esophageal cancers and that includes not only doing research in terms of cancer itself, but also how we build a pipeline of clinicians for the next 20 or 30 years through the education side to take care of people. Overall, how can we improve healthcare for people. How do we improve healthcare delivery? How do we improve access? All those things come down to these different arenas.
The thing I love about being here at the University of Michigan is that we are able to do any research we find interesting. For me, this is cancer research on one side and education on the other side. For education, how do we improve training for residents or medical students? How do we recruit people into our field with a perceived shortage coming up? How do we improve the quality of training? I think we will see in the U.S. in the next 20 years, a shortage of certain physicians that will affect people’s ability to get care and you already see that in rural medicine in terms of a lack of primary care doctors in certain areas of the country.

How do you think engineers and healthcare professionals can work together to improve patient care?
I think there are a lot of different ways that engineers and clinicians can work together. Actually, both of my interdisciplinary projects in cancer and education involve engineers and I think the engineering background offers a lot of different expertise. Research was not as sophisticated 20 to 30 years ago and often done by one scientist without working in a larger team. I think that future research is going to be collaborative and multidisciplinary, not just between surgeons, pathologists, and medical oncologists, but rather it’s going to be between clinicians, engineers, and statisticians. It will bring multiple groups together to look at problems in completely novel ways.
From an education and scheduling standpoint, I have been working with Dr. Amy Cohn and the Industrial and Operations Engineering group for the last few years. Another project I am working on looks at early detection of circulating tumor cells. I have been working with Dr. Sunitha Nagrath from Chemical Engineering for the past three years. I think we have to go out and seek out experts in other fields, whether it is in engineering or non-engineering. For a variety of reasons including having a father and sister who are engineers, I personally fit with engineers in terms of thinking processes and how engineers approach problems. I think there is a lot of collaboration currently going on many different levels within the different departments of engineering.

When did you first become involved in CHEPS and how did you find CHEPS?
About 4 years ago, Dr. Andrea Obi, one of our general surgery residents, and I were talking about a problem with regards to the ability to train surgeons to do heart and lung transplants. With the advent of the 80 hour work week in 2003, there has been a decreased amount of flexibility for residents to be able to do some of these emergent cases that don’t come in that frequently and so we asked ourselves, “How can we analyze that data?” In the past, I have looked for collaborators at U of M and at that time I literally just did a website search and came up with Dr. Cohn’s name looking at industrial and operations engineering. Her other work in terms of looking at FAA scheduling seemed like it was a potential fit. I think she was the first person I actually emailed. I was not aware of CHEPS, but I think I found the perfect person with regards to the type of work we were looking to do.

What makes CHEPS unique compared to other teams or projects you have been a part of?
I think what makes CHEPS unique is the multidisciplinary approach in terms of having clinicians, engineers, as well as students on both sides participating. I think personally that CHEPS is still in its infancy in terms of what its capabilities are. I think projects like the ones we have been working on with Dr. Cohn and her team are ones that can help build up the role for CHEPS or similar types of organizations at other institutions.

What surprised you most about working with engineers?
My dad is a mechanical engineer and my sister is a graduate from the IOE program here. I don’t think there were a whole lot of surprises in regard to working with engineers. The number one surprise would be the interest in clinical education and clinical exposure, which I think is great. I think the high level of interest outside of their field of study has been fantastic. The students, Dr. Cohn, and other faculty who are coming from a different world, want to become immersed. Over the past few years, I have had over 15 engineering students come to my clinics and observe.

How has working with engineers changed or altered your way of thinking about healthcare problems?
They are number one on my list in terms of who to call with complex problems! I think about understanding the level of interest and applying their expertise to problems. Also, I have a broader scope in terms of how we can solve these research questions outside of my own limitations or expertise. I am less fearful to tackle a question because I know we can find collaborators either within CHEPS or outside of CHEPS depending on the question at U of M. If you are able to find people who are interested, we can solve pretty much anything.

Originally published on 1/22/15.