Dr. Shan Liu is an Assistant Professor of Industrial and Systems Engineering. She received her PhD from Stanford University in 2013 and joined the UW shortly thereafter. Her general area of research is medical decision making. She researches a broad spectrum of healthcare topics that range from individuals’ personal health decisions to federal recommendations, asking questions such as “what are the best strategies for spending health care dollars?” and, “given future technologies, should a patient receive treatment immediately or wait until a more effective drug is released?” She firmly believes that “win-win” scenarios are possible for patients, doctors, and medical systems when resources are effectively allocated. Dr. Liu has taught classes such as “Fundamentals of Engineering Economy” and “Healthcare Modeling and Decision Making.”
In an interview with UW ADVANCE, we asked Dr. Liu to share about her interest in Industrial and Systems Engineering and her professional accomplishments.
Q&A: Professional interests and accomplishments
Q: How did you become interested in Industrial and Systems Engineering?
A: My interest was based on a wide variety of different backgrounds. I did electrical engineering as an undergraduate. My degree was largely focused on technology. I was interested in signal processing and medical imaging—definitely interested in the technology aspect. From there, I went for a broader Master’s Degree in technology and policy at MIT. For that degree, it introduced a lot of policy questions and considerations, as well as economic modeling. I realized there are a lot of really smart people working in technology but there are many real challenges in healthcare that cannot be solved by technology alone. Solutions require a more holistic approach that encompasses technology and policy. That realization encouraged me to pursue a PhD in Management Science and Engineering at Stanford. My PhD advisor, Professor Margaret Brandeau, is an expert in the field of HIV modeling and uses a lot of applied mathematical models to answer resource allocation questions. She has a lot of really great real-world impact. She was a great encouragement during my doctoral journey. I took a lot of classes in the medical school, also in the health services department. I really got interested in the interdisciplinary research fields that combine engineering methods with traditional health services methods. In general, my professional interest gradually evolved from more technical to more policy and delivery oriented, more interdisciplinary in nature.
Q: What are some professional accomplishments that you would like to highlight?
A: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and U.S. Preventive Services Task Force recently updated their Hepatitis C screening policies. Now they recommend a one-time screening for American adults within a certain age category. We were doing a cost-effectiveness analysis for the new HCV treatment that was published in the Annals of Internal Medicine and got a lot of media attention. Our HCV screening research was cited in the formal guidelines recommendations by the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force, as well as highlighted on a PBS program. The program was sponsored by American Association of Retired Persons (AARP) and my group was interviewed. We were really glad that we helped raise awareness about Hepatitis C for the general public and made a real-world impact with the guideline recommendations.