Yes, you read that right. After only being in Houston for a month, I am already back in Costa Rica, though only for a short few days.
Sanjana, Chandler, and I are one of the three teams within the GMI program, which were formed based on our implementation projects that we will work on throughout the year. Sanjana is working on the MilkyWaves project, which is what brought us back to this beautiful country. Her project is focused on creating a device that will help maintain homogeneity in breastmilk for babies receiving neonatal care in various hospitals in Costa Rica. On Friday, we visited Hospital Mexico and Hospital Nacional de Niños to observe in the neonatal departments and learn more about the feeding process for the babies in their care. A lot of the babies we saw were super tiny and connected to all kinds of machines helping to support them. Talk about a heart wrenching experience. On Saturday, we hung out with Jorge and Guiselle to learn more about the project, as they were the ones that started it. It was really fun getting to catch up with them.
Chandler and I are working together for our implementation project, called TruVent. Our project is focused on creating a feedback system for clinicians learning to perform bag-valve-mask (BVM) ventilation on emergent patients requiring respiratory support. BVMs can be tricky to use, especially in the prehospital setting, because the only way a clinician can gauge the effectiveness of ventilation is based on the patient’s chest rising, implying that the lungs are being filled with air. Creating a good seal with the mask against the patient’s face is one of the biggest challenges, because every patient’s face is different and the clinician is required to hold the mask in place using two fingers, with a third finger tilting the patient’s chin up and the last two fingers pulling the jaw forward, all while squeezing the Ambubag with the other hand. Needless to say, what seems like a fairly simple skill is actually quite complex and requires some serious multitasking. Our hope is to implement our feedback system and get the product to the market by the end of this short year, and given that we are the fourth team of students to work on this project, I think our mentors and Dr. Richardson would also be pleased with that outcome.
The other big project I’m working on this semester is an innovation project within a multidisciplinary team. Ryan and I are working with three MBA students at Rice, as well as an electrophysiology fellow at Texas Heart Institute. Our goal is to develop an early detection method for retroperitoneal bleeding in patients that have had a cardiac catheterization procedure. Retroperitoneal bleeding is not largely common among these patients, but because of the vague clinical symptoms, it can easily go undetected for long periods of time and can result in death in up to 12% of patients. I am excited to be given the opportunity to work with people from various disciplines and backgrounds and to understand the different ways that people approach and solve problems, which was especially interesting during our recent brainstorming session.
In addition to our two main projects, we will also have the opportunity to do some observations and needs finding at the Texas Medical Center (TMC). Dr. Richardson has arranged for us to observe surgeries and procedures at Texas Children’s Hospital and Texas Heart Institute, as well as ride-alongs with Harris County EMS. How incredible is that? You could say I am a little bit excited.
On top of that, we are also taking a medtech seminar course, in which professionals in differing sectors of the industry come talk to us about their experiences and give us advice for our future careers. This is a really helpful course to help us learn more about the industry, to practice networking, and to aid and encourage us through the overwhelming task of job searching. It’s crazy to think that the job search is already on my radar, and even harder to believe that I’ll be moving on to that next chapter in less than a year from now. I am also taking a statistics course and biomechanics course as two of my electives this semester. The stats class has been helpful in learning new applications for MATLAB, and it has definitely helped to improve my coding skills, which is something that I had hoped to gain from this program. My biomechanics course is focused on the extracellular matrix of cells and how it relates to tissue mechanics, which is another topic that I had hoped to learn more about during my time at Rice. So basically, I’m getting everything I could have possibly hoped for out of the GMI program: needs finding experiences, innovating new solutions to clinical needs, implementing a product within the market, learning new skills, traveling to a different country, and working with some awesome people. Would you agree with me when I say that I could not have chosen a better program?
GMI has already given me some of the most incredible opportunities, and we still have 8 months to go. It’s hard to believe that we’re already a month into the semester. The time seems to fly by. In the last month, I have learned some very valuable lessons. First, time management (or behavior management, as Dr. Van Kleeck would attest) is incredibly important to success in this program and in general. One of the best (and arguably most stressful) parts about the GMI program, is that you have to set your own goals and milestones and determine the best path to take in order to reach them. With all of the different responsibilities on our plates, it’s important to manage your time well so that you can work hard and work efficiently. Given that our workload can be quite challenging, I’ve also learned the importance of making time for myself. This can be a challenge in itself, especially because we all want to go above and beyond to make sure our projects are successful. Lastly, I have tried to maintain the Pura Vida attitude and keep a positive mindset, even when I find myself getting frustrated. I’ve found that staying positive can be very beneficial when trying to juggle all of my tasks.
Outside of schoolwork, I joined a group at Rice that plays pick-up volleyball games on the weekends, which has been a lot of fun and has helped me meet some really great people. Also, Siri and I started volunteering with Houston Pets Alive, which is a dog and cat rescue group that is determined to make Houston a no-kill city. I am definitely excited to be able to get involved with the community while I’m here.
On Sunday, we’ll be back in Houston (and the extreme humidity) to get back to our normal routines. Although I haven’t quite adjusted to the weather (my dogs haven’t either!), I am looking forward to working on my projects and hopefully making some big strides before my next blog post. Until next time!