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Research profile: Improving cancer care and treatment

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Cancer touches the lives of almost every Canadian according to 2011 Canadian Cancer Statistics, which report that one in four people is expected to die from various incarnations of the disease. Regrettably, it is often poor access to various care mechanisms, including chemotherapy and radiation, that impacts survival rates.   

Martin Puterman

Sauder's Professor Martin Puterman is working to ease the suffering associated with cancer by researching how to improve decision-making processes associated with treatment access.

Puterman is spearheading a team of researchers funded by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR). They are applying their expertise to solve problems related to patient and staff scheduling in the British Columbia Cancer Agency. To accomplish this task they are examining the factors that prevent patients from moving smoothly through the system.

“Surprisingly, there are a significant number of problems associated with the current care system.” says Puterman. “Issues exist in the process for scheduling the correct timing of medication dispensation and in deciding the best options for chemotherapy treatment.”

Within this context of system improvement, Puterman and his team are currently focused on creating scheduling methodologies for booking patient appointments with oncologists specialized in the treatment of cancer. Once they have achieved their objectives, they will be implemented at the BCCA, and hopefully elsewhere.

Professor Puterman and his research team achieve their goals by analyzing existing systems. For example, they may break down the schedule of radiation treatment appointments into individual components to better understand the processes involved. They then analyze the results to determine what series of events or order of activities leads to the best result. 

Puterman also builds computer simulations of systems currently in place. He runs scenarios through the system simulations to ascertain the impact of each one. Once he is certain that his research has yielded optimal routines, he works with clinicians to apply his findings. 

His research has won Puterman numerous awards and accolades, and exemplifies how scholarly research can have real world application and widespread benefit.

Learn more about Professor Puterman and his research interests.