Sabbatical offers inspiration to ISyE associate professor
A sabbatical can offer an opportunity for university faculty to tie up loose ends on unfinished research, or, in the case of Douglas Wiegmann, to embark on new avenues of research.
Wiegmann, an associate professor of industrial and systems engineering, used his sabbatical to take a highly informative trip to Singapore, publish "Understanding why quality initiatives succeed or fail” in the journal Annals of Surgery; and submit a grant titled “Overcoming organizational barriers to survivorship care plan implementation.” He says that the semester-long break allowed him to formulate his ideas, and thus redirect his research.
“My work has generally been designing interventions to improve healthcare, which then could be implemented,” he says. “I really haven’t spent much time or effort in my research looking at the actual implementation of those interventions as they’re integrated into the ‘real world’ systems.”
In Singapore, the Ministry of Health occasionally receives federal funding to invite international scholars to the country, in order to share ideas about healthcare. This year, Wiegmann was invited to participate in this collaborative process. The ideas and discussions gave him an opportunity to explore the island's healthcare delivery process.
He noticed that within the Singapore healthcare system, the overarching issue is not as much what to do, but how to do it.
His time in Singapore also gave him an understanding of the major differences in healthcare improvement implementation across cultures. He observed that the hospitals there had developed an innovative system that allows them to treat many people in a very short period of time.
“Singapore is a small island, but there are a lot of people in need of healthcare, and there are less than a dozen major hospitals on the island,” he says. “They’re treating thousands of people a day and getting them through the system safely, efficiently and effectively. That’s pretty amazing.”
Though he was only in Singapore for a few weeks, his experience brought new insight into the process of implementation in other countries, and how people in academia can help.
“There are various issues with getting interventions to work, from making them fit the process providers are dealing with, to making them fit the culture they’re dealing in, as well as the physical setting,” Wiegmann says. “They also have to negotiate the social and political barriers associated with change.”
Now, as a new direction in his research, Weigmann plans to study how programs and interventions can be designed to take into account various barriers to and facilitators in the process for implementing improvements in healthcare settings.
“Understanding the complexity of the implementation process was eye-opening for me, and it really helped change the direction where I’m taking my research in the next five years or so,” he says.