When searching for my first and only Co-op, I wanted an experience that would afford me the opportunity to see the hospital through the eyes of someone other than a volunteer, and an experience that would expose me to the various medical needs evident in this environment. I was interested in both medical device development and a career in medicine, and found the perfect co-op to satisfy both these needs. Dr. Amy Throckmorton, PI of the BioCirc Research Laboratory of Drexel University, offered an experience to shadow many of her clinical contacts from surrounding hospitals. She also offered an opportunity for me to perform laboratory research to improve the treatment strategies and therapeutic options for pediatric and adult patients suffering from acquired or congenital heart disease.
During my clinical experience, I spent approximately three months shadowing over 15 distinguished physicians and their colleagues at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, Saint Christopher’s Hospital for Children and Hahnemann University Hospital. I shadowed cardio-thoracic, general and orthopedic surgeons, cardiologists, radiologists, neonatologists, and many other medical professionals. Many of these physicians were actively involved in clinical research or medical device development, and were excellent teachers and mentors. While shadowing, I was able to observe morning rounds, physician clinics, and numerous surgical procedures, including a heart transplant, VAD implant, lobectomy, ACL repair, and an appendectomy. I also learned about numerous medical devices used in the hospital, including the ECMO machine, cell-saver device, dialysis machine, chest drain system and negative pressure wound healing system to name a few.
From this clinical experience, I was able to identify numerous medical device shortcomings and clinical needs. While in lab, I developed and researched potential solutions to my ever-growing list of needs, and presented my medical device ideas to my laboratory advisor and lab members. After finishing my clinical shadowing, I decided to pursue a project that focuses on treating the lymphatic system for patients with congestive heart failure, and am now working on this design as a Senior Design Project. I was also able to participate in current research being performed by the BioCirc lab to develop unique features for inclusion in blood pump designs and research to develop entirely new designs of blood pumps for patients with single ventricle or biventricular circulations as a bridge-to-transplant, bridge-to-recovery, or destination therapy. I worked on impeller design and fluid dynamics testing for a blood pump to be used for patients with single ventricular physiology, and also helped build a fluid flow rig to test the performance of the blood pumps being designed in the BioCirc lab.
Myself, and two other team members are currently working on building a proof-of-concept lymphatic circulatory assist pump to be used to lessen the symptoms of congestive heart failure (CHF), and potentially as a bridge-to-transplant device. The goal of our project is to create a pump design that will resemble an implantable assist device situated within a model lymphatic flow loop test rig mimicking the native environment.
I couldn’t have asked for a more valuable Co-op experience. If you are interested in medical device development and/or a career in medicine, this is the perfect Co-op experience for you. With the help of an excellent advisor, Dr. Amy Throckmorton, I was able to network with distinguished physicians involved in exciting research, assist with hands-on laboratory research, and translate a clinical need I identified during my shadowing experience to the laboratory setting, while at the same time being compensated to learn! I highly recommend the Translational Design Clinical Immersion Co-op to all Biomed students!