This week’s blog entry is written by Jenya Doudareva, an MASc student at Centre for Research in Healthcare Engineering and a literature, art, and music aficionado. You can reach her at  jenyadoudareva [at] gmail [dot] com.

The previous entries have set up OR to be serious business. With applications ranging from military, supply chain management to finance, and even to healthcare and medicine, it is clear that OR has a lot to offer to the world. Personally, I find such diversity of a discipline to be refreshing and alive…creative even. To see that a problem in healthcare and a completely different problem in finance can be modelled using the same underlying principles is astounding.

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(This post is part 2 of an interview with Dr Michael Carter. Part 1 can be found here)

Q: If you take a step back and look holistically at the healthcare industry in Canada as compared to the rest of the world, how are we doing?

The UK has done lots of really good operations research-type modeling on healthcare problems. They’re way ahead of us. The National Health Service in the UK, since the 1950′s, have had an operations research department with a few hundred people employed full time. We have nothing like that in Canada, and it’s quite disappointing.

I am, at the same time, very hopeful. When I started this about 20 years ago, I would go to a hospital and tell them I had students that would work for free. They’d say:  ”Go away, we’ve got no time”. But now, my phone is ringing off the hook. I’ll tell people that I need $10,000 to pay some graduate students to do the work and they’ll say: “Yes, that’s fine”. I think every major hospital in Toronto has a small group of engineers doing industrial engineering type work in process management, process improvement, simulation, etc. It’s changing at a snail’s pace, but there is a small group of people in every healthcare organization that understands what we are trying to do, and that believes in what we believe in. Continue reading

This week’s journalist is Curtiss Luong, a graduate student working for morLab at the University of Toronto. He is a moderator of this blog, and you can reach him at

In December 2012, I spoke with Dr. Michael Carter, a professor in the Mechanical and Industrial Engineering department at the University of Toronto, about healthcare in Canada.  Thoroughly entertaining, Dr Carter had some valuable insights on the state of healthcare systems in Canada.

Q: Operations research in hospitals – why is it important?

A: Simplistically, there’s a rule that says that healthcare is 20 years behind manufacturing and 15 years behind service industries. For example, lean is an important set of principles that has been used in manufacturing since the 80′s, but the health care industry in Canada has just recently, maybe 5 years ago, discovered lean. Most manufacturing-related companies understand supply chain management, capacity management, schedule optimization, etc. Healthcare has very little of that stuff.

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This week’s blogger is Shefali Kulkarni-Thaker, a graduate student working at morLab and is one of the moderators for this blog. You can write to her at shefali [at] mie [dot] utoronto [dot] ca.

Operations Research (OR) traces its roots around world war II and started out with the necessity to win the war. One of the first applications of OR was predicting the location of German submarines. Since then OR has evolved and is practically applicable to any field that is seeking for the “best” in a given situation. It could the least risky investment or the highest return value investment. OR has plenty of applications ranging from airline scheduling to farming. A typical OR problem will try to minimize or maximize a function under some constraints. It will try to answer question like: What is the best way to allocate operation theatres ? As you can imagine this has several dependencies like availability of surgeons, probability of ad-hoc surgeries, time required for a single surgery, patient priority etc.
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