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      Grant Promotes Collaboration

      Biomedical Engineering and Nursing Students Participate in Interdisciplinary Training

      Research on Display

      Anita Singh, assistant professor of biomedical engineering; Shania Shaji, a biomedical engineering senior; Lauren Daly, a nursing junior; and Susan Mills, assistant professor of nursing, share research at the High Impact Practices Fair.

      Dr. Anita Singh, assistant professor of biomedical engineering, secured a $108,000 grant from the National Institute of Health (NIH) to improve multidisciplinary and interdisciplinary team-based training for students in the School of Engineering. The grant funding supports a multidisciplinary Biomedical Device Development course that includes a clinical immersion for biomedical engineering and nursing students so they can translate new devices and technologies.

      Singh believed there would be a strong benefit for engineering students to collaborate with nursing students. “Engineers often have to interact with clinicians in the real world, so why not have them do so while they are in training?” Singh asked when applying for the grant. One of the most prestigious NIH grants, this education mechanism grant is aimed at promoting an appreciation for and interest in biomedical research, providing additional training in specific areas, and/or developing ways to disseminate scientific discovery into public health and community applications.

      As part of their senior year, a mix of 30 biomedical and mechanical engineering students and seven nursing students participated in the team-based design project course this past spring. The course curriculum is based around clinically driven, open-ended problems drawn from unmet needs identified by the students while observing clinical settings including Delaware Orthopedic Surgery, Scheie Eye Institute and A.I. DuPont.

      The funded grant will now allow the students to offer improved design solutions that facilitate development of projects as part of their senior capstone. Also, during the course, once the clinical needs are identified, students will participate in two weeks of lab training in the School of Nursing’s Center for Simulation and Computerized Testing in order to better determine resolutions.

      For Sarah Townsend, who recently graduated from the School of Engineering, the opportunity to design a clinical solution was one of the most memorable experiences of her time at Widener. “Going into the clinical setting and observing actual surgeries and then using that information to think of a way to make the procedure more efficient and safe was a cool experience.” According to Townsend, it was also helpful to have the nursing students' input when they were developing their design so they could focus on patient satisfaction.

      Singh, who has taught the Biomedical Device course since joining the staff in 2015, thought the engineering students would benefit from working closely with students in the School of Nursing, so each team of engineering students was paired with a nursing student. Susan Mills, assistant professor of nursing, and Dawn Ferry, director for Center of Simulation and Computerized Testing, also supported the course from the nursing perspective.

      “The nursing students could provide feedback from the medical perspective on how the user would want to use a specific device,” Singh said.

      Nursing students also benefited from the collaboration, as they could gain a better understanding of the products they are using and to help them feel more prepared.  

      “Just before taking part in this course there were times I would see things in clinical that I thought could be improved, but I didn’t know how to approach it,” Monica McNicholas, a rising senior in the School of Nursing, said. “Though it wasn’t my expertise I saw a need and knew I could offer insight.”

      McNicolas worked on a team with Townsend developing a method to support surgery for trigger finger. “It was cool to collaborate our ideas,” she said. “At the end of the day we all want the same thing – to improve patient safety, we just each have a different thought process in getting there.”

      Each of the teams focused on the practicality of the devices they were developing, keeping the patient and health care costs in mind and also considering the impact of the market on medical devices.

      “It was a great interdisciplinary working experience for our students,” Singh said. “They were able to work with each other, to gain a better understanding of working with clinicians and users.

      The course also included lectures and trainings on responsible conduct of research, intellectual property and patenting, FDA and regulatory path and market analysis. Additional guest lectures from experts in the field offered insight into the real world product development process.

      As a result, the students presented at the High Impact Practices Fair in May. 


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