Math as a Means of Helping Humanity

On Saturday, March 2, 2013, dozens of practitioners from a variety of non-profit organizations gathered at Gordon for a first day-long conference entitled, “Humanitarian Response: Innovation to Meet Needs.” Organized and led by Mike Veatch, professor and chair of mathematics and computer science, and colleague Jarrod Goesntzel at MIT’s Humanitarian Response Lab, participants heard from representatives at agencies such as Doctors Without Borders, Partners in Health and the Salvation Army. Here’s how Veatch described it:

Mike Veatch

“This conference brought together practitioners of humanitarian response and international health, students considering a career in this area, and academic researchers. Supply systems are critical to humanitarian response, yet the contexts present unique challenges for logistics management, which is where the role of mathematics comes in. Speakers talked, for instance, about the logistics of humanitarian responses in situations ranging from the 2010 Haiti earthquake to the recent Hurricane Sandy. Because this type of work can be somewhat technical, gatherings like this were best suited for students and scholars with some background in math, statistics, or economics as well as an interest in humanitarian work. Certainly, it’s easy to see how math, nonprofit management, economics and business, biology, health professions, international affairs, and sociology all come together when discussing crucial and innovative ways to respond to humanitarian crises. As we discussed international health, food aid and disaster response, we recognized how important it is to be working together and sharing our resources and expertise for the best possible services we can provide. And I think our program discussions reflected what it means to deliver the best health and humanitarian assistance we can find.”

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