Faculty Research: Isenberg Professor Shares Supply Chain Expertise During Pandemic
February 05, 2021
Isenberg’s Anna Nagurney, John F. Smith Memorial Professor of Operations Management, has been getting calls from media outlets since it became clear that the coronavirus pandemic was leading to unusual supply chain shortages, from toilet paper and canned soup to surgical masks and pharmaceutical products. Her early interviews focused primarily on consumer challenges at grocery stores, but as vaccines have been approved, Nagurney has been interviewed by numerous journalists looking for her insights and knowledge of transportation logistics to explain how the shots would be getting to people around the world.
Her commitment to sharing her expertise with the public during this time of widespread uncertainty highlights the influence of Nagurney's academic scholarship:
She started off 2021 with a January piece in The Conversation, explaining how the pandemic has highlighted the importance of labor to supply chains, particularly in terms of administering vaccines (as well as picking and packaging produce and preparing meat for distribution). She also spoke with Forbes, contributing her expertise to an article about how last-mile vaccine distribution problems are affecting the travel industry, and to Vice for a piece about recruiting dentists and veterinarians to administer vaccines. In an interview for an AP article that was published in the Washington Post, Nagurney explained how event managers and other operations experts should be recruited to help with distribution efforts, since they know how to handle "people flow and congestion management."
For the radio show Marketplace, she called the chaotic vaccine rollout process "the Wild West," and emphasized ways that corporations with logistics experience could help coordinate the process and maximize efficiency. During another Marketplace interview in February, she explained how drug companies are cooperating to help fill vials with vaccine. For an NECN article about vaccine doses that spoiled at the VA Medical Center in Jamaica Plain because a refrigerator was unplugged, she called such carelessness "unforgivable."
She also wrote an article for her professional peers about vaccine supply chains and labor in ORMS Today, a publication for members of INFORMS, the leading international association for professionals in the operations research and analytics field; she was also featured on the ORMS Today podcast Resoundingly Human.
In December, she spoke to Marketplace about the ins and outs of storing and transporting vaccine dosages that require extreme cold temperatures. She was also interviewed by NBC10 in Boston for a story about security measures keeping vaccines off the black market, and to the Boston Globeabout the importance of dry ice production and supply.
In November, her insights were shared on television via NBC in Dallas, in print via USA Today, and online with the practitioner-focused website manufacturing.net as well as Forbes, for which she explained how airlines would be utilized in distributing vaccines.
In October, she spoke with a Wall Street Journal reporter about the security requirements of transporting such precious cargo.
In September, Nagurney published a piece on the website The Conversation, which focused on cold storage issues, and that article was picked up by outlets including Discover.
In the spring, she was quoted in several articles, including one in the Verge where she explained how retailers were having to totally rethink the algorithms they use to determine what items to keep on their shelves. In USA Today, Nagurney was quoted discussing shortages of diapers, and in the Morning Consult, she explained how shortages of blood supplies and pain medication could disproportionately affect people of color with sickle cell anemia and other chronic diseases. Her more general thoughts about supply chains during the pandemic have been featured on the UMass Amherst homepage, Greenwire, and in podcasts hosted by the American Mathematical Society and Farm Talk radio in Fargo, North Dakota. She appeared (from her home office, via video feed) on the broadcast of NBC 10 in Boston to chat about problems in the meat supply chain.
A piece she contributed to The Conversation detailed how the global crisis was having a particularly harsh effect on vital blood supplies, specifically with the closures of schools and other locations where mobile drives are often held. That article, which was reprinted by numerous outlets, is now the most read piece by a UMass Amherst faculty member in The Conversation in the past year. Its wide dissemination led to an invitation from the Institute for Operations Research and the Management Sciences (INFORMS) to contribute to its Analytics magazine feature, Coronavirus Chronicles.
In April, the article in The Conversation was highlighted in a letter written by California Attorney General Xavier Becerra to the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services requesting updates to blood donation policies that discriminate against gay men. The letter was signed by nineteen other state attorneys general, including Maura Healey of Massachusetts.
“I am so touched to have my op-ed on blood and the coronavirus included in this major governmental memo,” says Nagurney. “The research on the critical blood supply chain is fundamental and done in collaboration with PhD students, now Isenberg alums.” She adds that it is thrilling to have the work of Isenberg’s Virtual Center for Supernetworks, which she directs, recognized in such a significant way. “It shines a light on the creative, impactful work at Isenberg that helps society during these extremely challenging times.”