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Louis Luangkesorn and Rachel Chung represent the INFORMS program to receive the 2019 Outstanding Community Partner Volunteer Award

INFORMS Pro Bono Analytics project wins volunteer award from Houston Methodist Hospital

Originally published in INFORMS Analytics. Reposted with permission.

Louis Luangkesorn, INFORMS member and assistant professor of industrial engineering at the University of Pittsburgh, was awarded the Outstanding Community Partner Volunteer Award from Houston Methodist Hospital, along with Rachel Chung, clinical associate professor of business analytics at College of William and Mary, for their work on volunteer on-boarding and retention analytics done as part of the INFORMS Pro Bono Analytics program.

The award is given to the community partner that made the greatest impact within the department, and is presented as part of the Annual Volunteer Appreciation event for Houston Methodist Hospital (HMH), an event organized by the Volunteer Services department of HMH.

The Houston Methodist Hospital project was announced as a question of what factors affect volunteer retention. Luangkesorn and Chung both had experience with volunteer retention projects and research, which made them a great fit for the HMH project. “We thought that this project would provide an opportunity to put into practice some of our thoughts on how to look at volunteer retention as well as provide a student an opportunity to work with a data analysis project from the very beginning,” said Luangkesorn.

The team started the project by examining the data sets, which presented difficulty because the data was in a form that was common in data on staff and abilities but not amenable to analysis. They conducted an exercise in data munging to convert the data into standard forms and then developed a number of visualizations of the volunteers including their geographic distribution, age, employment status, volunteer roles and tenure (length of volunteering).

Presenting data to a nontechnical audience is an important part of the decision-making process. “Our Volunteer Services staff has very little analytical knowledge, and the community partners [Pro Bono Analytics team] were able to break down the information in a way for us to understand,” said Cheronda Rutherford, senior volunteer coordinator at Houston Methodist Hospital. Luangkesorn and his team chose to present their exploratory data analysis with a discussion on how the Houston Methodist Hospital Volunteer staff could interpret the output and take action based on different presentations. 

The team presented several visualizations in a dashboard to track volunteer activity, number of active volunteers, new volunteers and volunteers becoming inactive. Using a Jupyter Notebook – a notebook that can be shared via Dropbox, GitHub, etc. – with the code hidden allowed the dashboard to be viewed in any browser and allowed the team to provide text to remind HMH staff how to interpret the results alongside the plots.

As a result of this Pro Bono Analytics project, HMH is in the process of updating its computer system to use the dashboard created by Luangkesorn and Chung.

Luangkesorn has been an INFORMS member since 1999, joining as a student member while completing a Ph.D. program in industrial engineering at Northwestern University. This was his first volunteer project with INFORMS Pro Bono Analytics.


Author: Kara Tucker, assistant editor of OR/MS Today and Analytics magazine

Contact: Kara Tucker