COLUMBIA — MU professor Kalyan Pasupathy was awarded the Goodeve Medal for work with the Red Cross in which he involved many students in developing a program for the non-profit organization to use nationwide.
The Operational Research Society in England awards the honor to the singlemost outstanding work done that year. Pasupathy was unable to attend the ceremony in London this past October, but his co-author, Alexandra Medina-Borja, accepted the award. They worked together on the project for six years and published their study in the Journal of the Operational Research Society.
The Red Cross has close to 1,000 chapters across the nation. Each chapter is given a specific jurisdiction and is responsible for generating enough funds through donations, federal funds and various organizations to support programs such as disaster relief and health and safety courses. Pasupathy developed a formula that translates data and lets the chapter know what its potential as an organization is, given its staff and resources.
He estimated that up to $700,000 could be saved for the non-profit organization. The Red Cross has not tracked specifics in efficiency changes that have been made since the program went into use.
Bernie Benson, director of chapter information and decision support at the Red Cross, worked with Pasupathy to develop the project model.
“He was the right person at the right time to do the work,” said Benson. “He had a thorough understanding of the (complex) methods. He knew how to use the tools. He understood the organization.”
One of the most prominent features of the new program is that it allows users to see how similar chapters are using resources.
“There are always ways you can learn from others,” Pasupathy said.
The program is able to make recommendations based upon three main sources of information: customer satisfaction and program outcome surveys, financial records and service delivery data.
Benson said the organization was not only able to see what the chapters were achieving, but also able to learn a little bit about the demographics of the people it serves.
As a professor in the MU health management and informatics department, Pasupathy said that one of the most rewarding aspects of this project was to involve his students.
“It brings together research and the real world,” Pasupathy said. “I can not only talk to my students, but show them how things can be applicable; how what we learn in the classroom is useful.”
While Pasupathy never dreamed that the project would be so successful, he is glad it has drawn attention to the university.
“It puts the name of the department and the university out there,” he said.
While the project is now completed, he is not ruling out working with the Red Cross in the future.
“One of the things I feel very strongly about is, anything that we do as a faculty does not have true value if we do not impart that knowledge on students or others in general,” Pasupathy said.