Small Stones Making a Big Splash

The one thing that I don’t like about the GMI program is that it has to come to a close. Counting down the days to May 11, to be completely transparent, inspires more dread than excitement within me, and for several reasons. The lessons, the people, the passion, the “I get out of bed every day because…” – there is family written all throughout GMI 2017-2018, and I am not ready to accept that we all have to part ways. This isn’t going to be a sad or a happy or anything in between type of blog, but one of deep appreciation for every moment I have had here in Houston, Rice, and with the GMI cohort. I’m feeling a little idiomatic today, so this should be fun. It’ll be a bit long (sorry), but let’s begin.


The Lessons

Professionally and personally, globally and locally, academically and anything not academically… I don’t think I could have foreseen all the growth I have gained since the first day we stepped onto Rice’s campus for the Costa Rica boot camp to now. I think what it ultimately boils down to is that you need to be flexible to change. Even in its third year, the beauty of GMI and how it is structured is the ability to function effectively on lack of structure. Remember… “plans never work, but planning always does.” Don’t get me wrong, though, this only worked because of all the behind-the-scenes work that Dr. Richardson and Sheretta put in every day into this program (bless their souls). However, whether it was coordinating the schedules of 10 students, or showing up to class to report on our projects, or even finding a moment to chat with Dr. Richardson, the best thing I gained was my attitude to change. As is life, being flexible and maintaining a good attitude to adverse events is the key to a program such as GMI. When things don’t work out, be proactive and find alternatives, or at least get your frustration out in a healthy manner, like knocking back a piñata.

For the good of structural integrity

If you want an idea of the technical education that I got throughout the year, just read the previous blogs. If you want a list, here’s one for you: ethnography, needs finding, root cause analysis, failure modes and effect analysis, regulatory strategies, FDA device classification, 510k, PMA, clinical trial design, AutoCAD, design for manufacture, IRB approval, spirit cheese, fidelity prototyping, sprint methodology, biodesign, verification and validation, business models, series funding, paradigm shifts…

I’ll spare you and stop here, but you get the point. I bet you didn’t even read the whole list, and I bet you didn’t notice I put spirit cheese in there (which I did learn about from Anna). To my point, I didn’t learn how to study or how to be efficient because that was covered in my undergraduate education. Here, I learned to be a team player, a leader, a bioengineer, a globally-aware member of society. Above all, I learned to be an innovator.

Innovation did not start in the classroom

“Developing medical devices for emerging global markets” is the motto of GMI. Don’t forget it. The world is vast, it is expansive, it is unknown by many of us who simply know where it is on a map. In a vast world, there are a vast number of people, with a vast number of perspectives, with a vast number of needs. Part of the GMI vision is to understand the needs of the consumer and to build a solution that addresses the need. This model stands for most medical innovation today, but it is especially true in global markets where our cultures and customs do not mean the same thing. Be explorative. Engage with these people and you’ll realize your mental model of their needs is significantly different from the reality. It’s why I will appreciate each day I spent in Costa Rica and why I will continue to embrace every new experience and place I venture to in the future.

I’ve only highlighted a few of the lessons I learned, but may this serve as motivation to see the growth that can come from a program like GMI. Also, one last lesson. Take breaks.

Work out

Twerk out


The People

I think our entire group had a laugh when Dr. Richardson described our GMI cohort as a “jovial bunch.” It’s true. We’re a perfect storm, really.

I could write for hours and shower you with experiences of every person who has made my experience in Houston simply surreal, but I won’t. I just want these people to know who they are and what they mean to me:

  • Ryan – A true intellect and scholar, he challenged me to think beyond my comfort zone in all aspects of my life: professionally, religiously, personally. It takes an army to do that, but he did it all on his own.
  • Abby – GMI wouldn’t be what it is if it were easy. I struggled, but Abby was there to remind me that there are greener pastures on the other end. There are a few people that I rely on to understand and guide me through difficult waters (cough cough mind maps), and she is one of them.
  • Anna – She could sell me the dirt between the soles of my shoes, but not because she’s a relentless businesswoman, but because she makes you feel cool, comfortable and confident. Must be a Nebraska thing. It’s unique, it’s inspiring, and I honestly wouldn’t be surprised to see her on a “30 under 30” magazine cover in 5 years.
  • Callie – There is a golden rule somewhere on how we should treat people, yet Callie sets the bar even higher than that. She is equally as adventurous as she is hard-working for the betterment of everyone. Where would our family be without the mother to keep it all together?
  • Karlee – Being on one project with me is a chore, but two projects?! No one in their right mind would do that, but that’s okay because she balances discipline alongside her caring demeanor. She kept me in check, worked past every one of our project setbacks, and motivated me to elevate my professionalism to the next level.
  • Tasha – We initially connected as friends because of our Californian mannerisms, but we’ve since built a relationship that means more to me than even she may realize. She gave me perspective where I had none and offered clarity when life threw me curveballs, all while reminding me that a smile can make any situation better.
  • Siri – No one is more genuine than this girl – honestly just a happy person seeing the best in people like myself without judgment. It’s a darn shame she didn’t come to Costa Rica because that’s three months that I missed out on learning from an amazing person.
  • Josh – I thought I made progress when I got him to speak above 10 decibels, but he was secretly just making me be a better listener. He’s a baller. He’s my friend. The Harden to my CP3, if you will. MVP.

Catch us on “As seen on TV” with our newest product, the versatowel.

  • Sanjana – Gosh. Is there a better person to have your back in any situation other than Sanjana? I can’t count the number of times that her presence made all the difference to me (on the court, in the OEDK, at the club), and anyone should consider themselves lucky to be around her. Despite her immaculate tardiness, once she is engaged, she will put in the hours into anything she sets her mind to.
  • Dr. Richardson – Finding a mentor seems like a taboo subject these days, but I will never find anyone who I aspire to be like more than him. Honestly it’s an injustice to only write a couple sentences about him because he truly represents a paradigm of humility, ethics, and success. Duke is lucky to have him.
  • Sheretta – She deserves every bit of recognition for the success of the program as anyone else – the operator behind the curtain, Sheretta makes the impossible into a daily task, all before 3PM.
  • Daniel – I wouldn’t be roommates with any other person in Houston. We have seen our fair share of roommate conflicts, like our inability to do dishes regularly, but our conversations until one in the morning are second-to-none. I model my self-confidence from him.
  • Nolan – A charismatic Oregon-born leader who is a better version of myself. I can’t even imagine how my year would have turned out without having a stud like Nolan to refer to when I needed someone.
  • Doug – The Houston native and Rochester brother who made Houston a second home for me. My love for exploring, especially Houston coffee shops, is due to this man.

Look up mutton bustin – you will not be disappointed

The Passion

Find what you love to do and you’ll never work a day in your life. I disagree. Find what you love to do, and work your gosh darn hardest every day to inspire those around you. Draw inspiration from your peers, friends, family, and make a difference in every way possible.

You will find no other group that gives you the tools to pursue your passion like GMI does. There is an energy about being in this program that has motivated me to be the best engineer that I can. I think it is because we can draw motivation from one another, knowing that there is always someone ready to lend a helping hand. The world is a huge, and we are just small stones looking to make a splash in a large ocean. But no matter how big or how small we think our work is, the ripples say it all.

The “I get out of bed every day because…”

I get out of bed everyday because of these people (despite sweltering humidity, hurricanes, impractical use of BRC750, etc.)…

Some call us a clan, I call us a crew with our industry-veteraned leader.

Anyways…in no way is this a good bye, because I’m sure I’ll plan a one-year reunion with the GMI crew a few days after we graduate. I’m not really good at good byes, so let me close out like I did on my first blog back in May 2017…

Pura vida mis amigos.


P.S. Here are some photos from our ever elusive Sanjana’s camera that I would just like to share with the world.

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