Amogh Bhatnagar '20 Named One of 40 Regeneron Finalists

Amogh Bhatnagar '20 was one of just 40 high school seniors nationwide to be named a Regeneron Science Talent Search Finalist. He will travel to Washington, D.C. in March to undergo final judging, display his work to the public, meet with notable scientists, and compete for $1.8 million in awards. Each finalist will receive a minimum $25,000 award, with a top award of $250,000.

For his project, titled “Methodology Demonstration of a Cost-Effective Comparison of Procedures Using Open and Laparoscopic Appendectomy: Total Charges vs Hospital Stay,” Bhatnagar used statistical models on a nation-wide data set to compare laparoscopic appendectomies and open appendectomies in pediatric patients. Using the data from more than 50,000 procedures, Bhatnagar was able to compare the cost-effectiveness of laparoscopic versus open appendectomies while controlling for demographics like age and gender, as well as characteristics of patients, day of the week, and complexity of surgery.

“Laparoscopic appendectomies are generally preferred over open appendectomies by the medical profession because the technology is newer,” said Bhatnagar. “But what I found by analyzing the data is that, in pediatric patients at least, the laparoscopic method shortens hospital stays by only about one half of one day, and costs patients about $4,000 more on average.” Open appendectomies, therefore, often yield similar results as laparoscopic ones, but for a lower cost to patients and hospitals. Bhatnagar took his project one step further and developed an app that patients can use (along with their doctors) to estimate their expected length of stay and hospital costs.

“The main goal of my work is that I wanted to demonstrate a method that can be used by doctors and patients to compare any number of procedures for any number of diseases,” said Bhatnagar. “It can be automated for many different diseases in a data set and that, to me, is really powerful, because we can optimize cost and length of stay, and can give information to patients.” Bhatnagar initially started this project as a freshman in 2016, but set it aside to work on other research. He went back to it in the summer of 2019 using more advanced regression models to analyze the data.

The Regeneron Science Talent Search finalists were selected from the 300 students named as scholars. In addition to Bhatnagar, Afiya Quryshi '20 was also named a scholar earlier this month, which is the fourth year in a row that at least one USM student has been named scholars. Scholars were selected from 1,993 applications received from 192 high schools in 39 states and Guam.

Regeneron Science Talent Search is the nation’s oldest and most prestigious science and math competition, founded and produced by the Society for Science and the Public, and Bhatnagar is the second USM senior in a row to be named a Regeneron Finalist. Last year, Aayush Karan '19 was also named a finalist and traveled to Washington, D.C. to present his work.

“The Regeneron Science Talent Search finalists are the stewards of our future,” said Maya Ajmera, President and CEO of Society for Science & the Public, Publisher of Science News and 1985 Science Talent Search alum. “These finalists are the top young scientists of our country today and they give me great hope for what lies ahead.”
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