Department of Engineering / News / Black researchers shaping the future

Department of Engineering

Black researchers shaping the future

Black researchers shaping the future

The System Designer – Dr Alexander Komashie

As the UK marks Black History Month, Dr Alexander Komashie talks about his route to Cambridge, his inspiration and his motivation.

Moving to Cambridge has added another dimension to my interest in systems. I now see design, as an approach to solving problems, as fundamental to systems that consistently deliver good value to the end users, including in healthcare. To improve patient experience, we need to design better delivery systems.

Dr Alexander Komashie

Dr Komashie is a Senior Research Associate in Healthcare Systems Design and is part of the Department’s Engineering Design Centre. He is also a THIS Institute Postdoctoral Interdisciplinary Fellow. This is Dr Komashie’s story:

The NHS and other health systems in the developed world have made great progress in health technology and diagnostics. But if you have excellent clinicians, medication and technology in a badly designed system, patients are likely to have bad experiences. 

I seek a better understanding of how healthcare delivery services operate as a system and then work out how to design them effectively using an engineering systems approach.

I arrived in England in 2002 to do my Master’s degree in Advanced Manufacturing Systems in London. I had a passion for mechanical engineering design but in one lecture I heard Dr Ali Mousavi declare that “Systems Engineers should run the government. We should make the big decisions”. I was taken aback and by the end of the day, I had said goodbye to mechanical engineering and embraced systems engineering.

My PhD, in part, looked at ways of improving patient experience of care delivery without compromising the experience of staff. I used queuing theory to demonstrate how a focus on improving patient experience can impact on staff and proposed a model for understanding the trade-offs.

Moving to Cambridge

Moving to Cambridge has added another dimension to my interest in systems. I now see design, as an approach to solving problems, as fundamental to systems that consistently deliver good value to the end users, including in healthcare. To improve patient experience, we need to design better delivery systems.

During the early phases of projects I spend time with patients in focus groups exploring their experiences of the care delivery systems they have used. I also interview doctors, nurses and managers in the NHS to explore their experiences of providing care in the system. This can be a very powerful, challenging and motivating experience.

I’m normally based in the Department of Engineering with the Cambridge Engineering Design Centre. While others seek to ‘transport’ what works in engineering into healthcare, our approach is to translate what works in engineering into healthcare, learning from clinicians whilst challenging the status quo. 

This year, I also became a postdoctoral interdisciplinary fellow of The Healthcare Improvement Study Institute, so I’m now also working on the Cambridge Biomedical Campus.

I think Black History Month is important. A true achievement for society would be to see a colourless future based on a deep reflection on, and appreciation of, the past.

Researchers from across the University are sharing their stories during Black History Month. Read more here

The text in this work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License. If you use this content on your site please link back to this page. For image use please see separate credits above.