El Final

Time has finally  come for my final blog post.

I am having a hard time thinking on how to close my experience here at Rice, in the GMI program, mostly because I feel like I am about to begin the real part, where we apply what we have learned the last year; the feeling of genesis outweighs the closure that augurs graduation and the end of a wonderful time.

The Global Medical Innovation program has delivered on all the promises it makes when I first began. This program is for those who want to learn how to make a true difference, through creativity and professional practice, in the intersectional field of health, engineering and innovation. While I did have a clear vision on what this meant, it is not until these past few weeks that I understand the implications of being an MBE in the Global Medical Innovation track. Yes, it does enable you to proficiently develop medical devices in whatever company you end up working for, but it is so much more than that: it enables you to understand where true needs and potential solutions lie, solutions that can make a difference in people’s lives.

It is no secret that I come from a small nation in Central America. Perhaps my personal background is not as impactful (coming from a private international school and having traveled outside my country many times before), but I am still very aware of the difference in opportunity that many of my people have to endure. This is just my country, I can’t imagine the many other needs that other nations are suffering through right now. GMI has empowered me to understand that I can make a difference for these people worldwide. No matter how small the project, the impact will always follow a butterfly effect as long as you are passionate and disciplined in your professional practice. Bioengineering is not only about top of the line stem cell research, or nanotechnology, or unattainable and hardly reimbursable devices. It is also about enabling quality of life, optimizing systems and helping those most in need.

A good balance of high-end research and down-to-earth reasoning is the key to GMI. Rather than spend all our time in a lab,  in a design studio or in front of a workstation, we must also go out and talk to our stakeholders. We must engage with the patients, and empathize with them in order to truly understand what they need and how we can help. We also spend time with clinicians and regulators, trying to understand what the best pathway is to fulfilling and matching their needs with what the patients are asking for. This process is very humanizing; we are not working with petri-dishes, lines of code or CAD drawings – those are just tools and support. We are working with people and for people! This is perhaps the aspect I have most enjoyed and learned about in the past year. The GMI program not only looks good on your resume, it not only raises your salary expectation… it allows you to understand the true potential of bioengineering as means of impactful change.

Among the many people I have had the pleasure of working with, Dr. Richardson stands out without a doubt. His perseverance and dedication to the program are the cornerstones of its success. While much of the faculty here at Rice stand out in each of their respective fields, under his guidance there is the added value of his understanding of what an altruistic endeavor is. Of course this adds to his vast technical model along with his expertise in bringing innovations to market, but that spark of empathy always ignites our real potential as students. I can only hope to one day return the favor of his teachings somehow.

The other pilar of my learning in the program has been none other than my team: Erica, Jeannette and Michael. I owe them countless hours of brilliant teamwork, healthy discussions and mutual support throughout the year. I could not have asked for a better team – I hope we can all stay in touch and perhaps one day we will cross paths again. We have proven our value as a team and it is somewhat unfair to the world that we must soon disband and part ways, but I am sure we are capable of accomplishing our separate goals for a broader impact in society. As an outsider from a nation they had the opportunity to live in for a few months, I deeply thank them for their hospitality here in America, despite them not being from Houston they have always and continue to be kind enough to make me feel like I am in my second home.

As I come to a close, words are scarce when thanking so many people throughout the program. Sheretta, of course, is one of the trophy bearers here – thank you so much for all your support! The OISS – led by Dr. Adria Baker – has also done an outstanding job in supporting many international students like myself throughout our stay in Rice. To the rest of the faculty and supporting staff at Rice, I can only say thank you and hopefully see you sooner than later.

Now all that is left is to give our final design review presentation, graduate and move back home. As I said at the start of this post, this feels more like the beginning than the end – if all goes well, I am sure the cycle starts once more in June where it all started: in Costa Rica!



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