Clemson Students Take On Healthcare Problems

This summer marked the launch of a new, innovative program that will bring the needs of hospitals, clinicians, and patients to the forefront of bioengineering. At Clemson University, all bioengineering undergraduates take a senior design course, where teams of students, clinicians from the community, Clemson faculty, and corporate advisers collaborate to seek solutions to real-life problems faced in healthcare. Due to their challenging course load, however, many students face difficulty finding time during the semester for shadow interviews and clinical observation. In response, Dr. John DesJardins started the Design Fundamentals and Needs Program (DeFINE in short) to develop comprehensive problem definitions and needs statements from which future design teams will work to design, prototype and test novel biomedical devices.

“The DeFINE program offers dedicated time for students to learn and practice needs-finding fundamentals to enhance the senior design process,” said Dr. DesJardins. The combination of clinical needs-finding and technology transfer training in this program have been reviewed as “truly unique and innovative.”

So far, DeFINE has been given overwhelming support. The 2014 DeFINE students will be able to shadow over 20 clinicians in 10 clinical divisions within the Greenville Health System (GHS). Students are expected to observe and document over 100 clinical procedures.

“Many of the clinicians that are participating have served as design mentors in the past 3 years, and we hope to engage them for the 2014-2015 design cycle,” said Dr. John DesJardins. DeFINE and the NIH and NCIIA grants that fund it would not have been possible without the support of CURF and the department of surgery at GHS. Co-Investigators on these grants include Dr. Martine LaBerge, Dr. Jeremy Mercuri, Dr. Kenneth Webb and Dr. Delphine Dean. Instructors in the 2014 DeFINE program are John DesJardins, Breanne Przestrzelski, Dr. Jorge Rodrigeuz and Dr. Jeremy Mercuri.

When asked if there were any surprises, Dr. DesJardins responded, “We have an excellent group of DeFINE students this year. I have been surprised to see how innovative they are, and how they have adapted to the difficult scheduling conflicts that often arise in the clinical setting.”

The program will be continued to be offered through 2018, offering students an opportunity not only to observe, but to actively make a difference.

- Paige Urig

August 2014