¡Hasta Luego, Costa Rica!

This is it. The home stretch. The final countdown. The last stand. The last week in Costa Rica. It has been an experience unlike any other I’ve had.

On the internship side of things, I am pulling out all the stops to wrap up my work and hand it off to the next Establishment Labs extraordinaire. I am putting the finishing touches to the design control process, and it’s turning out great. But alas, the design control process is greater than any one person and relies on a coordinated longitudinal effort by teams of people, and so the design control process will be further refined by the fine folks at Establishment.

Speaking of longitudinal efforts, Costa Rica has not seen the last of me yet. The Consultika and other GMI implementation teams will return soon to work on carrying out projects developed by previous GMI cohorts. We hope to come back and use the knowledge gained from our internship and coursework experiences to make differences just like the companies we worked for.

On the reflective side of things, these past two months have been some of the most impactful in my life. I entered excited for my internship in a foreign country, and I leave with a greater understanding for the unique and wonderful country that is Costa Rica and its fast-paced medical device world. The food has been a novel experience for my palate, changing the way I think about plantains and tortillas. Time itself seems more dynamic with the mindset of Pura Vida and the unique medical device frontier.

But, perhaps, the most important part of my Costa Rican experience has been my interactions with people. From street vendors to coworkers to neighbors, the Costa Rican people have been nothing short of extraordinarily hospitable. They shared their meals, laughs, and thoughts with us, people from a land far away. Even the drivers were courteous. (Houston drivers take note!)

It really speaks to the spirit of the Costa Rican people. They are people who constantly look towards the optimistic future. You can see it in their actions; they are dedicated to the betterment of their communities. That’s why the Costa Rican medical device industry is as strong as it is. That’s why the literacy rate is nearly 100%, and why education is widely available. That’s why they greet each other with “Pura Vida.” The Costa Rican pure life revolves around people.

I hope to embody half as much “pura vida” as the Ticos I have met. It will serve me well in my personal and professional lives. The medical device development process can be challenging, so it’s important to keep in mind “pura vida” when the going gets tough. With this, I am sure we can accomplish new heights in the medical device frontier to revolutionize the healthcare of people across the world, from Ticos to Americanos. I know the GMI team is already implementing “pura vida” in their everyday lives, and we hope we can bring the spirit back to the people of the United States.

¡Hasta luego, Costa Rica, y pura vida!

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Ciao, Costa Rica

What a summer it has been! Upon leaving Costa Rica, I have had some time to reflect on the experience as a whole, and remember all I have learned. The Costa Rica experience was a good mix of working hard at our internships, and relaxing and having fun on the weekends. Although my favorite memories came from traveling this beautiful country with my classmates, who have now become great friends, the internship provided me with a lot of valuable knowledge as well.

At my internship, the projects I worked on throughout the summer were document summaries for design ownership transfers, a test method creation for a guidewire, and complaint analysis. I learned so much about what design assurance is, the functions of all of the team members, and why it is important. I got to know an amazing group of coworkers who were always willing to help me and teach me new things. I also got to experience what it is like to work at a big medical device company. This was my first internship experience, so my goal was to learn as much as I could, both about the company as a whole, and about my own department. Some of the things I learned were:

  • At a big company like Boston Scientific, each person has a very specific function. If you need a CAD model of something, you send it to the department that specializes in that. Each employee is a specialist at something, and everyone is very friendly and willing to work cross functionally across departments.
  • The FDA can change a regulation at any time, and you always have to stay up-to-date and ensure compliance.
  • Customer safety is always a top priority. Complaints are collected from patients, physicians, and more and analyzed to identify problems with devices that are currently on the market so that BSC can fix them.
  • It is important to have a “big picture” understanding of the products you are working with.

I also learned a lot about communication and scheduling within a large company. When you have a question, there is almost always someone nearby who will be willing to help you. All you have to do is send them a quick Skype message or request a meeting through Outlook. I was surprised at how kind everyone was and how easy it was to set up meetings to learn more about someone’s role in the company. Overall, it was a great experience, and I am so happy I had this opportunity to learn and meet new people.

While I am sad that we had to leave Costa Rica, I am so excited to spend this year surrounded by my incredible friends and classmates. I am looking forward to traveling back to Costa Rica during the year to work on DialOasis, and to work on all of the other GMI coursework. I am especially excited to be able to work with and observe at the Texas Medical Center. Based on how fun this summer was, I’m sure the year will be a blast, even though we’ll still be working hard.

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Week 9: End of Chapter 1

A New Family

Before getting onto the plane from Chapel Hill, NC to Houston TX, I did not know what to expect. The only impression of my 11 soon-to-be classmates I had was through GroupMe discussions about housing or Rice University’s mandatory health checkup. On top of that, I’d only skimmed the LinkedIn of our new director, Dr. Will Clifton, who would be an invaluable mentor this upcoming year. When my plane took off, I was headed straight for a mess of uncertainties I knew I couldn’t predict. The days leading up to this flight were full of endings and emotions. I had just graduated from UNC Chapel Hill that spring after four years of making unforgettable memories and irreplaceable friends. I felt excited, a little anxious and calm. Sure. Things would go wrong… we were destined to run into problems, but we, as engineers, solve problems for a living. From the moment we stepped down in Houston (and then Costa Rica), this manifested itself in various forms.

While I reflect on these past two months, it is strange to realize how my first impressions and expectations shifted so dramatically. Specifically, in regards to my new GMI family. A little over two months ago, none of these other ten 20-something-yea- olds were very significant to me. Now, we were a team. Here are a few of these unpredictable outcomes:

(1) Annie was the first person I met at our Airbnb. She would later be my roommate and support system for our two months in Costa Rica.

(2) Christine was the second person I met. She would later become my fellow project lead for our implementation project, MilkyWaves.

(3) Sylvie was the last person I met at orientation. She would later become my irreplaceable teammate and friend at Boston Scientific where we tackled challenges in medical device development.

Aside from learning about medical devices and global impact, developing our GMI team was, perhaps, the largest outcome of our trip.

Wrapping things up at Boston Scientific 

I’ve continued to make progress on my projects during my final days at Boston Scientific, but I’ve also been preparing to pass along my projects to the Boston Scientific supplier and process development teams I’ve been working alongside this summer. Sylvie and I have been making more of a conscious effort to include my BSCI team in our meetings, emails and experiments so that there is a smooth transition once we’ve left.

To continue with this “unpredictable” theme, my experience at BSCI was definitely unpredictable throughout the internship. Engineering is a career which needs creativity and problem solving to find solutions and this internship taught me more than just technical skills. I had structured my time and work from the beginning of the internship, which allowed for me to reach a point where I was satisfied with my work. In addition, I had defined my projects and used the support and guidance of my BSCI team to complete them. Every day, I was constantly challenged to take initiative, ask questions and grow my network. In other words, Costa Rica gave me more than an introduction into medical devices; it allowed me to learn the professional interaction needed within the medical device industry.

Sylvie, Theresa and me at Boston Scientific

 

Designing for Impact 

The other goal of our time in Costa Rica this summer was to begin exposing ourselves to designing medical devices for low resource settings. The short course was one of my favorite activities regarding this goal this summer. Those five grueling, quick-paced and rewarding days gave me my first taste of designing for low resource settings, such as rural areas in Costa Rica. In addition, we worked with students from local universities or with engineering professionals allowing us to learn more about the local culture. On that note, I am excited to have Guiselle and Jorge on our team for MilkyWaves this year. They are both very invested in the project and willing to help Christine and me as we push our device through its first clinical trial. I know their insight will be extremely helpful throughout this process.

The MilkyWaves team visited Hospital de Mexico in order to meet with doctors for more information about clinical trials in Costa Rica.

I do wish we had more time to work on our implementation projects while we were here this summer. It is obviously difficult to balance both our internships and our exposure to medical device development in low resource settings. The time I did get to spend shadowing in hospitals, interviewing doctors and learning about my newly assigned implementation project made me even more excited to return to Rice’s campus and begin work. I am extremely confident that MilkyWaves has the potential to create a huge positive impact on many premature babies and their families and I can’t wait to continue designing for this impact.

 

The End of Chapter 1

My time in Costa Rica has taught me so much and I am truly grateful for the experience. However, as I close this chapter of the GMI program, I know there is so much left to learn. Here are a few of my lessons learned this summer:

  1. Extend your network. Talk to your team and department at your internship AND to anyone else with any relevance to you. A lot of my projects began or grew because I wanted to learn about how other departments at BSCI fit into medical device development as well. I learned a lot by simply asking questions and reaching out to employees who weren’t in my immediate network. I was able to provide a Supplier Engineering perspective when working with Process Development Engineers.
  2. Have open communication. Whether it’s with your classmates, coworkers or director, it’s so important to talk about your frustrations, doubts and successes. More often than not, someone is experiencing the same thing or has some useful advice. Everyone around you has relatively similar goals and experiences, so it’s important to take advantage of this knowledge and support.
  3. Be productive during your downtime. Downtime is inevitable during these two months, so spend your time researching interesting companies, programs, and people, and get inspired. While I am still unsure of my future career, I feel I have a better grasp of what is out there and how I could fit into it.
  4. Take advantage of every free weekend: Zip lining and surfing are a must

Onto the next chapter and I’ll see you again soon Costa Rica! Pura Vida

The Sunday farmers market in Santa Ana

At the cafe Wö Kàpi in Santa Ana. Highly recommended!

We tried to spend all our left over colones coins on their fresh fruit and coffee

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Final Summer Thoughts: What is bioengineering, anyway?

Many people asked me at the beginning of the summer if I was a bioengineer and in response, I would say no. Two months later, I’m at the end of my first experience in a real-world medical technologies company, but I still find myself occasionally Googling phrases like What do bioengineers do? My goal for this summer internship was to get an idea of what bioengineering entails in an industry setting and to gain experience working at a MedTech company.

At Establishment Labs, I felt so lucky to have a supervisor who let me have such an integral role in the design process of the device. My job was essentially to write the required design criteria for our device so that as the device underwent changes over time, the written criteria could be referenced to ensure the device still fit its intended purpose. In addition, I developed risk assessment FMEAs, helped build a soon-to-be-working prototype, and planned what the final device would consist of, including choosing parts and contacting manufacturers. Establishment Labs is a relatively small company (~200 employees) all in the same campus, so communicating between departments is as easy as sending a Skype message or walking up to someone’s desk. The coolest part about working in R&D is that I had a taste of many different roles in the industry, including:

  • Regulatory: learned about standards, wrote design specifications, researched materials and parts that adhere to specific certifications.
  • Technical design: collaborated with the technical designer to design the case of our device, practiced using Solidworks, 3D printing.
  • Electrical engineering: worked with the electrical engineer discussing the limitations and capabilities of the PCB and understanding how the device works, researched parts for prototype and final device.
  • Clinical: helped interview doctors and nurses about what they liked and disliked about our design’s user interface and functionality.
  • Process engineering: while working on the final prototype plans, I had to consider: How, how easily, and where will our device be assembled? Where will the parts come from?
  • Graphic design: made powerpoints showing concept designs, wrote an instruction manual.

I still feel like I don’t know what it means to be a bioengineer, but after asking around, apparently nobody really does. Maybe I’ll know the answer when I finish this program in May. But at the moment, it’s not something that concerns me. Why? Because I established a few facts about myself. Based on my experiences from the June short course and spending two blissful months in R&D, I reinforced my belief that creativity is my strongest trait. My favorite tasks were those involving brainstorming, critically analyzing solutions, and designing. I know that whatever career I ended up in, it had to involve 1. healthcare and 2. some form of design.

As mentioned (ad nauseum) before, I studied biochemistry as an undergrad. A recurring worry for me since even before beginning this program was that I wouldn’t have the skills or knowledge needed to handle the internship. Even with my professors and former GMI-ers reassuring me that I’d be ok, I thought I’d ride the Imposter Syndrome rollercoaster all summer. I’m going to make a bold statement: any project in bioengineering will involve biochemistry at its foundation. Thus, by enjoying the science behind bioengineering and wanting to create applications with said science, I can rest easy and say confidently that I’m heading in the right direction.

Drew, Juan José Chacón (CEO, Establishment Labs), and me


  

Three lasting impressions for the last three days:

  • Hacienda Alsacia Starbucks coffee tour: On Sunday, Theresa and I traveled to beautiful, mountainous Alajuela to visit Starbucks’ first and only coffee farm. This tour definitely changed my view of coffee and reminded me of the importance of knowing where your food comes from. From the immigrants who come seasonally to harvest coffee cherries by the backbreaking crateload, to the multi-step drying process and roasting, coffee beans are exchanged between so many hands before finally ending up in your cup.
  • Speaking Spanish: Explaining and teaching is the best way to prove that you understand a concept, but the true test of understanding is explaining what you just learned in English to someone else in Spanish. The technical designer and I made a bet that I wasn’t allowed to talk to her in English anymore, so every task I presented to her had to be done in Spanish. I appreciate her challenge so much because my most valuable and productive Spanish practice happened during our interactions.
  • New friends: The best part of traveling is meeting new people, as fleeting and bittersweet as it is. Social media eases the pain of saying goodbye. It’s a small world, after all.
    • Short course friends: Thanks for helping me practice Spanish and providing me with tons of recommendations for weekend plans. Our time together was brief but so much fun, and I wish we had gotten to hang out more.
    • Establishment Lab coworkers: RDI office, you are some of the funniest, most expressive, and welcoming group of people that I have ever met. Thank you for letting Drew and me invade your office space, for your invaluable advice and guidance, and for being so kind to us.
    • GMI cohort: Living in an aparthotel for two months with ten people that I met at the end of May… It’s been an honor getting to know you this summer and I can’t wait to see what crazy feats we’ll accomplish this year.

BONUS: Week 9 Exotic Fruit Bingo: Pitaya (dragonfruit): Did you know that the dragon fruit plant is a succulent? That in combination with its popular use in jazzing up smoothie bowls basically makes it the most #basic fruit ever. This attractive fruit has a waxy pink outside with soft green scales (for lack of a better word) and a fleshy interior spotted with small black seeds, like a very disorganized kiwi. The inside is commonly either white or deep pink. Its flavor was disappointingly mild and semisweet for such a vivid fruit.

  

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Última publicación de Costa Rica

Most groups follow the same pattern in Tuckman’s stages of group development (forming -> storming -> norming -> performing) when learning to work with one another and the GMI Cohort is no different. If anything, the fact that we all lived together for exactly 2 months has expedited that process quite a bit. GMI Recruitment day in the Spring and GMI bootcamp in May mostly consisted of “So what school did you go to?” “What did you major in?” “Where are you from?” and few conversations delving deeper than that -the forming stage. As we were forced to interact with one another through 5-hour bus rides, close living spaces, and the fact we are the only gringos within a 5-mile radius at any given time, we got to know each other much better. This cohabitation quickly led to the storming, norming and performing stages. Granted, most of my arguments (storms) involved The Office or British Reality TV shows, but I did get pretty good at finding out which food makes people less likely to storm: Snickers/Kiwi for Annie, Honey Bunches of Oats for Razi, obscure fruit for Christine, ginger tea/McDonald’s fries for Hannah, pastries sans gluten for Theresa, any food for Sylvie when she is hungry and “may literally die”, dulce de leche rolls for Kevin, *insert vegetable here* for Paula, and pizza for Carolyne (the only anti-storming snack that doesn’t matter is Sarah’s because I’ll eventually try and eat the rest of whatever it is and we’ll storm anyways).

  Unlike most Gringos who spend a Summer in Costa Rica, we actually spent the summer working. Granted, we did hit quite a few beach, volcano and jungle hotspots, but only on the weekends. This was my first time working for a large company and I have to say it was nothing like I expected it to be. In fact, almost every GMIer this summer has had a very different professional experience. We were initially selected into our internships by submitting our resumes at the beginning of the summer, and I remember reading the words “research and development” and thinking it would be similar to academic research. I then remember googling Establishment Labs and was then very confused about what, exactly, I would be researching and developing with a background in Cell Biology, based on the nature of the company. I’m not sure what I had in mind about what my first day would look like, but I do know I was completely wrong:

  • First of all, the people were much nicer than I expected. Now, I don’t mean I thought they were going to be mean or rude, I just figured they would afford the interns a standard amount of workplace respect- soft smiles and polite head nods in the hallway. Turns out, “Pura Vida” (the national motto/slogan/catchphrase) also means that everybody is your best friend and should be treated as such.
  • Secondly, I assumed that whatever work I completed as an intern would be more for my benefit than the company’s -just simple tasks that introduced me to the industry and did not make a real impact. On the contrary, I was thrown into one of the RDI divisions and (while, yes, I did work with a large amount of paperwork, reports, Excel sheets and PowerPoints), I was pulled into many product development meetings where my opinion was asked for, considered, and taken into account.
  • I thought that because I was now working for a (relatively) large company, there would be a towering amount of bureaucracy and I would only see the inside of my assigned office. Again, I was wrong! The executive management of the company loves innovation, and recognizes that much of that comes from those conducting tests, developing ideas, and designing products. On our first day, most of the executives came over to introduce themselves and told us if there was any part of the company we wanted to learn about that they would be more than happy to schedule talks, trainings and meetings. Just because we work for a large company does not mean there isn’t ample room to thrive.

This past week, I’ve begun to wrap up the work that I’ve been completing over the summer and hand off my projects to my co-workers and new interns. I just finished a report I have been working on for a while that outlines the proposed prototypes I built, based off a team brainstorming session a few weeks ago. Now that I have the designs for each, the legal department will spend the next few weeks combing through similar patents to determine which prototype ideas are possible based on current IP restrictions and which need to be modified. In addition to prototyping, we just finished detailing a potential preclinical study for one of our devices. Designing studies is challenging, because it requires an in-depth look at what you want to achieve from your study and what results you will need to prove device success and safety to a regulatory body (e.g. the FDA). One fun thing I’ve learned is that the FDA is not a fan of short documents, nor summaries.

 

 

 

Costa Rica, as a whole, is an incredible place, somewhere you can’t truly experience in only two months (even though we tried our best!). For anyone planning to spend a significant of time down here, or future GMIers, here are ten quick lessons and best practices that I came across (in no particular order):

  1. Bring a rain jacket and/or an umbrella. Summer is the rainy season, and that means it rains every day.
  2. Wear sunscreen! A hard lesson to learn was four years spent in the tundra (where UV B rays can’t reach you for much of the year) meant I had a cool 0% of melanin in my skin and got initially got sunburned walking from the bus to my apartment. Geography fun fact: Costa Rica is closer to the Equator than Canada, who knew?!
  3. Embrace Casado, Gallo Pinto and Chifrijo (essentially, various recipes of beans & rice) because it will be your life.
  4. Spanish a little rusty and don’t know how to continue a conversation? Just say “Pura Vida”, it can be used in 1,000 contexts and chances are you’ll hit one.
  5. Bugs are your friends! Okay, maybe not always, but they’re here anyways so make your peace with them.
  6. Just because something is close by does not mean it won’t take 2 hours to get to on the road. Civil planning is not what Latin America is known for.
  7. Not a big coffee drinker? Not partaking in the CR hot beverage of choice would be like going to Rome and saying “Oh, I don’t eat pasta”.
  8. Visit as many jungles, beaches and waterfalls as you can! There is no shortage of any of those, so there is no excuse. Not to mention you will see sloths and monkeys, so that’s another plus.
  9. Everyone here is a “Tico”, so an easy way to connect with the locals is to shout “Vamos Ticos!” at any soccer game or television set.
  10. Pura Vida. Not only is it a conversation filling phrase (hello, goodbye, thank you, you’re welcome, okay, etc.), it is also a lifestyle. Costa Rica is home to various Blue Zones -areas of the world where people live much longer than average. It effectively means “Hakuna Matata”, and many attribute the longer lifespan of those in these areas to their emphasis on positive mental health. Pura Vida!

I don’t want to leave, but I’m excited for GMI’s next steps and future challenges at Rice. I will never forget my time here, nor the people I have met and the work that we have done.

Pura Vida

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One last ‘Pura Vida’

Wow I can’t believe this is the last blog of summer! While I have loved my time here, I am so excited to get home and see my family and friends for a couple days before hopping in the car for a nice 20-hour drive down to Houston.

My last days at my internship have been pretty busy as I try to finish up all my projects, or at least get them ready to hand over to someone else. The week has been filled with lots of final testing and report writing. For my torque device project, I think we are just about ready to make our final recommendations to the supplier. I spent last week trying to finalize the allowable limits for the tolerance range. This involved testing about 35 different cap and body combinations. My desk was covered in different units, and that is when I learned a valuable lesson in the importance of labeling and organization. I had to stop a couple times in the beginning to search for what piece I needed or to make sure I hadn’t mixed up different size caps, but luckily it got easier as I figured out what system worked best for keeping things straight.

Not pictured: more torque devices on the floor and on Sarah’s desk

Speaking of valuable lessons, I can’t even count how many of those I got this summer, inside the office and out. But I will share a few of the most memorable ones:

  1. Always bring a rain jacket. Costa Rica has its own Murphy’s law that guarantees it will rain if you do not bring a rain jacket, even if it is super sunny when you leave the house.
  2. Do not, under any circumstances, leave a plate with peanut butter on it on the counter for a couple hours. This will result in massive amounts of ants that do not die no matter how much you squish them and that then climb out of the trash can, up the wall, and onto the counter. This will then result in feeling like you might have a heart attack when you walk into the kitchen at 6:30am and see the hundreds of ants that you thought were dead.
  3. People are so nice! I know this sounds extremely basic, but everyone this summer was willing to go the extra mile to make sure we got as much out of our internship as possible. When we met with people to learn about their daily jobs, backgrounds, etc., they would often say “Oh, and you should talk to XX, too.” When we were in the lab getting help with the Instron, someone suggested, “Why don’t you go see if the neuromodulation department could help you out with a different sensor so you can have additional testing?” Everyone was ready to help everyone else; all you have to do is be confident enough to put yourself in a position where you can be helped. I think I got a lot better at getting past my shyness and putting myself out there.
  4. Meals are important. I have never been the best chef, and I often snack in lieu of making an actual meal, but that changed in Costa Rica. Breakfast and lunch breaks are practically sacred at work, and luckily, I had a good GMI pal that made me a real dinner every night in exchange for doing the dishes (thanks, Drew). I learned that taking a break to eat a solid meal is a great way to relax and get to know the people around you.
  5. Nothing makes people bond faster than giving them no other option. I think our GMI clan got a lot closer a lot faster than is normal. But I guess that’s what happens when the first 48 hours in Costa Rica consists of 7 hours together on a bus, 6 hours together at universities and hospitals, 4 hours together planning for the short course, and all remaining hours still spent together eating or sleeping. I loved getting to know every single person and can’t wait to get to Houston! Special shout-out to Sarah who endured the terrible traffic to Heredia with me, sat at a desk right next to me, ate breakfast and lunch across from me every single day, and never got tired of me. Nothing makes you become good friends like spending 10+ hours a day together, 5 days a week! Also, shout-out to Hannah for being the best GMI summer roomie! It’ll be a strange adjustment to not live 10 feet away from you and not go on walks together to see the neighborhood cows.

Although the summer of internships and adventures is over, I can’t wait to see what Houston has in store for the GMIers (hopefully it has beaches and farmer’s markets because that is what we did this weekend, and it was awesome). And so one last time:

Pura Vida!

Santa Ana Farmer’s Market and Jaco Beach

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Fully Supplied with Knowledge & Memories

Our last week is underway and I have a lot to look forward to! I am excited to see my family and road trip from New York to Houston with my sister. I’m eager to get started on our design and implementation projects and I am looking forward to getting settled in and trying all the fusion cuisines Houston has to offer! I am sad to say goodbye to Costa Rica for now, but I hope to take Spanish classes and come back in the future.

Most recently at work, I spent time on an urgent Supplier Engineering project defining components of permanently implanted devices that are manufactured in Coyol, Costa Rica. As industry standards have changed, Boston Scientific is updating all materials that have long term contact with the body to be “medical grade”. This is a rating given to qualifying materials by the U.S. Pharmacopeial Convention (USP). Current Boston materials are biocompatible, but don’t necessarily have this rating. I evaluated the risk of these components based on the grade of material currently in use and the length of implantation time of the component. Many of Boston Scientific’s stents are manufactured in Coyol, and certain parts will have to undergo material changes in the coming few years. This is a huge undertaking and will require testing of new materials, finding new manufacturers, or requiring manufacturers to change their ways.

For Boston Scientific’s acquisition of nVision, I put together a spreadsheet of components of the Mako 7 device that are not currently manufactured by a company that is on Boston Scientific’s Approved Vendor List (AVL). For each of these parts, I have compared their prices to those of manufacturers that are on the AVL. Hopefully, Boston Scientific will be able to move forward with pre-approved vendors that are able to make the components needed for the Mako 7. Using approved vendors speeds up the launch process because further audits do not need to be performed and agreements have already been signed. Every day that the Mako 7 is not on the market is a day that women do not have access to this ovarian cancer diagnostic tool, so Boston Scientific’s aggressive timeline is crucial.

Through this internship, I have gotten a more complete sense of the medical device development process, from raw material acquisition through manufacturing. Although R&D and the design process get the reputation for being exciting and creative, there is problem solving to be done in material selection, cost analysis, and designing for manufacturing, and a device could not be put on the market without them. I’m glad that the experience I had at Boston Scientific shed light on some of the less sparkly, but equally important and complex, aspects of medical device and product development. I think that this knowledge will help me as a designer, too.

From a less technical standpoint, through this internship and my time in Costa Rica I have gained friendships with both colleagues and fellow GMI students that are very meaningful to me. I am excited to go back to Houston and have ten familiar, motivated, funny, insightful friends to spend the school year with. I have also gotten to spend some time with my colleagues outside of the office, celebrating birthdays and babies, and meeting their dogs and seeing their homes. I’m sad to say goodbye to so many of my coworkers who have welcomed me to Costa Rica and Boston Scientific so warmly. I will keep Whatsapp just for them!

GMI’s Supplier Engineers (from left: Theresa, me, Hannah)

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Hopping Projects – From Boston Scientific to GMI

Last week at Boston Scientific was full of practical experiences for me to reflect on. One notable topic was time management in a corporate setting. My two main projects are the supplier investigation and my team’s focus on finishing the test method validation phase on time. My part in the supplier investigation is rather individual – think of me in a lab using an instrument to take measurements. On the other hand, my responsibility to my team was to be available when they needed me, which broke up my productive time into odd chunks during the day.

Between these two projects, people were asking me to do multiple things at once. Naturally, I learned about prioritizing as I tried to get everything done within the workday. A few times, I brought my work home, and as a result, I felt a mixture of relieved preparedness and tiredness, both physical and mental. I was fascinated to learn that it was acceptable to push back due dates on lower-priority tasks in order to ensure that higher-priority ones were accomplished. Previously, I had seen due dates as more rigid in the corporate environment, but keeping the priorities in mind helped me understand how it all works together. Within the next year, I aim to develop in the area of prioritization and time management so I can have a more balanced and less chaotic relationship with engineering work in the medical device industry. Of course, time management is a hot topic for any student at the college level, but being an intern has given me the new context of time management in the corporate setting.

Now, this week may be my last in Process Development in Costa Rica, but my team is actually gearing up! When I joined, we were tackling test method validation, and now we’ve moved on to the next important and demanding phase of launching a product: design verification. It’s odd to be leaving my team as they’re accelerating work. Even so, there are other projects for me to think about next!

Guanacaste province is quite agricultural. Did you know they grow marshmallows there? (Joke credit to Sr. Prendas from Invenio!)

Camilo is interested in being part of the Invenio contingent of the DialOasis team.

Last Friday, I visited Invenio University and Liberia Hospital, which are our partners for the DialOasis project. They’re both located in Guanacaste province, which is a largely agricultural area in the northwest part of the country. I talked with students and faculty at Invenio and I’m looking forward to boosting productivity on the project by having a more collaborative relationship with the students. There’s plenty of interest as well as a sense of urgency, and I already followed up with a student who took the design course with us at the beginning of June and wants to be involved. (That’s when this picture was taken. I was so focused on gathering information when I was there that I forgot to take pictures with people in them!) It was fantastic to already know students at Invenio and be connected!

A faculty member from Invenio, Sr. Prendas, came with me to Liberia Hospital, which is the regional hospital that currently treats all peritoneal dialysis patients, including those who may be eligible DialOasis recipients. We talked with doctors about where we are and how we can be strategic with our efforts to maximize the effect of our efforts. The doctors were very generous with their time and I appreciated that we were already speaking candidly and practically. If we keep up the communication, a lot can be accomplished this year with DialOasis!

My next blog post will be a few weeks from now. There’s a short recess, and once we return to school in August for classes, I’ll be writing monthly updates. See you later!

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Taking Supplier Work Insights to Future Teams

My introduction to medical device companies through the internship at Boston Scientific this summer has allowed me to understand and learn more about medical devices. This final week here I am focusing on wrapping up and handing off the supply risk matrix. I was also able to attend a meeting as a supplier engineer and learn more about a problem one of our packaging components is having. While this meeting was in Spanish, I was impressed with how much I was able to pick up after 6 short weeks here and see my progress. Providing support in a meeting like this helped me see what a supplier engineer has to think about when there are risks and determining the root cause of the risk is important. The internship experience this summer has given me insights into working in a big medical device company and helped me to see how many different people,

Supplier engineering interns!

departments, and areas of expertise are needed to keep a company running. Supplier engineering has given me a chance to see more of the work that goes into a medical device outside of the design. I have used the supply risk matrix as a way to understand how risks are assessed, how departments work together to address risks, and how supplier engineers support risks. Also, I have incorporated design changes and improvements in order to make matrix more user-friendly, sustainable, and presentable to other departments. These weeks here in Costa Rica have given me the chance to work and see a medical company in an international context. I hope in going back to Rice and starting school in a couple weeks I integrate my knowledge of medical device companies into how I design and implement my project because I have a better background of the complex parts involved. Additionally, I hope to get more exposure to design and the creation of medical devices.

Our implementation team went to Hospital México this past week to hear more about the project MilkyWaves, which is based here. As we continue to gather information on the MilkyWaves project, I am excited to start working on it this fall when we are back at Rice. An interesting development out of the meeting was that the hospital is building a new surgical suite building and has been wanting to add cameras into the lights in the surgical room in order to record and show procedures to students. A lot of students want to shadow at the hospital, but it can be hard to have many students in the operating room, and they do not see much unless they are right next to the procedure. Harnessing the power of cameras could give the students a better view and provide the experience to more students. We are working on a similar project – a VR system that is addressing clinical needs finding – and the possibility of potentially collaborating in the future with Hospital México to work on video learning would be a great international continuation of our project. 

This weekend Christine and I went to the Starbucks Coffee Farm. It is the only coffee farm owned by Starbucks in the world and having a tour of it was amazing. We saw how the coffee was planted, grown, harvested, processed, and roasted. Taking the time to learn the steps made me realize how complex getting to a cup of coffee is. Starbucks focused on showing how they are trying to be sustainable with their production using solar panels to power machines for processing. Also, maintaining their values is important to them while making quality coffee and they never buy from farms that employ children and instead focus on getting kids education while their parents are working. This made me think more about the food and drinks I consume and where they come from. Ending my last weekend here in Costa Rica learning about coffee, which is so important to the people in Costa Rica, was the perfect wrap up. 

Starbucks Coffee Farm

Costa Rica has been such an amazing trip exploring, learning, and working. I will miss the daily meals with my team, learning more Spanish, and this beautiful country. 

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Wrapping Things Up

As we near the end of the Costa Rica portion of GMI, it is time to start focusing on our implementation projects! Thus, at the beginning of the week, the MilkyWaves team (Hannah, Christine, Theresa, and me) made a trip to visit Dr. Vargas at Hospital Mexico. We weren’t able to visit the neonatologists at Hospital de Niños due to scheduling conflicts, but Dr. Vargas, who is involved with GMI through Consultika, was kind enough to spend some time with us and answer our questions about MilkyWaves. Although she is an OB/GYN and not a neonatologist, she was able to address our concerns regarding the environment of the NICU and how to set up clinical trials in Costa Rica, since she went through this process with Consultika. She also offered to put us in contact with neonatologists and other doctors, which will be very helpful as we make progress with the project. I am looking forward to working on this project at Rice and returning to Costa Rica in October to implement it!

Theresa and I were also able to discuss our mind oVR matter project with Dr. Vargas during this meeting. We explained that one of our next steps with the project was to set up cameras in operating rooms in order to enhance clinical needs finding and learning. She excitedly expressed that there is a very similar need in Costa Rican operating rooms for medical students to observe and learn from surgical procedures, as it is difficult for many students to crowd around an operating table and see what they need to see. It’s cool to see that our Houston-based project has the potential to be applied globally, and this could, perhaps, be a project idea for the future.

At Boston Scientific this week, Kevin and I spent a lot of time in the Engineering Lab helping the guidewire team perform validation testing on manufactured units. We performed a rotations test with a large apparatus that was supposed to simulate exaggerated human conditions to ensure that if one end of the guidewire rotated three times, the other end of the guidewire would also rotate three times. This test is important because if the end of the guidewire that is in the patient does not behave the way the physician wants it to, this could result in unnecessary user complication and potential surgical issues. After the rotations test, we conducted a bend deformation test. This test involved putting a segment of the guidewire under some load on an Instron and recording the angle of deformation after the load was applied. This quality test was to make sure the guidewire could withstand a large load and not experience any deformation larger than a pre-determined maximum angle.

Kevin and I performing the rotations test.

On a less technical and more sentimental note, this blog post is the last of our summer blogs, and I am feeling a mix of emotions. I am super excited to see my family and friends again after two months, but I will miss our time in Costa Rica. Spending essentially every waking minute with a group of people can do some great (and not so great…but mostly great) things. I am so glad to have met and spent so much time with everyone in this cohort and am looking forward to spending the next year with these new friends. We won’t all be in the same apartment complex, which is actually something I think I’ll miss, but we will be spending a lot of time with each other in the OEDK and BRC. It’s going to be weird not seeing them for TWO WHOLE WEEKS (!!!), but I think I’ll survive. Regarding Boston Scientific, I will miss the very open, social Costa Rican work environment and culture, but I will miss the people there the most. All of my coworkers and everyone else I have met have been great company and so welcoming towards me and our whole group. It will be a very difficult goodbye, but maybe it’ll be a “see you later”. This is going to be a bittersweet week, but I look forward to ending this experience on a positive note. See you later, Costa Rica!

Our first complete group picture! Only took us two months.

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