Final Five

With Tarun Mohan Lal, principal, Advanced Analytics and Outpatient Practice Optimization at Mayo Clinic

Tarun Mohan Lal (center)Tarun Mohan Lal holds a master's degree in industrial engineering from Texas A&M University and recently received a Ph.D in industrial engineering from the State University of New York. He has been involved with IISE's Society for Health Systems (SHS) since 2012 and has served in various positions, including conference chair and student paper competition chair, and is a member of the SHS board of directors.

What attracted you to industrial engineering?

During my undergraduate program, I was exploring different ways I could apply my quantitative skills coupled with a passion for leadership to a real-world setting. Courses on operations research and operations management really fascinated me as they gave me a holistic perspective and allowed me to use my math background and build on management skills. Since then, I've loved the challenges presented by industrial and systems engineering.

What drew you to the healthcare sector?

Since childhood, I always wanted to be a doctor; however, my aptitude for math and fear of never-ending medical education led me toward engineering. Until I joined a Ph.D program, I was not aware of opportunities to work in healthcare. It was a class on industrial engineering in healthcare that got me interested in considering a career in healthcare. I feel fortunate about my decision to pursue this career path, as it allows me to experience the best of both worlds.

You've been heavily involved with SHS since 2012. How has this benefited your career?

As my family did not have a lot of engineers, my university and professional society contacts gave me invaluable mentorship, particularly with how the educational system is structured and do's and don'ts in the job search. Serving as the chair of the Healthcare Systems Process Improvement Conference in 2015 prepared me for my future job roles.

Soon after serving the three-year conference chair term, Mayo Clinic asked me to take on a leadership role. This was my first "real" management role and my experience in recruiting and managing a team of volunteers and the responsibility of managing all the tasks associated with the conference planning were incredible in teaching me the important elements of middle management. I feel the on-the-job experience leading the conference was immensely helpful. As I progress through the SHS ranks, my current role on the board is teaching me the skills necessary to take on senior leadership roles, which is my long-term goal.

You represented IISE as one of DiscoverE's 2014 New Faces of Engineering. What impact do you aim to make on society as an IE in healthcare?

Beyond inspiring younger people, I want to stay in healthcare and eventually take roles where instead of doing the work and encouraging other IEs, I can encourage healthcare employees to champion continuous improvement projects. Revolutionizing the system can't be done by one person or a group of individuals. Instead, it takes everybody having enough knowledge to accept, adapt and lead such projects. I also hope to serve in leadership forums where I can influence national and international healthcare agendas.

As a young professional, what advice would you give graduating IE students?

As cliché as it may sound in an ISE magazine article, associating myself with a professional organization like IISE has been incredibly valuable – and the thing that has benefitted me the most in my career. It has provided me with mentors who have given me great advice and the opportunity to serve in leadership positions, which helped me grow in my career. I have also gained friends that will stay forever – not just while I am in school – but for a lifetime, in addition to receiving several job offers. Also, don't forget to share your work at conferences or in publications. This will give you and others the next best idea for the society.

– Interview by Cassandra Johnson