Student Profile: Julie Speer
BS Student, Biomaterials and Tissue Engineering Concentration
Advisors: Dr. Kenneth Barbee, School of Biomedical Engineering, Science and Health Systems, and Dr. Vinay Nadkarni, Children's Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP)
The translational design and clinical immersion program was designed to be an intensive process of observing, designing, and learning. Actively engaging in clinical settings provided an opportunity to further develop an understanding of normal and abnormal physiology, the attributes of successful (and unsuccessful) devices, and direct insight into unmet needs that currently exist in the clinic. This co-op was not the first design process I had undertaken, in fact design components are built into almost every course in the School of Biomedical Engineering's undergraduate curriculum. In those classes, however, a problem was selected while sitting at a desk, rather than through observations or testimonials. The difference between the two, is ultimately that without directly seeing the problem in action, the device is designed to perceived needs rather than the reality.
Each afternoon I would e-mail my clinical advisor (Dr. Nadkarni, Children's Hospital of Philadelphia) 3 ideas for design projects based on what I had seen that morning in clinic. Within months I had observed in over 10 clinical units and had established a list of over 100 design concepts. Dr. Nadkarni provided feedback on each idea, and would suggest people to contact about that topic or issue. Because of his feedback, it was possible to meet, collaborate, and network with clinicians or researchers who provided additional advice and insight. I had the opportunity to attend a variety of sessions on the topics of marketability and de-risking of devices which provided insight into that later phases of a design process (this is rarely discussed in undergraduate classes) and provided a glimpse into the business and regulatory aspects of engineering. I also travelled to Boston in order to attend the Massachusetts Medical Society's conference on Global Health. There I heard about challenges facing doctors around the globe and got a glimpse into some of the fantastic work that clinicians, engineers, and scientists are doing to design more mindfully.
This program facilitated personal, professional, and academic development and served as a wonderful way to introduce me to the world of translational design and clinical engineering. In addition to illuminating unmet needs, the clinical immersion segment of this co-op proved to be an opportunity to develop a more complete understanding of the factors that affect clinical decision making, challenges facing the medical community, patients, and families, as well as the errors that can be made by engineers when they do not correctly understand how device will be used once they are implemented. The opportunity to meet with countless engineers, clinicians, researchers, and entrepreneurs provided much inspiration for my future work including my senior design project and undoubtedly will shape how I tackle engineering challenges in the future.
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