University of Massachusetts Amherst

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In 2008, University of Massachusetts Amherst alumni Dr. Michael and Theresa Hluchyj founded the Hluchyj Graduate Fellowships. Their fellowship supports two graduate students in the College of Engineering and the School of Nursing with annual stipends of $25,000 each so they can do research in the area of clinical healthcare. The fellowship arrangement has championed an historic collaboration between the College of Engineering, from which Mike Hluchyj earned his a B.S. from the the Electrical and Computer Engineering Department in 1979, and the School of Nursing, from which Terry Hluchyj graduated in 1977.

The Hluchyjs, who are both passionate about their alma mater, designed the fellowship to bring together their backgrounds and personal priorities. "Fellows will work on research projects from both disciplines," the fellowship stipulates, "seeking solutions to real problems in the clinical setting using engineering-based approaches."

Dr. and Mrs. Hluchyj, who live in Wellesley, Massachusetts, funded the fellowships with key healthcare issues in mind. "We are excited to be funding these new fellowships to support cross-disciplinary research in clinical healthcare," said Terry Hluchyj in 2008. "Quality healthcare ranks among the most important issues our society faces, and the collaborative research initiatives between nursing and engineering at UMass Amherst can make a real difference."

Mike is currently the Chief Technology Officer at the Verivue company of Westford, Massachusetts. Formed in November of 2006, Verivue has developed the MDX 9000 Series Media Distribution Switch, a video service delivery system specifically engineered to manage the enormous amounts of video traffic flooding Internet Protocol networks. He was officially one of "Tech's 100 Highest Rollers" for 2001, according to Forbes Magazine, and has also been the New England Entrepreneur of the Year, according to Ernst & Young. He is a Fellow of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers and is widely published on subjects such as switching and traffic management in multimedia packet networks. Hluchyj has also been awarded 29 U.S. patents.

Terry graduated from the University of Massachusetts Amherst in 1977 with a B.S. in Nursing. Her first job was at Mt. Auburn Hospital in Cambridge working on a medical floor. Later, she transitioned to a position in public health at a Visiting Nurse Association serving clients in Lexington and Arlington. Terry has been an active volunteer in her community and at her children's schools. Currently she is a Trustee of the Wellesley Scholarship Foundation, an organization that provides financial support to college students needing assistance. In addition, Terry is an Overseer at Newton-Wellesley Hospital and a Sustaining Member of the Wellesley Service League.

Industrial Engineering Professor Jenna Marquard has advised a number of Hluchyj Fellows over the years, so she has a wealth of first-hand experience to explain why the collaboration created by the Hluchyjs, especially between nurses and industrial engineers, has worked so well. "Nurses are front-line workers with patients," she explains. "They work at the level of care in which patient safety is at stake. They often get blamed if something goes wrong with the system. But industrial engineers don't look at safety as a person problem, a blame problem, but as a systems design problem. So industrial engineers can change the system to make it safer and more efficient, address systematic problems by redesigning the systems, or confirm the viewpoint of nurses that systems have broken down."

That's precisely the kind of collaboration that has sprung up from the start of the fellowship. The first two Hluchyj Fellows set the tone for the high-level research in healthcare carried out by subsequent fellows. Those 2008-2009 Hluchyj Fellows were Yi You Mei, a doctoral student in industrial engineering, and Kavita Radhakrishnan, a doctoral student in the School of Nursing.

Yi designed and implemented an electronic "falls reporting" device for the post-acute-care system at Jewish Geriatric Services (JGS) in Long Meadow, Massachusetts. Since she developed the device, it has been applied successfully for several years.

Meanwhile, Kavita had a background as both a telecommunications engineer and a registered nurse. Her research interest was telehealth, or the delivery of health-related services and information via telecommunications technologies. Over the course of her Hluchyj year, Kavita worked on a team to evaluate the usability of two consumer health informatics platforms for several medical populations, including diabetics, post-bariatric-surgery patients, and cardiac patients.

One of Kavita's advisors at the School of Nursing, Professor Joan Roche, speaks about the need for her special skills and her research. "What she's really good at is using telehealth to focus on the usability, the adaptability, the interface with the patient, the interface with the nurse, making it successful. She studies the human factor of telehealth technology."

Those first two Hluchyj Fellows established the spirit of all the research to follow.

The 2009-2010 fellows were He (Jack) Ze, a doctoral student in electrical engineering, and School of Nursing graduate student Shoshana Gladstone.  

Jack worked on a project using eye auto-tracking devices to study the eye-scanning habits of nurses to determine why, or why not, they were identifying medical errors. His premise was that nurses might be able to learn optimal visual scanning techniques that allow them to identify and recover medical errors before they impact patients.

Shoshana's project for the Hluchyjs was a state-of-the-art review of the literature covering smart environments for older adults. She used engineering, computer science, and nursing literature and looked at what was happening in terms of creating prosthetic interactive smart environments for older adults. During her Hluchyj year, Shoshana also worked on a big gap in the literature by writing a manuscript about what older adults do with their time every day.

The 2010-2011 Hluchyj Fellow from the College of Engineering was mechanical engineering graduate student Asli Ozen. Her project was to develop a computer-based optimization and simulation model to improve capacity allocation of inpatient beds at Baystate Hospital in Springfield, which has 27,000 inpatients annually and only 653 beds.

School of Nursing graduate student Quiahong Guo used her 2010-2011 Hluchyj Fellowship to review the end-of-life information needs of terminal patients and their families and develop guidelines for caregivers.

"The really cool thing about Quiahong's project was learning how engineers think about the literature," says Professor Cynthia Jacelon from the School of Nursing. "She used a lot of engineering techniques to do a very nursing oriented review of the literature."

Graduate students Jean Cody from the School of Nursing and Shuang Li from the Mechanical and Industrial Engineering Department were recently named the 2011-2012 Hluchyj Fellows, and so their research projects haven't been fully realized yet.

Jean, who has been working as a clinical nurse specialist and magnet program director at Southern Vermont Medical Center, has a research interest in patient safety and technology.

"It has been my goal throughout my career to obtain my Ph.D. in nursing and add to the body of knowledge of this esteemed profession," Jean wrote. "The Hluchyj Fellowship is a wonderful opportunity for me to fulfill this goal and to expand on my research interests."

Shuang graduated from the University of Science and Technology of China in June as an automatic control major. She entered the Simulation and Control Laboratory at that university in her junior year and has since devoted her research to the design and analysis of linear systems with variable time delays. As Shuang wrote about the impact of her Hluchyj Fellowship, it is "giving me the opportunity to do research in clinical healthcare, which interests me greatly, without having to worry too much about my financial situation."

The short productive history of the Hluchyj Fellowship demonstrates that the vision of the Hluchyjs is already paying big dividends by solving healthcare problems using the latest technical tools. "There are so many ways that healthcare and technology have to be thought about in a systematic fashion that uses them in a new way looking into the future," as professor Roche says.