amy e.m. cohn, phd

Associate Director, Center for Healthcare Engineering & Patient Safety
Arthur F. Thurnau Professor
Associate Professor,  Industrial and Operations Engineering
Associate Professor, Health Management and Policy


Dr. Cohn is an Associate Professor in the Department of Industrial and Operations Engineering (IOE) in the University of Michigan College of Engineering. She holds a dry appointment in the School of Public Health Department of Health Management and Policy as well. In 2011, she was named an Alfred F. Thurnau Professor, the University's highest award for undergraduate teaching. She is also Associate Director of the Center for Healthcare Engineering and Patient Safety, as well as an Affiliate of the MIT Global Airline Industry Program.

In 1991, Dr. Cohn received the A.B. in Applied Mathematics, magna cum laude, from Harvard University. She was awarded the PhD in Operations Research from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 2002 and then joined the University of Michigan.  Her primary research focus is on large-scale applied combinatorial optimization problems in complex systems. Her initial focus was on passenger aviation. She continues to work extensively in this field, but has shifted over the past five years to an increasing focus on health applications, and frequently draws parallels within her research between these two application domains.

In 2011, the College of Engineering and the School of Medicine jointly launched the Center for Healthcare Engineering and Patient Safety (CHEPS), naming Dr. Cohn as the Associate Director with a focus on developing the infrastructure to support research and educational activities spanning medicine and engineering. The mission of CHEPS is to "improve the safety and quality of healthcare delivery through a multi-disciplinary, systems engineering-based approach."

As part of this mission; Dr. Cohn has developed an annual fall seminar series (open to the public as well as to students for credit under course number IOE813) that presents innovative research by teams comprised of engineering and clinical faculty working in partnership. This series enrolls students for credit from engineering, public health, nursing, business, and other units, as well as drawing an audience from engineering, nursing, medicine, public health, public policy, and members from the outside community.  Dr. Cohn has also launched a new masters concentration in Healthcare Engineering and Patient Safety (HEPS) within the IOE graduate program, and is in the process of expanding this to be a multi-unit degree program.

This activity is demonstrative of Dr. Cohn's commitment to education at all levels. She has been recognized in many ways for this commitment, including being named an honorary member of both the Alpha Pi Mu and Tau Beta Pi student honor societies, being voted IOE Professor of the Year by students six times in the last eleven years, being given the Holt Award for Excellence in Teaching three times, and being named as the University of Michigan's nominee for the state-wide Michigan Distinguished Professor of the Year award.

Dr. Cohn's current and recent collaborative research projects include work in: predicting surges in the adult emergency department; reducing the length of stay for children with asthma in the pediatric emergency department; improving the safety and efficiency of outpatient chemotherapy infusion; and developing scheduling tools for medical residents to increase their access to key training opportunities (e.g. heart and lung transplant experience) and to improve schedule quality (e.g. through reductions in disruptive sleep patterns within shift schedules) to in turn improve quality of life, quality of patient care, and quality of educational experience.

Dr. Cohn devotes the remainder of her time to her family -- her son Tommy is an avid Red Sox fan and self-proclaimed "science nerd"; her son Peter divides his time between art and gymnastics; and her husband, Jonathan Cohn, is a journalist for The New Republic who focuses on healthcare and other domestic policy issues.