Q & A with President of NovaSim Kerrie Paige

Kerrie PaigeKerrie Paige (Ph.D. ‘99) answers seven questions about being a successful entrepreneur and explains how simulation modeling can be used to solve problems in health care.

Q: What is NovaSim, and how is it used in health care?

A: We specialize in simulation modeling, which is a mathematical approach that we use to help hospitals optimize their patient flow. Patient flow can take on many forms depending on the problem that you are trying to solve.  It can be anything from trying to figure out the logistics of moving children from one hospital to another to figuring out how to schedule your operating rooms optimally. I could go on and on but those are some representative examples.

Hear Paige explain what simulation modeling is and how it is used in health care from tracking individual patients movement through hospitals to evaluating wait times in this podcast:

Q: Why would a hospital use NovaSim?

A: What we are seeing and what we are hearing a lot about in the news is that our health care systems are overflowing with patients. A lot of hospitals these days are running at 80 percent to 90 percent capacity, which means that they have very little room for inefficiency in their operations.

Now that the systems are so full and so complex, it is difficult to make decisions just by intuition.  It’s hard to know for example: “Why am I having to cancel surgeries? Is it because no OR is available or because I can’t get an ICU bed when I need it?” These elements are interconnected, and that increases the complexity of the problem.

By looking at a simulation model, we have the opportunity to run experiments.  We can try it out in the simulation model and see how it would be expected to work, which is a really important thing when you are dealing with a fragile population like patients – you don’t want to put them through a trial and error.

Listen in this podcast to a real example of how an emergency department in a hospital used NovaSim to decide whether to build an addition:

Q: What do you do on a day-to-day basis as president of NovaSim?

A: Every day is a little bit different and depends upon the projects that we’re currently working on. I spend a lot of my time talking with current and potential clients about our services and software. And then there is the time on the projects themselves. I don’t do any heavy development work anymore, but I do still enjoy working with our clients to manage projects and being involved in the analysis phase. Whenever I can, I also try to spend time writing, as we’re currently working on the third edition of our simulation book.

Q: You originally came to the University of Colorado Boulder to get your doctorate in applied mathematics, but after you got your master’s you switched to the Leeds School of Business, Why?

A: There were some interesting classes being offered at the Leeds School that were taught by Professor Fred Glover, Professor Manuel Laguna, and Professor Jim Kelly (Learn more about the professors that inspired Paige in the Portfolio). So even though I was in the program in applied mathematics I was taking a lot of classes over at the Leeds School.  The original plan had been that I was going to get a Ph.D. in applied mathematics, but because I was enjoying the work in operations management so much I switched over for my Ph.D. program after I completed a master’s in Applied Mathematics.

Listen to Paige describe her time as a doctorate student in the operations and management program:

Q:  What is one thing you value about your time at the Leeds School?

A: The team at the Leeds School developed a simulation optimization algorithm that is now the most widely used because it is quite simply the best.  The groundwork for that application was developed while I was at the Leeds School, so I got to hear a lot about it and help test some of the ideas. Now, many years later, I get to use the end results in my professional work, and it is fun to think back to when it was all getting started.

Q: Can you discuss you career path from the Leeds School to your current position today as President of NovaSim?

A: When I was at the Leeds School, I already had two kids to support, so I needed another job. I got an internship in a research group with the regional telecommunications provider at that time, U S West. I learned a lot, I loved it, and it ultimately turned into a regular job.

I moved to Washington after my third son was born. Thanks to my experience at the Leeds School and U S West, I was offered several opportunities quite quickly, so I decided to try freelancing for awhile.  I did that for four years.  Then, in 2000, I started NovaSim with my partner, Jaret Hauge. That was a 11 years ago. It never gets boring because while we specialize in the same types of techniques, the applications are different.

Q: Why do you enjoy working in health care?

A: It is very fulfilling. We hear so much about the health care crisis in this country, and it’s real.  It feels good to be able to something concrete about that, because in addition to helping the hospitals come out economically better; we are also helping them provide better care.

Learn more about Kerrie Paige and her company NovaSim at novasim.com.

Read Kerrie’s story in the Spring 2011 issue of Portfolio, the alumni magazine of the Leeds School of Business.

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