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MedTech Innovation Course

Bring clinicians and tech entrepreneurs together with engineering senior design students to collaboratively solve a real-world challenge.

Photo of Jawad Ali

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This course model was created as a way to meet the needs of three parties. The first was myself, a general surgery resident who wanted to be involved in the med-tech start up industry as well as with the University of Texas at Austin (UT). The second was a start up company, Alafair Biosciences, that needed engineering expertise and prototyping resources to develop a surgical instrument. The third was the UT biomedical engineering students that wanted a challenging real-world problem to solve as well as mentorship. They had mentorship from professors but the clinical side and business side were difficult to access. 

In essence, the MedTech Innovation Course allowed the clinician (myself) to partner with Alafair and co-sponsor a senior design team. We found that each party was uniquely positioned to benefit from and assist the other two. 

The clinician needs in-roads to academia and industry on a relatively flexible schedule and does not want to give up their job/practice or relocate. He/she offers clinical insight and access to hospital and outpatient resources as well as an opportunity to get feedback from end-users such as patients, nurses, or surgical technicians.

The business, often a start-up, has a tight budget and needs help with design/engineering concepts as well as access to resources such as prototyping or testing equipment. They have an actual design problem that they know intimately and awareness of the business aspect and market factors. 

The students have time to spend and access to faculty members as well as university resources. They are looking for an experience that prepares them for the collaborative, multifaceted environment they will be entering shortly. Many are considering medical school and also want to know more about the clinical aspect. Importantly, this gives them access to a large network in the tech and medical fields that they can draw on in the future. 

We conducted this model within the senior design course twice, first with Alafair to design a laparoscopic liquid delivery tool that was used in animal testing and second with Patient IO to design mobile care plans for patients with gastroesophageal reflux as well as a unique survey and clinical trial. Our experience taught us many lessons and solidified our belief that this model works and can be replicated for various design problems. 

Who is your idea designed for and how does it reimagine higher education to support the needs of tomorrow?

Senior biomedical engineering students would take the MedTech Innovation Course in which a clinician partners with a start-up company as co-sponsors. Differences when compared to a traditional senior design course include: - Collaborative, peer dynamic between the three parties - Goal of practically solving an actual problem - Emphasis on mentorship - Opportunity for continued work after course ends

This idea emerged from:

  • A group brainstorm

What skills, input or guidance from the OpenIDEO community would be most helpful in building out or refining your idea?

Input from university professors in engineering on why or why not they think such a model would be successful and ways to refine/improve it. Thoughts from med-tech companies/professionals on the feasibility of their participation in such a course. From clinicians, is it worth it to you to spend this time without any specified monetary return? I know many physicians are looking for non-clinical avenues and this was a great one for me. Any feedback is welcome!

What early, lightweight experiment might you try out in your own community to find out if the idea will meet your expectations?

We tried the model with in the senior design course twice at the University at Austin and would love to have it be an official course offering. This would give us more room for specific assignments, dates, student selection, etc.

Tell us about your work experience:

I finished my general surgery residency at the University of Texas at Austin and am now doing a Minimally Invasive and Bariatric Surgery fellowship at the University of California at Davis. I have worked with several medical start-up companies and am particularly interested in mobile healthcare applications at the moment. I have a degree in Biomedical Engineering from Texas A&M.
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Attachments (2)

Final BMES MTIC 2 submission.doc

Abstract of this model including the premise, basic course description, and our experience conducting it within the University of Texas - Austin biomedical engineering senior design course. PowerPoint presentation given at the 2016 Biomedical Engineering Society Annual Conference is attached separately (below).

BMES 2016 MTIC 2 ppt.pptx

Presentation of this course given at the 2016 Biomedical Engineering Society Annual Conference in Minneapolis. Goes over the basic premise as well as our experience conducting this model within the University of Texas - Austin senior design course. Notes below each slide give further explanation.


Join the conversation:

Photo of Kate Rushton

Hi Jawad,

Thank you for sharing your Medtech Innovation Course. I really like the fact that you have involved all stakeholders: clinicians, patients, the medtech startup company etc. Did any of the students end up working for this startup or similar startups in the medical device sector post-graduation?

I am going to tag a few people that are clinicians, engineering students, and engineering lecturers who are members of the OpenIDEO community Tyler Hughes Bettina Fliegel Ahmed Lucy Guerra, MD, MPH 

Photo of Kate Rushton

Hopefully, they will get back to you with feedback.

There are a few medical engineering courses in the Open Syllabus Project - - I wonder if these Universities would be receptive to a course like this one.

Photo of Jawad Ali

Thanks Kate! One person was connected to a job in the medtech sector through a connection with the startup company. Several went on to medical school or graduate school and others took jobs with larger companies. We did have connections to larger companies, like Medtronic, too.

Happy to hear any feedback!

Photo of Bettina Fliegel

Hi Jawad.
Thanks for sharing your Idea and experiences with this project here. If this course was offered regularly at the university would the tech partner remain the same? Was your role as a mentor? Was the hospital you were employed at a partner as well? Are there regulations regarding product development as an outcome of the course? Looking forward to learning more.

This multidisciplinary program in the UK might interest you.
It consists of a team of designers, clinicians, engineers and developers embedded in a UK hospital.

Photo of Jawad Ali

Hi Bettina,

Thanks for reaching out!

The tech partner would not have to remain the same, ideally would be different. One area of growth would be for a tech partner to sponsor a course and then continue to work on the project after the end of the semester with the clinician and any of the students that were interested. Other companies could then sponsor new groups and continue to spin off projects. Also there could be multiple projects at a time or multiple interested parties "speed-dating" to find the right clinical and student team partners.

My role was as a co-sponsor for the design project but I envision the MedTech Innovation Course as having a strong mentorship component and so attempted to play that role as much as I could. Around one third of biomedical engineering graduates go to medical school so I felt like I was a good resource for them.

We partnered with a surgeon at a separate hospital for the second course, the hospital itself was not a partner. For the first course the hospital was not involved.

As far as regulations, it would be the same for any other product. The university did not have any other rules or claim any of the intellectual property etc. which made it very conducive for outside partners. The IP details vary widely and ideally would be decided up-front by each group before starting if it was offered outside of the senior design course.

The helix centre seems very much on-point. I think there's a difference between approaching problems from a design perspective than from a business or even a clinical perspective. I will reach out to them!

I'm finishing up the manuscript and hope to have it submitted in a few weeks. Thanks for your support and I welcome any collaboration or more discussion!

Photo of Jawad Ali

Hi Kate Rushton  ...Thanks for helping connect me with a lot of useful collaborators! Michael O'Sullivan  Bettina Fliegel Andrea Zelenak  Robert Smith  Brian LaDuca  Looking forward to making more progress on our ideas.

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