Welcome back from the holidays! I’m filled with volatile mix of emotions when I remember that I only have 3 months left of GMI, but let’s not talk about that. I want to make the most of the time I have left. We’re two weeks into the semester (minus a couple “snow” days) and I’m already busy. The structure of GMI work this semester is a bit different. For our implementation projects (Consultika, DialOasis, etc.), we’re doing one-week sprints. This basically means that one member of the team will lead a focused effort on a specific part of their project for that week and the rest of us will help. My team includes Tasha, Abby, and Siri. More on that later. So far this semester, I have started an allergy project, toured a high-tech lab, continued Consultika paperwork, gotten up to speed on Stent-X, and discovered what global health means.
Wait, an allergy project? Josh, Abby, and I started working on our design project this week. It involves detecting allergens in food. We have dubbed ourselves the Aller-Gs (please send me some other name suggestions). We are just digging into the project and so we have lots of research ahead of us before we can accurately scope the need and start designing. For example, are we focusing on one allergen, or multiple? Are we targeting children or adults? Do we want to detect the allergens in food only or in air as well? The list of questions goes on, but I am very excited about starting this project. Ironically, the day after we chose the project, I had an unidentified allergic reaction to something I ate in Chinatown (the food was worth it!). Thus I have a new understanding and passion for the project. I believe we have the opportunity to improve millions of lives through our work, which is the core reason that I’m a bioengineer.
What’s this high-tech lab you mentioned? My highlight of last week was catching a glimpse of the future of engineering design during my tour of the Center for Device Innovation (CDI) with Dr. Cohn. The CDI is an initiative by Johnson & Johnson to help quicken medical device innovation; Johnson & Johnson provides resources and workspace to innovators in order to advance medical technology. Dr. Cohn, a cardiovascular surgeon and inventor, showed me around the massive space that houses everything from machining equipment to a virtual reality room. He introduced me to designing with virtual reality which was absolutely amazing. I put on a helmet, grabbed the controllers and built carts and structures with my bare hands in a fantasyland of connectable pieces. I could feel the creativity flowing as I rapidly prototyped and tested ideas. What would have taken me days to build and test in the real world took only seconds with the help of virtual reality; then I could tweak it in a few more seconds and retest it until it worked or I switched tactics. It embodied the mantra, “fail fast, fail often.” I am certain that virtual reality will be the future of design and I can’t wait to do it again. Did I mention it was awesome?
What about Consultika? Not to worry, Consultika has not been left by the wayside; we are currently revising the paperwork before we send it to CENDEISSS (the Costa Rican governing authority) to obtain approval for our clinical trial. Unfortunately, by our latest estimates, the clinical trial will not start until April. One good thing about the paperwork is that it forces us to iron out critical details of the app, such as data security, that could be key to our future success. So Consultika continues to progress and will have its time to shine soon.
Sprints and Stent-X? Per the sprint structure of GMI, I get to work on my teammates’ projects while I wait for Consultika’s approval. Namely, I will help Tasha with her project, Stent-X, as well as Abby and Siri with DialOasis. Stent-X is a pediatric urinary stent that can be removed without anesthesia and DialOasis is a clean room for dialysis patients to receive treatment in-home. (See their blogs for more project details, DialOasis, Stent-X). This week, Tasha included us in a brainstorming meeting to design the stent removal mechanism. The full Stent-X team was there including engineers from TMCx and physicians from Texas Children’s Hospital. With such a diverse group, we generated many creative ideas. Tasha will lead our first sprint this week to prototype the most promising designs. I’m excited to gain experience working on a new project as well as help it move forward in any way I can.
What’s global health? On a related note of gaining experience and knowledge, I had the opportunity to discuss career options in global health with an alumna from Rice. Jocelyn was an engineer at 3rd Stone design who helped develop the Pumani CPAP (you can check it out HERE). She lauded the opportunities that a smaller company offers and the diverse experiences that she gained at 3rd Stone Design. Later, I spoke with Dr. Oden, a renowned Rice professor who is very influential in the global health space. She defined global health as opportunities to provide health care in a cost-effective manner to those who would otherwise go without it, to serve the underserved. Of course, this definition threw gasoline on my already-burning passion for global health. We then discussed the pros and cons of big and small companies from a global health standpoint. Currently, I’m on the fence between the two options. Her parting advice for me about beginning a career in global health was to “leave no stone unturned.” I’m excited (I realize I’ve said that a lot in this post) to see where my path of discovery in global health takes me.
Is it all work? Of course not! We took advantage of the “snow” days to play some board games and hang out. We also tried to launch the Apollo 11 spacecraft to escape the room: “epic fail” but epic fun anyway. Lastly, I took a trip back to Costa Rica over Christmas, this time for vacation. Check out my video HERE.