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Department: Operations Research and Financial Engineering

Forese Operations Research and Financial Engineering

Laura Forese ’83

Orthopaedic Surgeon, Chief Medical Officer, and Chief Operating Officer,
New York Presbyterian Hospital

Pre-med with a different approach

I went to Princeton wanting to go to medical school but not wanting to major in one of the traditional pre-med sciences. I figured I’d have medical school to focus on the medical sciences. I was right.

My parents had encouraged me and my siblings (PU ’85, ’88, and ’90) to choose something that would give us a broad background without too much focus on the next step. And, my father had an engineering degree but never worked as an engineer, so I had grown up knowing that an engineering degree wasn’t limiting. Operations research and financial engineering—at the time named basic engineering/civil engineering and operations research—was recommended to me by a friend who was himself just graduating and going off to Wall Street.

My department attracted an eclectic group of people with many different interests and career goals. The analytic tools and mathematical models can be applied to virtually any field. Because I wanted to pursue medicine, I chose to apply systems analysis principles to medical topics. I wrote my thesis on a model of decision making focused on the uncertainty that parents face during pregnancy.

Problem solving on a larger scale

Immediately after Princeton, I went to medical school at Columbia University. Having a non-traditional undergraduate major was an advantage in applying to graduate school; every interviewer was interested in knowing why I chose to study engineering and management systems. I’m an orthopaedic surgeon with a subspecialty in children’s orthopaedic surgery. Although I originally thought I’d practice surgery full time, I took the advice of a mentor and pursued a management degree shortly after finishing my medical training. My undergraduate course work was excellent preparation for studying the “business” of medicine.

After 10 years of surgical practice, I moved into a full-time management role. I am currently senior vice president, chief medical officer, and chief operating officer at New York Presbyterian Hospital/Weill Cornell in New York City, one of the largest hospitals in the U.S. and currently ranked sixth by US News and World Report. I have responsibility for two campuses with more than 1,000 beds, 3,000 physicians, and 8,000 employees.

I am married to a chest surgeon, and we have three children. And, yes, I got to test out some of my thesis theories when we had to make some high-risk decisions.

My Princeton education has always been an asset, and my department was an important part of that. I learned a rational approach to problem solving that I can use whether I’m thinking about individual patients or large hospital systems.