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Diseases, Devices, and Patients: Exposing BME Students to the Patient Experience

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2017 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Columbus, Ohio

Publication Date

June 24, 2017

Start Date

June 24, 2017

End Date

June 28, 2017

Conference Session

Clinical, Patient, and Innovation Experiences in BME

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Paper Authors


Daniel P. Cavanagh Bucknell University

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Daniel P. Cavanagh earned his BS, MS and PhD in Biomedical Engineering from Northwestern University and joined the faculty at Bucknell University in 1999 to start a new degree program in Biomedical Engineering. Since coming to Bucknell, he has taught numerous courses, led the implementation of the new major, and published a range of technical and educational papers. Until 2015, he served as the chair of the Department of Biomedical Engineering, which graduated its first class in 2007 and received ABET accreditation in 2009 and 2014. He also holds the William C. and Gertrude B. Emmitt Memorial Chair in Biomedical Engineering. Nationally, Professor Cavanagh has dedicated himself to the advancement of undergraduate biomedical engineering education through a range of activities including serving five consecutive terms as Treasurer on the executive board of the national Council of Chairs in Biomedical Engineering, serving as the Chair of the Biomedical Engineering Division of the American Society for Engineering Education, and serving as an ABET evaluator. In 2006, he was awarded the Lindback Award for Distinguished Teaching at Bucknell, and in 2010 earned the Pilkington Outstanding Educator Award from the Biomedical Engineering Division of the American Society for Engineering Education. Professor Cavanagh currently focuses a significant portion of his time on the development of new medical technologies and the University-wide partnership with Geisinger Health System.

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Joe Tranquillo Bucknell University

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Dr. Joseph (Joe) Tranquillo is an Associate Professor at Bucknell University in the Department of Biomedical Engineering, He is also co-director of the Institute for Leadership in Technology and Management, co-director of the KEEN Winter Interdisciplinary Design Program, and chair of the Biomedical Engineering Division of ASEE. Tranquillo has published three undergraduate textbooks and numerous engineering education publications, and has presented internationally on engineering and education. His work has been featured on the Discovery Channel, CNN Heath and TEDx. He was a US Case Professor of the Year nominee and a National Academy of Engineering Frontiers of Engineering Education faculty member.

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Biomedical engineering students are provided with many opportunities to develop a wide range of technical and design skills. Few students, however, explore in-depth the experience of patients undergoing device-related interventions and treatments. Furthermore, medical device technologies are frequently developed to address patient needs at the point those needs arise. Hence, engineers involved in device design may not be fully aware of the entire pathway the patient has experienced. Patients are all too often treated as business customers. A new course offered in spring 2016 was designed to provide students with the opportunity to explore the comprehensive patient experience including disease cause and progression, clinical diagnosis and treatments, and patient decisions and experiences.

The course was structured to have one introductory and two in-depth projects. Overall, the projects provided students with opportunities to explore and integrate diseases, devices, and patient experiences, and to propose novel healthcare innovations. The three projects are: 1. Intro Project: Following a class visit by a cancer-surviving individual who provided an in-depth personal overview of his cancer experience, the students were tasked with exploring distinctly the disease pathway, intervention / device treatment pathway, and the patient pathway for either breast or prostate cancer. The students were not tasked with integrating these three pathways. The students revealed the knowledge they gained in various ways including; flow-chart diagrams, written summaries of disease processes, rubrics for evaluating interventions, and dialogs between a patient and a physician or a family member. 2. Project 1: For this project, the students were given the option to work individually or in small teams to conduct a deep exploration of a disease of their choosing along with the associated device interventions and patient experiences. In exploring the disease pathway, students prepared oral deliverables for which they chose the target audience and format. After investigating potential diagnostic or interventional devices, students performed skits depicting a dialog between a company technical representative and a device engineer in a clinical department. For the patient perspective on the disease process, students were asked to record fictitious, but accurate, patient video journal entries to be watched in class. The project concluded with a 10-15 minute demonstration of the integration of the disease, intervention and patient experience. Students were given broad latitude and encouraged to engage the class in creative ways. Deliverables included game shows, healthcare instruction presentations, and other creative activities. 3. Project 2: The final project was for the students to work in teams to propose healthcare innovations that could be interventions ranging from drugs, devices, procedures, policies, and regulations to educational and training modules. These innovations were required to clearly map back to the disease, device, and patient pathways. In addition to a 20-30 minute final engaging presentation, showing the proposed innovation and the integration of the three areas, teams were also required to submit a concise yet in-depth research report on the proposed innovation including the potential value of the innovation. Example innovations included a proposal for a policy to reduce hospital acquired infections, a plan for first-aid educational programs for children, and a plan for a new non-profit healthcare organization aimed at tackling health-related challenges of refugee camps.

Our aim in presenting the course to the biomedical engineering community is to encourage other instructors to help their students consider the individual patient perspective of innovations in health care alongside the broad technical, economic, and business perspectives. The paper will present more details on the logistics of the course as well as student feedback. The student feedback supports our decision to provide students with a great degree of agency in choosing the content, focus, and deliverables of their projects. We will also share assignments that can be used in synergy within a course or introduced piece-meal across several courses.

Cavanagh, D. P., & Tranquillo, J. (2017, June), Diseases, Devices, and Patients: Exposing BME Students to the Patient Experience Paper presented at 2017 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Columbus, Ohio. 10.18260/1-2--28185

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