Using My MEM Experience to Help Northwestern Lake Forest Hospital

Current MEM student Pedro Hurtado explains why he is volunteering to help Northwestern Lake Forest Hospital optimize performance amid a rise in admitted patients.

Pedro Hurtado is fascinated by performance improvement, so when he heard that Northwestern Master of Engineering Management (MEM) alumna Rebeca Khorzad (MEM '05) approached the program with several potential performance improvement projects at Northwestern Lake Forest Hospital, he knew he wanted to be involved.

Hurtado, a current MEM student, is volunteering with one other full-time MEM student and one part-time MEM student to help the hospital find the optimal number of beds as it continues to see an uptick in admitted patients. In order to complete the project, Hurtado and his classmates are directly using skills they learned in the program's Computer Simulation for Risk and Operations Analysis course.

Hurtado took a few minutes to talk about the project, why he wanted to get involved and how he's leveraging what he's learning in MEM to help benefit the hospital and its patients.

How would you describe the project you are working on?

Since last year, Northwestern Lake Forest Hospital has experienced a growth in admitted patients. Consequently, the occupancy level in the inpatient and observation units has increased to the point where patients are waiting for a bed because there are no beds available. Our goal is to find the right quantity for each type of bed in these units in order to minimize the waiting time and then improve the experience of those patients during their stay in the hospital.

We are working on a team of three people: Myself, Azamat Ussenov and Arvind Sivaraman all have different backgrounds and nationalities, but we share an interest in performance improvement.

How did this project come together?

Rebeca Khorzad (MEM '05) is the performance improvement leader at Northwestern Lake Forest Hospital. She offered some potential projects to MEM program director Mark Werwath in order to help involve students in healthcare and find solutions for important problems.

Seven students were interested in the volunteer initiative, so we formed two teams and picked the projects that interested us. It has been incredible to work on this real-life project. We have had a lot of support from the hospital staff and MEM faculty, and the hospital management has made clear that they are expecting a good result from us. We feel a lot of responsibility to deliver exceptional work on this project.  

How has what you've learned during your time in MEM influenced the work you're doing with the hospital?

The three of us all took the Computer Simulation for Risk and Operations Analysis course with Professor Barry Nelson, which I truly recommend. In this incredible course, we developed complex simulation models and analyzed them with Simio, a state-of-the-art simulation software program. Thanks to that course, we're able to use discrete simulation techniques to find the optimal number of beds in the inpatient unit at Northwestern Lake Forest Hospital.

What have you learned from the experience of working with the hospital?

I have learned that working as a team and using our skills can help and improve the quality of life of many people. This project has a powerful purpose because our work we might help reduce annoying waiting times for patients who, in many cases, are already suffering. I believe that as engineers we must share with society the great number of talents we have been blessed with.

What was it about MEM that originally appealed to you?

I think that MEM is a great program where you can build technical knowledge with courses like Computer Simulation for Risk and Analysis but also improve your soft skills and leadership skills with other courses like Leadership and Organizational Behavior or Negotiations for Engineers. I really believe that this program will be a great pivot for my engineering career.

Also, I love to be close to Chicago. I am here with my wife, and we are fascinated with all the attractions of the city and the opportunities available to us.

What do you hope to be doing professionally after graduation?

I am graduating in June 2019. I am going to do a summer internship at Prince Castle with the Operational Excellence team in Chicago. Then I would like to find new challenges in the industrial sector. I am particularly interested to apply analytics in order to solve the upcoming challenges in digitalization and transformation of the industrial processes.