There and Back Again: A Student’s Tale

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.

Getting feedback on Consultika from Dr. Espinosa in Costa Rica.

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.

Two hours of relaxation at the beach before we began our work in Costa Rica.

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.

A speaker at JLabs in Houston helped us understand the FDA process for pediatrics.

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!

Deep conversations at Bridges International

Posted in Callie | Leave a comment

Fall 1: New Challenges

The fall semester is underway! Now that we are no longer in Costa Rica, I plan to update this blog every month with experiences and challenges from my coursework.

Unprecedented flooding caused by Hurricane Harvey

Classes started toward the end of August, but just as we were starting to get up to speed, Hurricane Harvey hit Houston. Luckily, neither I nor any of the other students in the GMI program suffered any damages during the storm, but with all the damage that was done to the community, classes were canceled for a week. That week off gave those of us still in town the opportunity to serve the community through various volunteering efforts. It was impactful to see the community pull together in a time of crisis, and I’m glad to have been a part of it, even as a newcomer to Houston.

One of the biggest challenges getting started this semester has been getting up to speed on my implementation project, PalliAssist. In essence, PalliAssist is a software system that facilitates communication between palliative care providers and their patients. It was designed last year by a senior design team for a cancer hospital in Barretos, Brazil, and my goal is to start taking the appropriate steps to enable the hospital to start using it. Currently, there are about 5 changes that have been requested by the project’s sponsor in Brazil that are to be made before a preliminary clinical trial in mid-October. Almost all of the requested improvements are in the app portion of the software system, which is where I have been working.

Before this project, the only programming language I had experience in was Matlab, which is very different than the Java and XML that I have been learning for this app. At first, the project seemed like a mountain of problems, and I didn’t know where to start.

Debugging PalliAssist

This was a source of anxiety for me; I am used to only being expected to work on things I feel relatively prepared to do. Nevertheless, once I sat down started thinking methodically, I was able to form a plan and start executing it. Once I was able to make a plan, giving the project some structure, it alleviated a lot of my uncertainty with the project. I know that being able to deal with ambiguity is a skill that will serve me well in my career, so I’m excited to have this experience moving forward.

 

I’ve also noticed through this project that I tend to want to be heavily managed when I’m working on something with which I am not familiar. I’m used to managing myself through projects and classes where I generally know what to do, but with increased uncertainty, I quickly revert to seeking instruction rather than planning my own way. This is a skill I am hoping to grow in this semester. While it would be unwise not to seek any direction when I am doing something new, I think I can form and execute my plans more independently than my current tendency. If I am able to become more independent, I won’t require as much time from my manager, freeing him or her to be more productive.

The organized chaos of solution generation for detecting retroperitoneal hemorrhage

Another exciting project I will be working on this semester is focused more on the front end of design. Essentially, I have been placed on a team to generate a solution to detecting retroperitoneal hemorrhages that could be used to start a successful business. A unique aspect about this project is that some of our teammates are Rice MBA students, all of whom have at least some work experience. I am looking forward to working alongside these MBA students because of the different perspectives they bring to the table.

The next month has a lot in store! We will be starting our observation rotations, and I will be traveling to Brazil. Read my next blog to find out what I will learn from those experiences.

Posted in Ryan | Leave a comment

Don’t Stop Validating

It seems like a lifetime since my last blog post, and due in part to travel, project development, and still getting acquainted with Houston humidity, I would say so. I had originally planned classes around two days of the week, but somehow I spend 40 hours on campus per week working on projects or conducting meetings. In short…

“Plans never work, but planning always does.”  – Eric Richardson

It has been hectic, but it’s been exciting! Working in a project-based Master’s program sheds some light into the professional world, where defining the scope of a need will affect the outcome of the project. It is never clearly defined in the beginning, but thorough investigation can certainly narrow it down. As I have mentioned before, I am working on two separate projects: an implementation project with bag valve masks (Truvent) and an innovation project with 911 activation services (ActivAtED). Despite being lengths apart along the project growth timeline, they both share one common similarity: validating the need.

On one end, Truvent has gone through extensive product development and even through a clinical trial, but our biggest challenge has been identifying our freedom to operate (FTO). Despite our novel concept, we utilize certain technologies that have been previously patented, which may restrict our ability to market our product. In that sense, we have gone back to the original need in order to identify what target market we can aim for as well as how we can address the need in an alternative manner. With some new ideas in the books, Karlee and I are excited to begin developing these ideas into reality this upcoming month.

A quick outline of market segments to identify our path

On the other end, ActivAtED was originally scoped to activate proper basic life support (BLS) services for a person suffering from sudden cardiac arrest (SCA). Though tough in its own regard, several companies and applications have taken stabs at improving this system, to no avail. Only recently did we have a chance to sit down one-on-one with a key opinion leader in Emergency Medicine, Dr. Michael Gonzalez, who outlined some of the key issues within the 911 response system, where we identified an issue greater than our original need. In other words, a solution to this bigger issue would not only address the problem brought to us, but to a variety of other problems within the current system. Constantly redefining the need has been crucial for the integrity of this project, and we believe that with this newfound understanding, our solution can make an even more realistic impact than we imagined.

Low Fidelity Prototyping of an Idea

In addition to our work at Rice, Karlee, Sanjana, and I traveled back to Costa Rica for a few days to help validate Sanjana’s implementation project: Milky Waves. With the two full days we had in Costa Rica, we interviewed several physicians and observed the neonatal department at Hospital Mexico to understand some of the greater needs in the NICU department. Milky Waves addresses a big problem surrounding breast milk – when put into bags, the fat separates from the milk and is not effectively delivered to the baby, prolonging the weight gain that is crucial for neonatal development. This project really tugs at the heart strings, and I am excited to help in any capacity to get this product out to Costa Rican hospitals to improve the delivery of breast milk fat to neonates.

Tugging at heart strings in Costa Rica

But all work and no play makes Chandler a dull boy (right?). Despite our hectic lives, we still manage to find time to destress together. Whether it’s a light pickup game of basketball at the rec, or grilling by the pool of my apartment (which is when I got my first noise complaint, so definitely toning it down in the future), or grabbing dinner at Rice Village, it’s great to see everyone outside of a work environment. A previous GMI student stressed (no pun intended) the importance of taking personal time every week, and I see his point – all work won’t kill you, but personal health is always a priority also.

GMI and Sports

So, just like the ways of Costa Rica, Pura Vida mis amigos.

Posted in Chandler | Leave a comment

Preparing for Brazil and the Month of October

It’s been two weeks since my last blog post, and I wanted to update everyone on what I’ve been doing, and what I plan to do for the next month of October!

I’ve been developing an app that can help organize and transfer data from patients and nurses to dermatologists that are geographically disconnected. This app will affect people who can’t travel all the way to Brazil’s premier Barretos Cancer Hospital for a diagnosis of skin cancer. Last year, the previous GMI student got some feedback from nurses and dermatologists in Brazil about the app. They requested 3 things:

  • Improved security of patient info, photos, and data transfer
  • Automatic email notification to dermatologists when a patient survey for diagnosis is ready
  • Improved statistics of patient-generated data

I’ve steadily learned about the app and how to edit the REDCap platform. No previous coding or editing experience is needed to edit REDCap, the platform is pretty user friendly! I’ve successfully added some features that I believe will improve the security of patient information and data transfer. For example, a nurse can only input patient information on the app, but cannot edit the dermatologist’s diagnosis. I’ve also been creating more uniform ways of data input so more statistics can be performed. So far, dermatologists can see the statistics of patients’ ages, home state, number of questionable lesions, and type of skin cancer diagnosis (benign, malignant, or unclear). The only trouble I’ve been having is the automatic email notification- this has proved easier said than done!

I plan to have these issues resolved and the app crystal clear for use when I travel to Brazil on October 15. My goal is to observe how nurses learn and use the app, and how dermatologists send diagnostic info back to the nurse through the app. User feedback is incredibly important, and drives the direction of my project. I’m very excited to hear what the nurses and dermatologists at the Barretos Cancer Hospital have to say!

Aside from working on my implementation project, I’ve enjoyed taking a few breaks and having fun with some GMI friends. Yesterday, I did something I hadn’t done since middle school gym class- I played basketball! I scored 5 times, which is 5 times more than I expected. It was a great end to a busy week, and I’m looking forward to all the events (Brazil trip, BMES conference in Phoenix, and SWE conference in Austin) planned for October!

Posted in Anna | Leave a comment

Taste of Costa Rica

I finally got my first taste of Costa Rica, both literally and figuratively. Last Sunday, my implementation team (Siri, Callie, Tasha, and me) along with Dr. Richardson traveled down to Liberia to gather information for our projects. It was a short trip as we were only there four days, but we got a lot done!

Chilling at the beautiful Invenio campus

The trip was extremely important for Siri and me because we hadn’t actually seen the most recent version of the DialOasis prototype (version 2.0), which is located at Invenio where our fellow “GMIers” constructed it this past summer. We also got to meet our collaborators both at Invenio and the local Liberia Hospital. These meetings were extremely insightful and the information gathered is helping us shape both our design and business plans for the project moving forward. We now have at least a rough timeline of tasks that need to be completed before we start clinical trials (hopefully in March or so) and have a better idea of how Invenio can help us manufacture the “cuartitos” (literally “little rooms,” what they call our DialOasis prototypes down there). The only catch is that Invenio would need Siri and me to send them a final design for the next iteration of the prototype before November if we want to have it rolled out by February. This is definitely a tight timeline and we may have to push it back.

Playa Hermosa on Sunday

Like I said, our meetings with our collaborators were very productive and it was great to finally put faces to all the names Siri and I had heard. While it was a lot of work down in Costa Rica, it was also a lot of fun. Since we arrived on Sunday afternoon when most everything is closed, we went to the beach, which I guess could be considered a rite of passage while in Costa Rica. However, I would definitely say the real initiation came with the food we ate. Every breakfast we had gallo pinto. I also tried Casado and salsa Lizano (sort of like Worcestershire sauce). To get the total experience we bought coconut water off the side of the road as well as these delicious fruits called Mamón Chino (Rambutan) which are sort of like lychee.

Last but not least we had to get Subway while in Costa Rica. It’s a tradition that our GMI cohort started this past summer. They went so often that they even had the sub of the day rotational menu memorized. Since Siri and I were the only two not in Costa Rica over the summer, we had to go. I am happy to say that we did get Subway (twice) and that I have proof below (see picture). We are now fully initiated into this year’s GMI cohort.

“Subway Initiation”

Posted in Abby | Leave a comment

Back to Rice!

This first month back at Rice has been challenging, rewarding, and full of surprises. Being back at Rice as a graduate student has been quite an adjustment, but I think I am finally getting the hang of things. Implementation projects, design projects, and coursework have kept us busy, but I’m enjoying every minute of it!

At the end of the summer, each GMI student was assigned to an implementation project. These projects are continuations from the work of previous GMI students and collaborators. Our job is to take these projects from the design stage to clinical trials, business models, and actually getting them to patients. The implementation project that I am working on this year is MilkyWaves. MilkyWaves is a low-cost device designed for patients in the NICU. When babies are born prematurely, they often receive enteral feeding, which is feeding through a tube in the stomach. For these patients, nutrition is critical, as they must gain weight in order to stabilize or receive a surgery or treatment that they need. Mothers express breast milk which is then fed to the baby through the tube. However, a huge problem that often arises is separation of the fat from the cream. Due to the very slow flow rate of pumping, the fat can get stuck in the bag and stick to the walls of the tubing. Only about half of the fat from the milk actually makes it to the baby, which can have a huge effect on the baby’s outcome. For this reason, there is a real need to improve fat delivery during enteral feeding.

Last year, two of our collaborators from Costa Rica, Jorge and Guiselle, worked on this project. They worked with the Hospital Nacional de Niños in San Jose, Costa Rica to design and create a device that helps prevent fat separation and sticking to the tubes. Now, my goal is to work with them to prepare this device for clinical trials and develop a business plan to get these devices into hospitals.

This past weekend, I had the opportunity to travel to Costa Rica and see the NICUs first hand, as well as work with Jorge and Guiselle on determining a plan of action. On Friday morning, Karlee, Chandler and I visited Hospital México, where we had the opportunity to interview the head of their neonatology department and visit the NICU. This was a very valuable experience because a lot of what we heard from the doctors here aligned with our research and validated our need. In the afternoon, we got to visit Hospital Nacional de Niños and speak with a nurse who has worked there for over 20 years. She shared a lot of her insights into the problem, and we learned a lot about the feeding process. Though our trip was incredibly short, it was extremely valuable. Getting the opportunity to see these issues firsthand and work with Jorge and Guiselle gave me new ideas for the direction I can take this project this year, and I’m looking forward to getting the ball rolling!

Aside from MilkyWaves, this first month of school has been jam-packed with other things to do. We are currently in a design course with MBA students from the Jones Graduate School of Business at Rice and cardiology fellows from Baylor College of Medicine. In this course, each team has been given a need, which the fellows found and scoped for the purposes of this class. Our job is to work to design a solution and business plan.

Siri and I are on a team along with two MBA students, a public health PhD student, and a cardiology fellow. We are working to design a device that can detect exacerbation in COPD patients in order to minimize the frequency of their hospital stays. Working on this interdisciplinary team has been a really constructive experience. Each member brings a different skill set and point-of-view to the team, and we have been able to utilize these different tools throughout every step of the process. I have really enjoyed working on this project thus far, and am excited to see where the semester takes us.

Outside of school, this has also been a crazy month to be in Houston. As a native Houstonian, seeing the destruction that Hurricane Harvey inflicted upon my community was sobering. I have never seen flooding and destruction in Houston to the degree that I have seen over the past few weeks. My family and I were very lucky to escape any damage to our health or home, but so many of our friends and neighbors were not as lucky. Though this month has been disheartening in so many ways, it was incredible to see the community unite and work to rebuild and help those in need. I had the opportunity to work with some families to move and restore their homes. Though this was just a drop in the bucket compared to the immense outpouring of support seen throughout Houston, Texas, and the United States, it opened my eyes to the resilience of my community and the strength of our spirit.

All in all, this first month back at Rice has exceeded my expectations in every way. The next few months are bound to be just as exciting, and I’m thrilled for what is to come!

Posted in Sanjana, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

My Houstonian Welcome Party

My Houstonian Welcome Party has been filled with humidity, Hurricane Harvey, and healthcare innovation- not to say the three are interconnected but they surely have been the theme of my first month here at Rice. Each unique in its effect and each with its own lesson to teach.

  • Humidity– AC is your best friend in Houston and you’re better off avoiding extended periods of time in the outdoors from the hours of 10am-4pm; however, we manage. I have simply learned to embrace it.
  • Hurricane Harvey– Merely a few days before Hurricane Harvey, some of my fellow colleagues waved off the looming threat of this storm until it actually arrived and sought devastation on the fourth largest city in the country. School was delayed for an entire week, and motivation levels were low, especially when there was no light at the end of the tunnel as to when we could leave our homes, or better yet – when we could walk in the streets that had flooded. I was really impressed with the aftermath of the storm in the camaraderie throughout the entire city from fellow Houston residents and Texan residents alike.

    The street outside my apartment during Hurricane Harvey.

  • Healthcare Innovation– With three projects concurrently rolling, every day I am constantly working or interacting with some aspect of them. Each project targets a different part of the product development process- the front end, back end, and even mentoring a Senior Design team. I will delve more down below!

I must say, graduate school is amazing. Yes it will challenge you, push you to your limits, and consume most of your time but it will make you grow immensely especially in the field you are most passionate about. I am taking five classes total, two of which are electives. The other three are GMI courses, where we work on our design and implementation projects or accelerating our job searches. My design project is embedded in a GMI course called Healthcare Innovation and Entrepreneurship class, a multidisciplinary class that has a mix of GMI students, MBA students, and cardiovascular doctor fellows working on scoped needs in the area of Cardiology. My team’s focus is on the need to detect endothelialization within stented arteries to minimize drug administration and restenosis. Throughout our development of our project, we have brainstormed several concepts, analyzed our market size, identified potential reimbursement codes, and developed a business model. We still have a ways to go in creating prototypes and a strong business plan for our medical device!

Brainstorming session for Endothelialization project

Low fidelity prototyping one of our stent design concepts.

My implementation project, Stent-X (formerly called Outstenting), also deals with stents but more specifically on pediatric ureteral stents. The main goal is creating a minimally invasive way to remove ureteral stents in the pediatric population, without the use of anesthesia or excessive instrumentation. Currently the method we are working with involves using electromagnetism to pull the stent out of the body. I am working alone on this project so holding myself accountable and time management are crucial! For that reason we each created a Work Breakdown Structure (WBS) that covered the objectives we would be completing and their associated deliverables through October. And again, I remind myself of the famous quote, “Plans never work, but planning always does.” I aim to have a working prototype of my ureteral stent by mid-October for the cadaver studies with my sponsors through Texas Children’s Hospital (TCH), Baylor, and Fannin Innovation Studios. Having a close collaboration with these entities, in addition to my project holding an SBIR grant, has really accelerated the pace at which we move. Last week we performed a large animal study on our current ureteral stent design and we plan to run another one next month. I have also had the opportunity to observe a robotic laparoscopic pyeloplasty surgery at TCH, which depicted to me the process leading up to the stent insertion. Lastly, I am also a teacher’s assistant/mentor for a Bioengineering Senior Design group that is also working a pediatric urology medical device with TCH.

Tools table in the surgery room for our large animal study.

In complement to these projects, we will soon be having a series of hospital rotations in which we observe different procedures at Texas Children’s Hospital, Methodist Hospital, and Emergency Medicine on ambulances. We hope to each compile 100 “needs” (that’s a total of 1,000 needs!) that we identify by the end of our observations. With just this month alone, GMI has not only exceeded my expectations but really has helped me find what I am most passionate about in the medical device industry. We are given so many opportunities to interact with ambitious and enthusiastic players in Medtech in different positions, who are willing to make our experience even greater. I am looking forward to the months to come!

This week my implementation team (Siri, Abby, and Callie) and Dr. Richardson are making a short and productive visit back to Liberia, Costa Rica to work on DialOasis and Consultika. It’s been less than a month a half since we lived in this beautiful, green country and it feels good to be back! We have a packed schedule the next few days meeting with Invenio University, doctors in Canas, and doctors at Hospital Liberia.

First stop in Costa Rica- Playa Hermosa!

In the spirit of being back in Costa Rica… Pura Vida!

Posted in Tasha | Leave a comment

Catching Up and Getting Started!

It’s been a hectic last month as I’ve been settling in to Houston and finally getting started on my GMI projects! It’s hard to believe that I’ve learned so much about the DialOasis project in the last month. I started off by familiarizing myself with chronic kidney disease (CKD) and peritonitis in order to understand the problems our project aims to solve. I didn’t realize that CKD was such a large problem in Costa Rica! It really gave me a good perspective on the project and just how impactful it was.

We then started looking through the GMI 2016-2017 cohort’s data and files to familiarize ourselves with the work done on the project last year, and what changes were made over the summer. Abby and I spent one afternoon rebuilding the final prototype from the 2016-2017 cohort in the basement of the OEDK (pictured). In doing so, we learned a lot about the importance of proper materials selection, and are anxious to see the version built over the summer! While we didn’t have the chair to put inside, it was still useful to construct the frame and gave us a good understanding of the cuartito’s size.

I’m very excited to finally visit Costa Rica this week! This trip will allow me to meet with Invenio and Monica and Marta at Hospital Liberia in order to learn their thoughts and opinions on the design and materials. Based on these discussions we’ll know the scope of our work for the semester, and will really dive deep into project work!

Posted in Sirisha | Leave a comment

Back to Costa Rica…Already?

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!

 

Posted in Karlee | Leave a comment

Whirlwind…I Mean Hurricane…of a Month

All I can say is it’s been a whirlwind, or rather a hurricane. Although difficult to believe, almost a month has passed since the beginning of the fall semester on August 21st. Honestly, I’ve lost track of the days, as it’s been so hectic between GMI and natural disasters, but I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Let’s start from the beginning. The first week of classes was definitely a shock to the system. Since I was abroad all summer, I was unfortunately unable to join my classmates in Costa Rica for the internship and design short courses. (I’ll be completing my internship throughout the fall and spring semesters.) Although I found my fellow GMI colleagues nothing but welcoming, friendly, and enthusiastic, it did not take away the learning curve to catch up on what I had missed. Concepts such as PDT analysis, needs clusters, and stakeholder analysis were being thrown out there casually and I was a bit overwhelmed. I’m happy to say by this point I’ve figured it all out (I hope). It did help that I had some extra time what with Hurricane Harvey, which leads me to the second week of the semester.

Despite this being my fifth year now in Houston, I had yet to experience any major hurricane season, until now. I am fortunate to say that my apartment and car are both intact. The worst I experienced was going stir crazy from staying inside for four days straight. It did give me time to catch up on some reading though. Because the biodesign textbook I ordered from Amazon was delayed in the mail due to Harvey, I ended up renting the Kindle version and downloading the Kindle app to my laptop. Not ideal, but it worked out and my book eventually came in over a week later.

As a result of the flooding, Rice was closed for the entire second week of classes and Houston is still a mess, even weeks post-Harvey. It’s going to be a long recovery process. But GMI and life do not stop, not even for Harvey. While stuck inside I was also busy finalizing my internship plans. I am happy to announce that I am working as an R&D intern at LivaNova this semester in the neuromodulation sector. I’ve just begun my internship and am excited to learn and contribute to the company.

These past two weeks the semester has swooped back in full force. Mondays and Wednesdays I’m at my internship. Tuesdays and Thursdays are dedicated to classes and meetings. Fridays usually fill up too. What are all these classes and meetings you may ask? Well, I have a statistics course and an industry lecture series but my two main courses are project based: a medical technology implementation course and the healthcare innovation and entrepreneurship course.

For the implementation course, we are each given a project in more of the back end of the design process. For my project, I am working with Siri on DialOasis, yes the DialOasis from last year’s GMI cohort and the one you read about in the blog posts from this summer. Therefore, I won’t bore you with too much detail. In short, we are designing a “portable clean room” so that patients in Costa Rica can perform peritoneal dialysis at home. It’s kind of funny that Siri and I, the two who were not in Costa Rica this summer and therefore the only ones not familiar with the project yet, ended up on the DialOasis team. It’s a great project though and the community in Costa Rica is really excited about getting it up and running and into clinical trials. We’ll be visiting Costa Rica at the end of the month to gain more insight into the status of the project which I’m looking forward to.

The second project I have going on this semester is for healthcare innovation and entrepreneurship, a collaboration between doctors in the medical center, MBA students, and us in the GMI program. The project I am working on focuses on a way to improve basic life support and emergency response following cardiac arrest. Designing a solution to solve this problem is turning out to be more complicated than I initially expected. However, I am on a team with knowledgeable, hard-working people and am sure we will come up with a creative solution.

Like I said, it’s been a hurricane of a month. It’s challenged me but also invigorated me. I’m ready to stretch my knowledge and capabilities as I delve deeper into real-world problems and the design process. Despite the amount of work, my fellow GMI colleagues and I always find time for a laugh and some fun. I’m looking forward to the next eight months and what GMI has in store. I couldn’t have asked for better classmates or a better program. Until next time…

Posted in Abby | Tagged | Leave a comment