RWTH Scientist Seeks to Make Health Care Sustainable


Dr. Christina Büsing is to receive the Freigeist Fellowship from the Volkswagen Foundation. The fellowship provides her with considerable funding for her research on optimizing the German health care system.


The RWTH mathematician Dr. Christina Büsing will be awarded with the Freigeist Fellowship from the Volkswagen Foundation. This funding initiative provides grantees with a five-year timeline during which they are free to carry out highly innovative risk-taking research in projects located at the boundaries of established fields of research.

Dr. Büsing convinced the Foundation’s reviewer panel wither project on “Stable and Robust Management of Health Care Services”. In sum, the Foundation will support the project with 860,000 Euros.

The project is concerned with improving our health care system’s organizational processes to address two core problems: the lack of practitioners in rural areas and efficient management of hospitals and institutions with similar organizational structures.

Optimizing Health Care with the Help of Mathematical Models

To address these problems, Büsing utilizes mathematical models which help the health sector adequately to react to fluctuations in and changing environmental factors. More concretely, concerning hospital management, the scientist seeks to optimize processes by integrating uncertainties in her model, such as fluctuating demand, arrival time of patients, emergency patients, durations of a single treatment or length of stay. Existing methods integrate these uncertainties inadequately, which results in extra cost, long waiting times, and other inconveniences for doctors, nursing staff and patients. Büsing and her team focus on a novel concept, recoverable robust optimization, to deal with these uncertainties and to obtain stable and robust solutions.

In this way, a highly important societal challenge – sustainable health care – is addressed mathematically. With the help of robust optimization models, various health care processes shall be optimized and thus a high standard health care system secured over the next decades.

In the current application round, the international reviewer panel has recommended eight out of 156 projects for funding: four from the humanities and social sciences, and four from the natural and engineering sciences. To finance these winning projects, the Foundation will provide funding of 5.3 million Euros.

The Freigeist Fellowship

The Freigeist program is targeted at excellent early-career researchers who want to conduct highly innovative and original research projects at German universities. According to the Volkswagen Foundation, a Freigest fellow “opens up new horizons and combines critical analysis with imagination and innovative solutions. By thinking ahead the fellow will act as a catalyst in overcoming disciplinary, institutional and national boundaries.”

The fellowship award will be presented to the winning candidates on September 25, 2015, at the Schloss Herrenhausen conference center in Hannover.