Fighting on Two Fronts: Student Develops Tool to Aid in the Battle Against Opioid Addiction
As the state with the third highest overdose death rate in America, Ohio’s opioid epidemic has touched far too many lives. With the rate of overdose death tripling since 2010, state and local agencies have been working tirelessly to find equipment and solutions to fight the growing issue. What many people don’t know is that this fight against opioids expands beyond our state’s and even our country’s borders. Findlay Master of Science in Applied Security and Analytics (MSASA) student Shaswat Khan is contributing to the fight against opioid deaths in both Ohio and his home country of Nepal with his capstone project, “The Individual Factors Associated Among the Heroin-Use Population.” His project was selected from among thousands of graduate researchers across the country to be presented at the 9th Annual National Professional Science Masters Association conference in November 2018.
“Heroin use has become an epidemic on a global scale,” said Khan. Being able to see the impact that heroin has on the populations of not one, but two countries first hand motivated Khan to help in some way. With a background in healthcare information technology (IT) in Nepal and India, Khan began to investigate how healthcare worked in America and how he could apply that to the Indian subcontinent. “Where I’m from, healthcare is not integrated with IT and IT systems,” he explained. “The data models exist in America, so why not develop a model that other countries can use as an algorithm for their healthcare systems?”
Nepal’s proximity to the countries of India, Myanmar, Thailand and Laos, the producers of the vast majority of the world’s heroin, has made it a major trafficking route. Aid to those most in need in the country is strangled by geographic, financial, governmental and technological constraints. Currently, most of the country’s healthcare records and systems are pre-digital. The lack of technology presents barriers to healthcare to the citizens that need it most. According to Krishna Ganapathy, the co-founder of Telemedicine Society of India “IT in healthcare will level the playing field. It will bridge the gap between the haves and the have nots.”
Khan has been working all through his schooling to help bridge that gap. With a Bachelor of Technology in Electronics and Communications Engineering from Jawaharlal Nehru Technological University, Khan has a strong base for pursuing his dream of improving the healthcare field. His knowledge of the current IT issues in healthcare grew during his time at Deerwalk, a multi-national healthcare data analytics company that provides big data healthcare solutions. While he was doing good work, he knew he wanted to go further. His supervisor at the time was enrolled in Findlay’s Master of Business Administration and recommended the newly formed MSASA degree for him to increase his skills in big data and database security.
At Findlay, Khan found that with both technical and professional courses being offered, the structure of the program was ideal for his needs. “The program improved not just my technical skills, but also the soft skills I need to go further in my career,” said Khan. He credits the database course, a secure coding course and a communication course which required him to present his research finding regularly to faculty and fellow classmates as the main drivers for the realization of this project.
Faculty support played a large role in assuring his success throughout the program. “Anytime we asked for help, they were there for us to provide the resources we needed,” he explained. “Most importantly, if you approached them with an interest or research idea, they respected it, saw your potential and helped you pursue it.” Mary Jo Geise, Ph.D., the co-chair of the Computer Science Department, had a particular influence on Khan. Her support in his work, research and anything he needed personally as a student made him feel comfortable in his work from the very beginning.
While Khan’s work was completed as part of his final capstone project, he was given an opportunity to share his healthcare development with a wider audience at the 9th Annual National Professional Science Masters Association conference in November 2018. As a Professional Science Masters (PSM) program, the University of Findlay is part of an elite group of universities that have proven successful outcomes for its students. According to the PSM home site, these programs are designed for students who are pursuing advanced training and excel in science or math without a Ph.D., while simultaneously developing highly-valued business skills. After a grueling submissions process involving several interviews, Khan’s presentation was chosen from a pool of applicants from over 300 different universities.
Khan presented his project to a room filled with professionals in the IT field, computer science faculty from around the county and the familiar faces of Findlay faculty members. The conference ended successfully for Khan, with several schools approaching him about joining their doctorate programs to continue with his research on the opioid epidemic. Currently, Khan is keeping his options open, but knows he wants to continue learning about American healthcare systems before returning to his home country.