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DrExcel Health Student Group Continues to Innovate Thanks to Collaboration, Health Sciences Building Resources

June 3, 2024

This spring, multidisciplinary teams of medical and biomedical engineering students from the DrExcel Health student group gathered for the annual Demo Day event to present concepts for innovative medical devices. The event took place at the Health Sciences Building, a work environment that helped the students create devices to address unmet needs in clinical practice.

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2024 DrExcel Health Demo Day

Through DrExcel Health, student teams work during the academic year to design, refine and construct devices. The student-driven, extracurricular group fosters collaboration between those with different academic backgrounds, who learn from their faculty mentors and from one another.

Celter Odango Jr., MS, MD class of 2027 and the director of external affairs for DrExcel Health, studied biotechnology prior to medical school. He joined DrExcel because of the importance of multidisciplinary collaboration.

“The medical field is not just made up of physicians, and if we want to keep improving treatment plans and patient outcomes, we have to rely on innovation and new technologies,” Odango said. “DrExcel Health provides exposure and opportunities for both engineering students and medical students to get involved in innovation.”

Across the projects, students expand their knowledge of intersecting industry fields, learn about product development, and familiarize themselves with the skills needed to bring medical technology concepts to design and market.

One project presented at 2024 Demo Day had an orthopedic focus, helping a Lancaster, Pa.-based surgeon develop a device to improve surgical repair of ankle fractures. Students worked within their team, with a faculty advisor, and with the surgeon throughout the project.

Teammates Bill Telfer, MD class of 2027, and Nathan Pentecost, a fifth-year BS/MS student in biomedical engineering, said they appreciated the opportunity to learn from peers with different skill sets than their own.

  It was rewarding to collaborate with very intelligent people who have a wholly different perspective. It opens your mind up to ideas that you would never have considered.  

“The engineering students have this whole other world of expertise they used to help us ensure the device would work correctly in a medical setting,” Telfer said. “It was rewarding to collaborate with very intelligent people who have a wholly different perspective. It opens your mind up to ideas that you would never have considered.”

This year, the teams were able to work from the Health Sciences Building, which first- and second-year MD students began calling home in fall 2024. The Health Sciences Building was not just a convenient meeting location for 2024 the teams, but also offered resources to help further their work. In addition to various co-working spaces, the building has a state-of-the-art cadaver laboratory, where the fracture-repair device team was able to test the efficacy of their product.

“The MD students really helped those of us on the engineering side, telling us what areas we would need to be concerned about in an actual surgery, and preparing the specimen for us,” Pentecost said. “I’d never worked in that lab before, and having the MD students there allowed the engineering students to deal with the aspects we know and have studied.”

The fracture-repair device team not only shared their work during Demo Day but was also chosen to participate in both a poster presentation and pitch contest during a national conference earlier in 2024.

DrExcel Health is part of Sling Health’s national incubator for medical schools’ student-run technological innovation groups. Although only one team is typically chosen to represent their project and their medical school at Sling’s annual conference, three DrExcel Health teams presented poster projects this year, with one taking home the Best Poster Award.

As one of the group’s student leaders, Odango was proud of his peers in the MD and engineering programs for broadening their perspectives, and for the innovations their projects brought forward.

“Medical innovations are the forefront of health care, in terms of diagnosing and treating patients,” Odango said. “Many problems in medicine could be solved by introducing different angles and perspectives. To see those perspectives, you need collaboration by people from different backgrounds.”