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.