Clinical Peer MentorsIdentifying clinical needs and resources for the BME design program
This summer marks the second round of a new clinical peer mentor (CPM) program that offers internships to BME students interested in documenting clinical needs and resources for BME design courses.
The program is part of a series of NIH-supported enhancements to the design program. Its goal is to pick up where BME 499/Clinical Observation and Needs Finding leaves off to ensure that students in the senior design courses hit the ground running with curated, well-researched project options.
It’s also a rich experience for the peer mentors themselves, who learn to navigate the clinical environment and interact with healthcare providers to identify the kinds of clinical problems that are ripe for BME solutions.
“The clinical peer mentors start with material from the needs finding class,” says BME lecturer and CPM advisor Rachael Schmedlen. “After training in observational frameworks and U-M Health System protocols, they begin working in the various medical departments where needs were identified. They shadow providers, observe procedures, and conduct interviews. They also dig into the prior art – what solutions exist and how crowded the patent space is. From there, they determine the most promising needs and provide the background that design groups will need to begin tackling the problem. The process often leads CPMs to identify new needs, as well.”
In its first year, the program hosted two interns, BME undergraduates Ayana Dambaeva and Rodrigo Rangel (now a graduate student at the University of Southern California). One of the needs they identified – a method to help patients with multiple sclerosis improve their “key pinch” – was chosen as a project in BME 450, the semester-long senior capstone design course. The group developed a sensory-feedback device that was recently selected as a project abstract for the 2016 Biomedical Engineering Society (BMES) Annual Meeting (see photos).
Another CPM-identified need fed into the year-long senior design course – an add-on that works with smaller-profile, pediatric bronchoscopes to improve suction capability. The design students who chose it believe their solution will change the way physicians perform the procedure. They are now soliciting physician feedback to gauge their receptiveness to this new approach, solidifying intellectual property, completing a second prototype, and beginning a commercialization strategy.