It was surreal to be back in Costa Rica at the end of September. Tasha, Abby, Siri, Dr. Richardson, and I visited Guanacaste for four short days and it was like traveling back in time to last summer. Many memories resurfaced as we again brainstormed with Invenio about DialOasis designs, again visited the dialysis unit in the Liberia hospital, and again ate the daily specials at Subway.
Since our team has two Costa Rican projects, DialOasis and Consultika, we focused on building relationships and establishing foundations for those projects. Although it was wonderful to see our friends at Invenio again (where we built DialOasis), I enjoyed the new aspects of the trip more. My main goal for our visit was to obtain feedback on the partially-functional Consultika app. Consultika will replace the current use of WhatsApp for diagnosing patients at a distance as a more secure way of transmitting patient data.
During our stay, I was able to interview two gynecologists and two dialysis doctors about the app. I was glad to meet Diego, a gynecologist who will be one of my main contacts for the app, and enjoyed visiting the clinic where he works. All four doctors had great ideas that will help me to improve the app. After all, I am designing this app for them, so it should be what they want and need. I am eager to implement the changes and begin moving forward in our plans for clinical trials of the app.
My other big project, the heart biopsy device, is also moving forward. I have greatly enjoyed working with MBA students on this as they add diverse perspectives, ideas, and expertise. For example, when I was caught up in making a fully-functioning prototype, out of bungie cords and a plastic flute I should add, Samir (an MBA student) created a mostly-functioning prototype out of pipe cleaners and a clamp. I, the mechanical engineer, had been outdone by an MBA. I loved it! It is a pleasure to work with you both, Samir and Kimi, and I can’t wait to see where our device takes us.
Overall, I’m settling into a rhythm here at Rice: class, homework and projects, sleep, repeat. I’m learning so much, including how to have a stage presence when I present, how to navigate the FDA to get a medical device to market, and how much work it actually takes to innovate. In the midst of helping my senior design team, working on Consultika and our heart biopsy project, and completing other classwork, it’s hard to relax. But I’m learning how to maintain a balance, and my friends are helping. We played GMI basketball one day, Chandler had us over for a cookout, and I joined the powderpuff flag football team. I found a church to get involved with here and a campus organization called Bridges International where I’ve met many international students and compared our cultures. Looking back on what I’ve learned and experienced these last two months of school, I’m excited to continue my current trajectory for the next seven months. Bring it on!