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Board 11: Work in Progress: Fostering Cross-Disciplinary Collaborations between Biomedical Engineering and Occupational Therapy Students - A Model for Clinical Exposure for BME

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2018 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Salt Lake City, Utah

Publication Date

June 23, 2018

Start Date

June 23, 2018

End Date

July 27, 2018

Conference Session

Biomedical Division Poster Session

Tagged Division

Biomedical Engineering

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Paper Authors


Patricia A. Meyers American International College

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Patricia A. Meyers OTD, OTR/L is an Assistant Professor of Occupational Therapy at American International College in Springfield, MA. Dr. Meyers received a BS in Occupational Therapy from Boston University and a Post-Professional Doctorate in Occupational Therapy from Rocky Mountain University of Health Professions. Her areas of instruction are in the subjects of kinesiology, introduction to occupational therapy, management, adaptive technology and adult physical disabilities. These reflect her interest in the history, philosophy and current research in the profession. Her work experience incorporated interprofessional collaboration which she believes has positively influenced practical application in the classroom. This experience has also contributed to her interest in interprofessional education (IPE) as a component of student curriculum and expanded to assistive technology where occupational therapy and engineering students collaborate on project designs. Her interest and research in IPE has led to local, national and international presentations related to this subject matter. She has extensive clinical experience treating clients in the area of upper extremity outpatient orthopedics and cumulative trauma disorders, specializing in industrial rehabilitation as well as industrial and office ergonomics.

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Judy L. Cezeaux Western New England University

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Judy Cezeaux is Dean of Engineering and Applied Sciences at Arkansas Tech University. She received her B.S. degree in mechanical engineering from Carnegie Mellon University and her Ph.D. degree in biomedical engineering from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. Prior to her appointment at Arkansas Tech, she was Professor and Chair of Biomedical Engineering at Western New England University in Springfield, Massachusetts. She has also served as a Senior Staff Fellow at the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health in Morgantown, West Virginia as well as a faculty member at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville.

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It is imperative for undergraduate biomedical engineering students to understand the needs of patients and clinicians when designing medical devices, including assistive technologies. Some biomedical engineering programs offer a clinical immersion experience in a clinical setting to provide this context. In general, these clinical immersion experiences are difficult to sustain or have limited availability for programs without a medical school on their campus.

The cross -discipline collaboration between occupational therapy and biomedical engineering is not a new concept. Occupational therapy is a client centered healthcare profession that promotes health and well-being through occupation. Through the use of purposeful and valued activities, occupational therapists work with individuals and communities to enable participation in the activities of everyday life. Occupational therapists adapt and modify the activity, or the environment, to enhance people’s ability to engage in the occupations they want to, need to, or are expected to better support occupational engagement. Biomedical engineering applies engineering principles in the area of medicine and biology to create systems and devices to improve peoples’ overall health. Historically partnerships between these professions may involve interdisciplinary design teams with practicing occupational therapists serving as project advisors/sponsors or immersion of biomedical engineering students into clinical settings to expose these students to patient medical needs for potential assistive technology (AT) designs.

We describe a model of collaboration between a graduate occupational therapy program and an undergraduate biomedical engineering program at neighboring institutions. Using a constructivist approach to learning, an assignment is presented in an introductory assistive technology class in which occupational therapy students are asked to build a prototype of a custom AT device and provide a training manual of this original AT design. The expectations for these prototypes are that the design is well-constructed, safe, and easy to use and does what the student says it will do. This assignment was developed as a kinesthetic learning experience encouraging transformative learning. OT students who express an interest and whose projects have the potential for universal design are given the opportunity to present their prototypes to biomedical engineering students at a neighboring university. Based on these presentations, prototypes may be chosen for further development by the biomedical engineering students in either a one-semester product development course or a two-semester capstone design course. The occupational therapy student becomes a member of the design team and assists in defining the need and market for the device as well as participates in the verification of the final design. Advantages for the occupational therapy students include gaining a deeper appreciation of the design process as well as witnessing the actual product development of their low tech prototypes. The biomedical engineering students gain a peer team member who can provide the clinical context for the project. This process has yielded a patented consumer device which may have widespread appeal.

Meyers, P. A., & Cezeaux, J. L. (2018, June), Board 11: Work in Progress: Fostering Cross-Disciplinary Collaborations between Biomedical Engineering and Occupational Therapy Students - A Model for Clinical Exposure for BME Paper presented at 2018 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition , Salt Lake City, Utah. 10.18260/1-2--29875

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