Five months and reluctantly counting

We are now more than halfway through the GMI program! Both happy and sad feelings come to mind at the thought that we will be graduating in less than 5 months. Happy that we will be ready to take on the world (or at least think it) and feeling prepared for what’s next. Sad that I will no longer be surrounded by all the wonderful people in my program. Regardless, this only pushes me to make each day as productive and meaningful as possible.

The last few weeks of the fall semester were no joke. Final week(s) in masters programs are completely different than during my undergraduate career. Rather than back-to-back study sessions for final exams, I was spending hours finalizing prototypes and perfecting presentations. I was pushing to have a couple prototypes prepared for the animal study for Stent-X on November 30th and produced two final prototypes!

For GMI courses- I gave two very different presentations, but both required countless hours practicing out loud and memorizing some form of a script. In our Healthcare and Innovation Entrepreneurship class, we gave an investor’s pitch. There are various types of pitches, but, essentially, you must ecstatically advocate for your innovative product to receive funding by showing your product’s or solution’s benefits in the eyes of all stakeholders. It was exciting to deliver a presentation that did not just show what you’ve done, but promote what you have come up with and see what it takes to begin the journey as a start-up company.

My team for HIE just before delivering our pitch!

 

For my implementation project, Stent-X, I had the opportunity to present to classmates, peers in the Bioengineering department, and even professionals from abroad. This presentation was a bit similar to the pitch (without seeking seed funding) in that a story was told of the journey of the project and the future directions I planned to take. I really enjoyed talking about all the work I had done over the past 4 months and especially seeing what points each person in the program had reached in their projects.

If you recall, we had each compiled 100 needs. Well, we then each took our 100 needs and narrowed them down to three needs (yes, it was quite the process) and presented them to each other in GMI as potential design projects for next semester. This allowed us to show others what we found to be our top needs and hear what others had found as well- so we could confidently choose our top 5 as potential design projects we wanted to work on from the pool of 30 (10 students x 3 top needs). What is great about this program is what you seek to gain experience on during this one year is all in your hands. We get to choose what we want to work on and Dr. Richardson organizes it in a way that best fits us and the project.

As for the fun stuff- we had a GMI Secret Santa gift exchange and potluck to celebrate the end of the semester before break!

GMI Secret Santa and Potluck

Coming back from three and half weeks of a well spent winter break, I am ready to see what this spring semester has in store for me!

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Fall 4: Fall Reflections

The semester is over! I have completed all my final tests, presentations, and papers, and am free to enjoy a month without any commitments. This will likely be the last time I will have this long of a break from work or school in a very long time, so I plan to enjoy it thoroughly!

One of the classes I took this semester was Leadership Coaching for Engineers, because of which I got to coach a friend of mine to achieve professional goals she set for herself. The result of our coaching sessions was not only that she made meaningful progress towards her goals, but also that she was equipped to tackle future goals because she learned to reproduce what we did. Seeing the joy she had because of how much she had changed over the course of the semester and realizing she was more equipped for success because of our interactions made me happy to know that I had made a meaningful impact on someone’s life. I hope to keep using these coaching skills to support those around me in all their endeavors.

PalliAssist continued to face regulatory barriers for most of the past month. While waiting for these issues to be resolved, I did what I could to prepare for future tasks. However, in preparation for the end-of-semester presentation for PalliAssist, as I was preparing information about its background, I was reminded why it is important – of the people that could greatly benefit from its use. This gave me a much-needed boost to persevere through the slower season I was experiencing. Almost poetically, the day that I gave the presentation (the last day of classes), I found out we got approval from the IRB in Brazil to move forward with the clinical trial! I’m looking forward to pressing on with PalliAssist to improve palliative care in Brazil when I return from the break.

Another big final presentation I gave was in our Healthcare Innovation and Entrepreneurship course, where we pitched our engineering solution and business plan to address an unmet clinical need to venture capitalists and others involved with startups in Houston. Karlee and I were on a team with three MBA students, and we were addressing a way to diagnose a specific type of internal bleeding that can occur after a femoral catheterization, RPH. This class significantly broadened my knowledge in business and startup areas, talking about things like financing term sheets and building financial models for our business. This experience will for now give me a broader context in which I see my role as an engineer, but may also prepare me for future roles in companies. It was also a privilege to get to work with our MBA colleagues. I feel that I grew from seeing the way they approached certain problems.

Team Mharck Medical after our final presentation

After most of our finals, Tasha hosted us for a GMI Christmas party pot luck at her apartment. After the busy semester, it was a great way to celebrate the season and the hard work we had put in (not to mention enjoy the food made my colleagues, who are way better cooks than I)!

Christmas celebration!

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Semester’s End

The end of the semester is always a roller coaster, and this one has been no exception. I’ve been incredibly busy with wrapping up projects and classes and making sure that I’m hitting the goals I put forward earlier in the semester, and work has definitely been keeping me on my toes.

These past couple of weeks have been full of presentations. We had final presentations for our Healthcare Innovation and Entrepreneurship class, our implementation project, our needs finding, and our extracellular matrix class. Each of these presentations required a lot of preparation and planning with teammates. All this presenting has made me much more comfortable in front of an audience now than I was even a few months ago, and I’m excited to keep developing my public speaking skills as we move forward.

For our HIE class, we presented our COPD detection project to investors. This pitch was pretty different from the other presentations we usually do, and we got a lot of really good feedback, questions and comments. Preparing for this pitch was a lot of work, but my team worked really hard and everyone did a fantastic job!

 

We also had our final presentations of the work we’ve done on our implementation projects this semester. Many of our collaborators watched these presentations either in person or via Skype from Costa Rica and Brazil, and it was really cool to hear their thoughts and comments. Many of these collaborators have worked on these projects in the past, and it was exciting to show them the progress we were able to make so far.

We also started to screen the needs that we have gathered over the course of the program, in order to determine what projects we might like to work on next semester. Each GMI student presented their top 3 needs, and we will be picking from this pool of needs. These presentations were really cool. Students found needs from such a diverse range of locations, including EMS shifts, surgeries, and discussions with medical professionals. In the next couple of weeks, we will be selecting needs and teams to move forward with.

I can’t believe we are more than halfway through with GMI, and in just 5 months I will be graduating from Rice (again)! Can’t wait to see what next semester has in store!

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Done for the semester!!

I can’t believe the semester is already over! It’s so hard to believe that we’re already halfway through the GMI program. The end of the semester was a bit of a whirlwind, so I’m glad to be able to relax for a few weeks with friends and family back at home.

One of my achievements that I am most proud of for the semester was completing the SolidWorks model for our proposed DialOasis 3.0 prototype. This took a lot more time than I had originally anticipated, because there were many different factors we did not take into account before starting the SolidWorks models. As I started putting parts together, I realized that there were quite a few changes we needed to make to our design in order to make it more structurally sound. Additionally, we had another Skype meeting with our collaborators at Invenio, and they offered their input on the design changes as well.  In undergrad, I only used SolidWorks a few times, and had a very basic understanding of the software. I was a bit intimated at first taking on this task, but I knew that this was a skill I wanted to gain. After spending hours in the OEDK working on the models, I was finally able to put together drawings of both the cuartito and the sink. We will soon be sending these to Invenio so that they can start building the units sometime in January or February.

Isometric View of the 3.0 model.

Top View of the 3.0 model. Includes chair and table from 2.0 model, and the new foot-powered sink!

 

SolidWorks model of foot powered sink. This definitely taught me the most about the different features SolidWorks has to offer.

Our BIOE 527 class also taught me a lot. I wasn’t familiar at all about the different components of a financial model, and even though I wasn’t too involved with creating the financial model for the team, I was still able to learn about the different terminologies and calculations involved. It was an interesting opportunity to be able to work alongside MBA students for the semester, and really highlighted the difference between an engineer’s mindset versus a business student’s. In entering industry, it will be important to be able to work alongside people of different backgrounds, as well as to understand various business terminologies and concepts. Overall, 527 will be a useful class as I continue my career!

One thing I’m most happy about this semester was becoming such good friends with the rest of the GMI group. I honestly could not have asked for a better team to work with, and it has been fun exploring Houston with them! I’m excited for the chance to work with more members of the team next semester, and am sad that I’ll have to go without seeing them for a whole month! Looking forward to enjoying my time off to start next semester off strong.

Happy Holidays from the GMI crew!

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One Semester Down

It’s hard to believe that we’re half way done with the GMI program already. While it’s a relief to be finished with final exams, papers, and presentations, it’s also bittersweet that this experience will be over in just 6 months. Wrapping up this semester has made me realize all that I’ve learned and accomplished and how lucky I am to have the opportunity to be involved in such a great program.

For my implementation project, Truvent, we’ve moved into the ideation and design process for creating a second-generation prototype. This has proved to be challenging, as the medical need we are trying to meet has turned out to be quite complicated. Nevertheless, we have had some fun getting to brainstorm, explore possible designs, and even do some low-fidelity prototyping to communicate our ideas. I was finally able to put my 3D pen to good use! We also had some fun learning more about using CAD to create a 3D drawing of a bag-valve-mask and learning how to use a 3D scanner. One of the most important things I have learned from working on this project is that flexibility is key. We have had several twists and turns throughout the semester while trying to navigate the best pathway for the project to be successful. With each bump in the road, we’ve had to be willing to adjust and continue working hard to make progress. This has been a really valuable experience for me and look forward to continuing with this project next semester.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My other big project, focused on developing a system to detect retroperitoneal bleeding, has wrapped up. For the last month, we’ve focused mostly on the business side of the project and learned a lot about financing a company as an entrepreneur. While there were many points in class that I was lost, I really enjoyed getting to learn more about running a company on the business end and how important that is for a startup company. This class has really made me appreciate how difficult it is to start a medtech company, and it definitely got me thinking about my next steps for starting my career in the industry. The final part of this class was to give an investor pitch to the class and some guest judges. This was also a challenge for me, as I’ve never given a presentation like that before. For the pitch, I really had to be purposeful and energetic throughout my entire part, and I really had to try to articulate what I wanted to say while avoiding looking at the slides. This required many, many rounds of practice (pretty sure my dogs were sick of hearing it!), but overall, I think it went really well. I enjoy any opportunity to practice my communication and presentation skills, and luckily, we have many opportunities to do that in the GMI program. I also really enjoyed getting to work on a multidisciplinary team, and it really showed me how valuable it is to have people with a variety of skillsets on your team.

One of the last assignments we were tasked with was completing our 100 unmet clinical needs, scoping those needs down to one top need, and presenting those to the class in order to help us choose design projects for next semester. My top need was a way to increase the early detection of ovarian cancer, which turns out to be a problem that affects 1 in every 75 women. Choosing which needs I was interested in working on next semester was harder than I expected. Everyone had really interesting and diverse needs, so I’m excited to get to dive deeper into the technical design part of the program with those projects. I think it will be a really fun experience and will help me learn a lot of new skills.

As you can tell, the GMI program has a lot to offer. My favorite part about the program is the diversity of experiences that we are exposed to. I have learned and grown so much in such a short amount of time, and I’ve made some really great friends in the process. We recently celebrated the holiday season with a GMI Christmas party and secret Santa, which showed how well we’ve gotten to know each other in just 7 months. I’m really glad to have such a fun group of people to not only work with but also hang out with. I’ve definitely learned that it’s incredibly important to take some time off from work to have a little fun, and this group certainly knows how to do just that.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

While I’m looking forward to a few weeks off to relax and regroup, it’s going to be weird not seeing everyone for almost a month. Since we all met at the end of May, the longest we’ve been apart has been about a week, so it will definitely be new to be apart for so long. Luckily, we still have 5 months together when we get back, and I’m looking forward to making the most of it. Happy Holidays!

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Summing Up the Semester

Since I’m an engineer here (and maybe you are, too), let’s do a little math to find the equation that sums up my GMI experience thus far. Don’t worry, if you are not an engineer I will not make it complicated. Here it goes in lovely infographic form:


GMI is the weighted sum of all of the above. The variables are represented as follows:

DialOasis

The implementation project I am working on with Siri to design and manufacture a portable room so patients can safely perform peritoneal dialysis at home in Costa Rica. Since my last blog, we have had a number of meetings with our partners and manufacturers at Invenio to determine the feasibility of certain design components. Finally, we have a 3.0 design and SolidWorks model. I’ve also started the clinical trial paperwork. The wheels continue to churn so next semester we can manufacture and hopefully begin the pilot study. It’s been a lot of work, especially teaching myself SolidWorks (my previous experience was all in AutoCAD) and simply trying to communicate cross-culturally with our partners. It’s difficult with the language barrier and the differences in organization processes, but I’m proud of our work so far.

Activated Project

The collaborative project between MBA and engineering students. We’re learning the innovation process by essentially acting as if we had our own startup. After many pivots in needs, we finally settled providing a service that helps identify non-urgent 911 calls so EMS does not unnecessarily dispatch ambulances. These past few weeks I’ve learned a ton about the business and financial side of companies and it’s exciting to be able to have intelligent conversations about these matters with professionals. This coming week we’ll be pitching our projects to not only our professors, but also mentors and outside community members such as other clinicians and venture capitalists (VCs).

Internship

My medical device industry experience. Exciting news here, I’m actually in Washington D.C. (and probably back by the time you read this)! I’m here to interview clinicians and KOLs (Key Opinion Leaders) in the field about future R&D projects at the company. Who knew?! As an intern, I am honored to have this opportunity. All you’ve got to do is ask.

Networking & TMCx

Being in Houston across from the world’s largest medical center has its perks, one of them being the med center accelerator, TMCx. This past month I had a lot of fun networking at Demo Day where the accelerator members pitched their companies. It’s a great way to meet the executive officers of the startups, investors, students, clinicians, and others involved in the field. Internship opportunities also abound. If you’re interested in TMCx, I highly suggest checking it out here. You can also find previous Demo Day pitches on YouTube.

Needs Finding

Shadowing clinicians, EMTs, and others in the medical field to observe and determine where needs (and possible solutions) exist. After completing a number of observations and online searches (see previous blog post), I came up with a list of over 100 needs which I have since screened based on market size, feasibility, value, and interest. The screening process was somewhat of a challenge, but it opened my eyes to the importance of so many factors on the success of a new device. For example, if the need isn’t well scoped and if it doesn’t add enough value, no matter how innovative the solution, it may not take off.

Social Life

I haven’t talked too much about this throughout my blog posts yet, but I will echo what others have said: work/life balance is imperative to maintain sanity, remain productive, and get the most out of the program. Luckily, our mentor, Dr. Richardson, recognizes this and serves as a great example to his mentees.  While we work extremely hard, our cohort is collaborative and does a great job remaining upbeat and positive.

So how do I take a break from work? Here are a couple of examples:

Fun Activity #1. As you may have read about from my colleagues, we had a Thanksgiving pie contest. There are a number of GMI-ers who are really good at cooking and baking so I knew it would be a close race, but I actually won a three-way tie for best overall with my chicken pot pie!

Fun Activity #2. Wanting a little taste of Germany, I travelled to New Braunfels on the 10th for their Wurstfest. I had been looking forward to this for weeks as it would give me the opportunity to dress up in my dirndl (pic below). I didn’t dress up for Halloween, but I did for this. That’s the level of excitement I’m speaking of. The fusion of Texan and German cultures was hilarious and somehow perfected the experience.

 

With this semester down in the books, I’m ready to see what the next one holds.

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Fall Semester Wrap-Up

Time flies when you’re having fun”

A very wise person

December is upon us, and boy did it come fast.  I remember around this time last year, there was a period in which time could not have gone any slower. I was in the middle of my finals and had started applying to a couple different programs. I had not previously heard of the GMI program (as it was relatively new at the time), but out of circumstance, my undergraduate adviser had informed me of the program and it piqued my interest. So there I was, applying to the program, hoping that I would be given the opportunity to engage in so many of the cool projects that I had seen the previous cohort working on.

Now, here I am writing a blog about my past semester’s experience at Rice and in the GMI program. Time is moving much faster now it seems, but I can say wholeheartedly that this semester has taught me so much about what it means to be a better team member, student, communicator and leader.

Barretos Project Update

In the upcoming week, we will be presenting the progress we have made on our implementation projects. One of the more challenging aspects of my project is that there was a level of redesign that was required from our feedback received in Barretos. While this may have pushed back our initial timeline, I believe that once I have tested the materials that I have ordered, an optimal design can be finalized by mid to late-January. Once we have finalized and agreed upon a design, our goal is to have 40 functional prototypes by our next trip to Barretos in the Spring.

Needs Finding 

In the previous week, our needs finding assignment was due. Part of the reason that many of us were doing observations at places such as Texas Heart Institute, Texas Children’s Hospital and the Harris County EMS was to feed into potential design projects going into the next semester. In my list of 100, I had a variety of sources, whether it be from observations, literature searches, firsthand experience or just from conversing with everyday people. To filter to my top 5 needs, I had to use criteria that could differentiate between projects that were feasible within GMI’s scope while also providing high value to the end-user. The five criteria I used were the following:

  1. Cost – is the project feasible for our budget?
  2. Knowledge – does our team possess the skill-sets required to conduct the project?
  3. Available Resources – could we leverage our existing contacts versus establishing completely new ones?
  4. Time to Implement– is the project able to be implemented within a 1-2 year timeframe?
  5. Potential Addressable Market– is there a significant population that would benefit from this project?

After running my needs through this decision matrix, I was able to filter 5 needs that I felt best represented value to GMI as a design project. Our cohort will filter through everyone’s top 3 needs (total of 30 needs) and pick the ones about which we feel most passionate.

Wrapping up the Semester

Apart from finalizing what projects we would like to work on for next semester, we also have a couple presentations to recap the work we did in our design and implementation courses. In our medical design innovation class, it will be a great opportunity to practice a professional pitch as if our group was an actual start-up company. It’s a little strange to be doing a pitch on an idea that was only developed a few weeks back, but nonetheless, it has given me great insight on how the process works and for me personally, that has been very valuable. To see the many different hats you get to wear within a start-up is very intriguing, being an engineer, we often avoid looking at the financial side of a company, but being able to see things such as term-sheets and how potential investors screen companies is very useful. Thinking in this way can prepare me in ensuring that my product would penetrate the market, which is often one of the biggest reasons why some great ideas  fall flat when implemented into the market.

Happy Holidays from GMI

I’m not sure what life away from other GMIers for an extended period of time will feel like. Since the start of June, I believe a week or so was the longest period of time that we had apart from each other. One of the more surprising experiences from GMI this semester has been the team dynamic. Most teams I have been on have had their fair share of drama, tension and dysfunction at some point, but we’ve managed to do a great job of getting along and ensuring that we are utilizing our strengths.

Of course, before we  go back to our respective homes, we needed to have an obligatory Christmas party to celebrate the semester that we had! It was nice to reflect on the semester with awesome people (and of course, there was no shortage of great food as customary with GMI). We did a nice little gift exchange and even had some reenactments of our synchronized swimming routines from our Costa Rican summer (not going to go into too much detail there). It’s been a great semester, and I can’t wait to start it all back up in spring. Happy holidays!

Ryan photobombing a perfectly good shot

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Fall Reflections

I’m amazed that this semester is almost over; it’s flown by! While the days may have ended, they have left their mark on me forever. During the past four months, I have improved my project and time management skills, learned important lessons about teamwork from my MBA friends, discovered the barriers and rewards of international work, grown in my communication skills, and come to appreciate work-life balance.

Working on Consultika this semester has challenged me to manage my time instead of it managing me. I had to schedule time blocks for working on the app as well as my other projects. I developed my own timeline for the project by prioritizing tasks and setting realistic (and sometimes not so realistic) deadlines. I negotiated extensions and took initiative to begin the next tasks when things moved forward more quickly than expected. Dr. Richardson guided me every step of the way, but allowed me to set the pace, make mistakes, and experience success. I now feel ready to tackle project management in the workplace.

This semester has challenged me to manage my time instead of it managing me.

While collaborating with my MBA colleagues on our heart biopsy project, I learned a lot about teamwork in the workplace. Previously, most of my team experiences had been in sports, not school. But I learned that both are extremely similar. First, the team shares a common goal, be it winning the game or developing a device to save lives. Second, each team member has a role based on his or her specific skillset. Just as a basketball players have specific positions based on their skills and abilities, so an engineer takes on the majority of the design and the MBA develops the accompanying business model. The team divides the workload based on each member’s expertise. Third, team members take up the slack for each other. As a defender is blocked by a pick and his teammate switches places to cover for him, similarly coworkers cover for each other when the workload is overwhelming or unexpected setbacks arise. I’ve gotten a taste of what it means to be on a high-performing team and I’m hungry for more.

A Solidworks model of our heart biopsy device.

Since Consultika is a joint venture between Rice and Costa Rica, I have also gained experience in cross-cultural work this semester. As I became familiar with my mentors in Costa Rica, I began to recognize the fine line between working together and partnering for a common purpose. For Consultika, our purpose is to improve patient care in Costa Rica by increasing the security of inter-doctor communication. While we encountered difficulties like dropped calls and scheduling challenges among other things; partnering meant that none of that mattered. We pushed through and focused on the end goal. This allowed us to share ideas more freely and ensured that everyone’s voice was heard. Each of us felt like we contributed to the project in significant ways and so have taken ownership of it and care about the outcome. This is different from simply working together, which largely means dividing up the workload and hoping everything fits together. Partnering requires interaction and constant communication.

I’m learning the art of international collaborations and how to partner instead of just working together.

In my Communications for Engineers class this semester, I learned a great deal about effective communications. The biggest thing that I learned was to state the main point first. This immediately tells the audience what they want to know and they can decide if they want to continue listening to the ensuing details. Additionally, every detail should support this main point. This may sound obvious, but subtle hints like descriptive titles (“Finding a Way to Cure Skin Cancer“ instead of “Study Objective”) can make all the difference. This applies to graphics as well; they must be easy to read and the title should lead the audience to the conclusion that the author wants to draw. I am a better communicator now than I was four months ago.

This semester, I’ve sharpened my presentation skills through practice and feedback.

On a more personal note, this semester has challenged me to maintain a work-life balance. With all of our trips and conferences, projects and presentations, classwork and exams, there was always something else to be done. Many times, I had to force myself to take a break, to go out with friends, or to watch a movie (the over-achiever in me is never satisfied to stop working). Midway through the semester, I started taking Sundays off. This was something that Dr. Richardson established for us in Costa Rica last summer and it allows me to go to church and focus on the people and God’s Presence there without worrying about my to-do list. It also forces me to get all of my work done by Saturday night. This artificial deadline has helped me several times to finish presentations and aspects of projects without dragging them out. Work-life balance will likely be something that I struggle with the rest of my life, but I am beginning to master it before it masters me.

Maintaining a work-life balance has been hard for me, but having awesome friends has made it possible.

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Perfecting the Art of GMI Juggling

Hello- I wanted to write up a quick overview of the month of November before finals week begins! In the past 30 days I’ve split my time between my Teledermatology implementation project, a heart biopsy project, compiling a list of 100 needs, and exploring different jobs and companies. Each week a different aspect on my project “to-do” list rises to the top depending on deadlines, available resources, and momentum of the specific project.

If there’s something I’ve taken away from the month of November, it’s that simply juggling a workload is not good enough. Through lots of communication, I’ve learned how to efficiently prioritize and tackle my projects in a way that maximizes my time, and other people’s time as well. At this stage in my implementation project, a lot of things are out of my hands and rely on other people within IT support at the Barretos Cancer Hospital. Many email exchanges have been made, and I’m happy to say the email notification problem in my last blog post is nearly resolved!

(A big thank you to Livia who works at the Barretos Cancer Hospital for stepping in when I couldn’t and helping me resolve my REDCap technical issues from a continent away!!)

Meanwhile, I finalized my list of 100 medical needs for a deadline in mid-November. I narrowed this list down to my top 3 needs, which span fields in cardiology, women’s health, and pediatrics. Each GMI student presented their top 3 needs. It was so fun and interesting listening to everyone’s needs, as the most viable needs will turn into spring semester projects (and future GMI students’ projects!!!!).

Another project I’m working on is shared between Callie, me, and two MBA students named Samir and Kimi. We are essentially mimicking the startup process using a real need- in our case, a modified heart biopsy catheter. Our catheter would make the biopsy extraction process more standardized and accurate. This improves pathological diagnosis, physician stress of harming the patient, and lowers costs associated with biopsy risks. Working on an interdisciplinary team has been one of my favorite things this semester. I appreciate the different ideas and perspectives, and have learned lots of new things on the business side of medical devices. Our heart biopsy project is also mentored by a cardiac fellow named Jordan, who bends over backwards to make sure we have all the medical information we need.

Am I stressed? No. But GMI sure keeps me busy! I got to choose each of my projects from many options and tailor the projects to my personal and professional interests. That’s one of my favorite things about the GMI program at Rice- they integrate your interests and goals into the classes and projects!

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Midway and Thriving

As quickly as we walked into the first day of classes, we are now hunkering down for the final push to the end of a great semester. Crazy, right?

It’s incredible to think about how far we have come since the beginning of our summer in Costa Rica. I walked in thinking I knew how to push a product to market – highlighted by the success my senior capstone team garnered during our time at the University of Rochester. Boy…was I wrong.

What does it really take to get your idea out to market? The term “business plan” is just the tip of a very large iceberg – consider the major milestones you have to hit to get seed funding, or how about how many people you need to hire to reach those milestones, or furthermore, how much it will cost to pay them and how that will affect the amount of units that need to be sold to reach a breakeven point. These numbers don’t just arise out of thin air, and neither does the learning process required to understand these points. These are just a few examples of what we covered…in just the past two weeks! Now include the clinical and regulatory requirements to get that product to market, the IP landscape that impinges on your ability to even make the product, or the manufacturing steps required to develop your product. Suddenly, the problem isn’t so black and white anymore.

I am so thankful to be a part of this GMI program. I cannot emphasize enough how helpful it has been to shed light on the areas of medical device design that get overlooked in a capstone experience. As important as it is to be creative, it is just as crucial to have a critical eye of the landscape. Any great idea can be developed, but without the proper knowledge of IP, regulatory, clinical, willingness to adopt, and so on, the world’s next best idea may be dead in the water as quickly as it began.

From my implementation project with Truvent, I learned how crucial it is to validate the need. This project has undergone three iterations prior to this year, and yet we found that it was in our interest to truly understand who our target market was going to be. This may have taken us a step back at the beginning of the year, but we realized that through careful IP and market research that our clients for our technology needed to be EMS personnel in a clinical setting. Understanding who we target is important to the redesign of BVMs – they aren’t concerned about exact numbers (“good enough” will do), but they need a way to know if they are correctly sealing around the patient in a high-stress and quick-moving environment. We thought at the beginning of the year that we just needed to improve upon the current design. Now, we know the constraints that need to be further addressed in a redesign that may veer far left of the current design, and that is okay.

3D scanning an ambu mask!

Rendered scan of the mask

From my marketing class project with Activated, I not only learned about understanding upstream needs in an emergency market, but I probably learned more about myself as a team member and the importance of team dynamics. Having worked with just engineers my entire academic career, it is easy to interact and see things from their perspectives – I think like them too! Throw in MBA students and a few physicians, and suddenly the dynamic changes. I’m not one to admit this lightly, but it has been a struggle for me. Sometimes my expectations did not align with theirs, and conflict arose. If there is one thing I have come to realize from this class, it is that I cannot be the expert in everything. I want to know everything, which is great, but I have to be willing to pass the ball in certain areas to others that have the expertise and learn from it. Always rely on the expertise of others to enhance your understanding. Our solution for improving emergency medicine may not pan out into the next disruptive technology, but I can say with confidence that we have really come a long way from the original need brought to us, and it even may spark further interest in an area of medicine that is so poorly defined and funded. I am proud of our technology, and I am proud of the team that worked through the conflict to get us to the point we are today.

Okay…to that point, I am excited to see the rest of this semester through. It has presented itself with challenges, but it has also shown growth in my professional development that I am extremely proud of. Looking forward, time management will be crucial, especially with the larger course load I will be taking next semester. Setting your own deadlines and sticking to them are so important, and finding time in between with friends is only healthy. To any of those prospective students who stuck it out to the end of this blog, let me give you some “expectation vs. reality” advice:

  • Grad school is physically demanding, but a 1-year program can especially feel more difficult at times, emotionally. I personally have an internal block towards committing to the city of Houston because I may be out in 6 months. Don’t let that stop you though – explore!
  • Seriously, take a break once in a while. There’s a lot of energy at the beginning of the year to be gung-ho about the projects, but it’s nearly impossible to maintain that energy all semester (unless you’re Dr. Richardson, bless him). Find an outlet, both with friends and personally, to rely on in times of stress.
  • When looking at programs, learn about the type of people who will be right there with you. Our GMI program consists of mostly recent graduates with interest in medical device design in underserved populations. None of us have medical training like physicians would, but we have those experts right across the street to help us. I will advocate that we at GMI have a distinct advantage with our group – GMI is not just your team, they are your family. Simple as that, but don’t underestimate how important that becomes when you reach a stressful point in the year.
  • You get as much as you put into the program. This is generic advice for anything, but especially relevant here in the medtech industry. This program brings out the self-starter in you, and it’s your passion that will drive how high the threshold of success is.

 

Happy holidays, from both of my families to yours.

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