Week 9: A (Chan)ge of Pace

I am a fan of variety, and not just because people have tagged it as the spice of life. Variety is engaging, but it can also be random and unsuspecting. It keeps people on their toes. It has helped me get through this past week in several ways, but what other way to spice things up than to switch up my blog this week!

 

Chan-te’s Peak (a playoff of 1997 film, Dante’s Peak – a movie about volcanoes…)

So, after trying to edit the video at least four times over because my computer kept crashing from the data dump of video clips (all in the name of entertainment), here is a short reprise of our trip last week to Arenal! It was an absolutely brilliant experience seeing the volcano and exploring the area, but as we begin counting down the days before we set foot back in the United States, it’s the weekends like these that will make me miss Costa Rica that much more. This weekend we took our talents to Manuel Antonio, where we kayaked and relaxed at one of the most renowned beaches and national parks in Costa Rica. However, we stopped along the way at a notorious bridge where several crocodiles reside as gatekeepers underneath it. Do not be fooled though, crocodiles are vicious and will attack you (so please be careful), unlike their alligator predecessors, which are much friendlier.

 

All Quiet on the Southern Front (catching on yet?)

I have not really given many updates in the way of the GMI program itself recently, mostly because I have been so consumed with my work at Boston Scientific. However, as I was kicking back and watching Game of Thrones this past Tuesday (on a Costa Rican holiday, mom, so I’m not pulling a Ferris Bueller’s Day Off moment), we received an email from Dr. Richardson about our implementation projects for the year! Much of the groundwork has already been laid out in these projects, and depending on the project, it is our job to make final redesigns and to pass through the appropriate channels such as clinical trials to get our product out for patient use (hence the name, implementation).

This year, I will be working on Truvent, a project designed to improve compliance of bag valve masks, or BVMs. These hand-held devices provide ventilation to patients who are not breathing adequately. However, there are several issues currently surrounding this technology, namely for those who are applying the ventilation to the patient. For example, if they do not properly create a seal around the patient’s airway, or if they press on the bag too quickly, it can ultimately be detrimental for the patient. Therefore, we are working with a developing technology that can provide health care providers with a better knowledge of their actions to prevent further harm. It is an exciting device, especially when we consider the larger scale of people that need a better way of indicating if they are properly applying the right amount of force (in some developing countries, family members and inexperienced personnel will use these BVMs to save people, stressing the importance of proper compliance). I am really looking forward to starting this project once I get back to Houston!

 

Chan Man 3 (Iron Man 3…I admit this isn’t my best one but I’m trying here)

Now, back to Boston. In all honesty, it feels like everything we do in neuromodulation is something out of a Tony Stark movie, and I’m just trying to do my part to get it one step closer to just that. As I mentioned in the beginning of this blog, variety is important, and that is what has helped me get through this busy week. Keeping myself accountable for all my work, though, comes back down to documentation and keeping meticulous records of my work. It has not only helped me understand my current standing in a project, but it allowed me to manage my work and distribute my time accordingly.

While it was a short 3-day week, I mainly focused on testing. Upon converging upon ideas that I wanted to pursue, I developed and took my protocols and experimental setups to conduct my tests. Though I collected analyzable data for the following week, I also learned the importance of patience and resolve when applying my ideas. Namely, of the 10 or 15 trials that I aimed to complete, only about a third of them were utilizable due to mechanical difficulties or debugging issues. At a certain point, I could not figure out what was wrong, but after an hour of debugging, I discovered that some of the sensors had short circuited and influenced my testing results. It was frustrating, but I realized how much work goes into creating a good testing platform, and how every detail must be managed and addressed for everything to run smoothly.

It looks innocent now…

Additionally, if you can take the time to automate a process, do it. I had originally planned to take manual measurements for temperature readings along two different points of the device, but upon further discussion and some Python coding, Alejandro and I were able to automate the entire data collection process. This not only allowed us to record more accurate measurements, but it also freed up time for me to pursue other tasks.

To maximize my time while I was stuck or was waiting for a trial to conclude, I utilized the opportunity to work on my personal development goals. Aside from improving my documentation methods, I sat in on meetings with professionals that gave me a further understanding of the inner workings of a big company such as Boston Scientific. Though I am still interested in R&D, I can see myself pursuing other avenues that allow me to interface further with customers from a front-end side of a product, which can be achieved through marketing and sales, teaching clinicians about a product, or in many other ways. I have been having so much fun learning about it all, and that alone has made my time at Boston invaluable.

Now, as we head into our final days, I am excited to see how everything plays out. Remaining flexible has been a mantra here in Costa Rica and in my time at Boston, but ultimately, I need to reach the goals I set for myself at the beginning of the internship. I look forward to sharing my thoughts on how it all goes in the next blog, but until then…

Pura Vida mis amigos.

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