Teen Researcher | Nishant Singh

Teen Researcher

ISE sophomore Nishant Singh uses medical data to boost hospital efficiency as he helps to bring healthcare to children around the worldISE sophomore Nishant Singh uses medical data to boost hospital efficiency as he helps to bring healthcare to children around the world

HELPING PEOPLE ON A GLOBAL SCALE

For many high school students, summer breaks revolve around sleeping in, hanging out with friends and soaking up the sun as much as possible. Not for ISE sophomore Nishant Singh – he spent his days at a cancer hospital conducting time studies to figure out how to increase patient access based on a treatment footprint. Here, Singh describes how he became interested in ISE, the research he’s conducted, and how it can be applied on a global scale.

When it came time to apply for college in the fall of his senior year, Nishant Singh had no doubt that he wanted to attend NC State. “My mom, dad and sister all graduated from NC State, we’re a Wolfpack family,” he said. “In fact, I only submitted an application for NC State; this is the only place I wanted to be!”

But Singh’s decision was influenced by more than a rich family tradition. Before his junior year of high school, he attended NC State’s ISE summer camp in hopes of learning more about various engineering disciplines and to figure out where he could best apply his interests.

“I knew I wanted to be an engineer, but needed to find out what kind. I wasn’t even considering ISE before camp, simply because I wasn’t aware of it. But I have a strong inclination for using logic to look at a problem or issue and then test out ways to fix that problem; which, I discovered, is exactly what an IE does.”

In fact, it was Dr. Julie Ivy’s pharmacy simulation mid-week that grabbed Singh’s attention and drew him toward healthcare systems engineering. He realized that, as a healthcare engineer, he could help people on a large scale by ensuring that doctors can be as effective as possible.

“I like to solve problems and math, so I could either become a doctor—an engineer for the body—or an engineer. Dr. Ivy’s simulation solidified my interest in healthcare systems engineering. Once I got home, I did some more research into the field and when I shared my interest with my family, they agreed that it made sense!”

CLINICAL RESEARCH AT A HIGH SCHOOL LEVEL

Wanting to explore ISE further, Singh reached out to Dr. Ivy after camp to find out what research opportunities were available to him. She connected him with Pegah Pooya, a PhD student who was assessing the reliability of safety procedures in hospitals, using the UNC Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center in Chapel Hill as a test facility.

“Working with Pegah was my 100 percent surety moment. We looked at whether the hospital’s safety procedures were doing their job, how accurately, and whether they were useful to the system overall. For three weeks, I conducted time studies for each step of the patient care path—every step the hospital has to take for each patient that comes in. I knew that this was the type of work I wanted to do after I graduate.”

At age 17, Singh co-authored a paper on the project with Pooya, Dr. Ivy, and researchers from North Carolina Cancer Hospital for the 2014 Winter Simulation Conference. From there, he took it upon himself to create a simulation based on his time studies, assessing effective resource allocation in hospital systems. He developed a way to map a patient’s treatment footprint per dollar to identify efficient and effective strategies to increase patient access with minimal cost. Singh presented his findings this spring at the 2016 IISE Annual Conference and Expo in Anaheim, California.

“I asked myself, ‘what can I do with the data I have?’ I had the time studies and the patient care path, so why not solve the resource allocation problem?

ANALYZING SEPSIS, AND LEARNING HOW TO FIGHT IT

As he prepared to start his freshman year at NC State in 2015, Singh couldn’t wait for his next research project. He reached out to Dr. Ivy again before arriving on campus to see if there was a new opportunity to get involved.

“She emailed back and told me that ISE had just received a National Science Fund grant for a project on sepsis, so we were able to get started right away!”
That fall, Singh began working with Dr. Ivy to analyze data from the Mayo Clinic and Christiana Care Health System to uncover trends in septic and non-septic patients, looking for any standout triggers that could provide clues to why sepsis takes hold.

“By analyzing how sepsis inhabits a patient and his prognosis, we will know how to treat him and increase probability of recovery,” Singh said. “Sepsis is very costly and fatal, it is the most expensive condition treated in United States hospitals and it claims the lives of more than 258,000 Americans every year.”

Watch Nishant and Dr. Ivy talk with WRAL

Beyond the evident benefits of this study, Singh has a personal interest in the research.

“My grandfather had just passed away in India due to sepsis; due to hospital inefficiency. I want to figure out exactly what sepsis is, how it takes people, and how best to fight it.”

A GLOBAL MISSION

In addition to his phenomenal logic and problem-solving skills for healthcare systems, Singh is the President of the North Carolina chapter of Child Rights and You (CRY). CRY works to ensure children around the globe, particularly in India, have access to basic rights, such as healthcare and education.

“I visit India often with my family, and in comparing it to America, it makes no sense to me. You see amazing G-class Mercedes, elegant houses and people with servants and drivers, and literally 10 feet away is a mom with her child begging for food… it just doesn’t make any sense.”

“Growing up, I just assumed I would go to college and perhaps go on to get my Masters and Ph.D. … I never had cause to think I wouldn’t be able to do that. Meanwhile, hundreds and thousands of kids in India may be smarter than me; better people than me. But no one is giving them the chance. I want to make sure people have the opportunity to do what they want to do.”

Today, he has helped raise $25,000 for CRY and expanded the organization to include three additional chapters at NC State, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and Duke University.
“I’d love to establish a chapter on every college campus in the state. That would be amazing! I’m also interested in expanding with adult-member chapters. We have an annual walk every fall; this year’s event took place at Apex Community Park on September 25th. We were able to raise more than $6,000 with this walk alone to provide underprivileged children with a safe environment to pursue their highest potential. Access to healthcare and education just isn’t something they should have to worry about.”

PAYING IT FORWARD

Once he graduates from NC State, Singh plans to implement his research and open a consulting firm to help increase healthcare access in developing nations. In the meantime, he’s doing his part to spread awareness about ISE—including sharing his research in interviews with WRAL, WNCN, Fox50 and Modern Healthcare Magazine— and get students interested in healthcare systems.

Watch Nishant and Dr. Ivy talk with WRAL

“I helped run the ISE summer camp this year and had a lot of fun… a lot of students were interested in the pharmacy simulation just like I was, it was great to see it come full circle!”

“I wanted to open their eyes to ISE… to show people what an industrial and systems engineer really is and what we can accomplish. If I can do it, why can’t you?”