Spark of Brilliance
Occasionally, in the hallowed and learned corridors of academia, between listless lectures, creaking bureaucracy, hushed concentration, and glowing computer monitors, a spark of brilliance emerges with an intensity so bright, it promises to illuminate the entire campus.
A few weeks ago, in December, 2018, this writer reported on the first exchange between the students of MSIH and those of the Department of Biomedical Engineering. The purpose of the meeting: to present problems from low-income medical settings to the engineers, challenging them to devise practical and inexpensive solutions.
Even at the first meeting, the synergy was clear. Conscientious medical students presented aching problems, searching for cheap but effective solutions. Engineers, exposed to problems they’d never imagined, engaged their gears, transfixed by the challenges before them.
Biomedical Engineering Challenges
To recap on the problems presented:
- A device for locating veins for intravenous insertion in dehydrated patients in Africa
- A system to remotely monitor whether TB patients in Sri Lanka have taken their critical medicine
- A method for automatically recording and collating spine curvature in patients in Ethiopia
- A syringe for self-administration of drugs by patients in remote areas
- Special shoes for sufferers of foot ulcers caused by diabetes in countries where insulin not easily accessible
Low-Income Medicine Meets Hi-Tech Engineering
In February 2019, the second encounter – coordinated by students Matan Aroosh, Roni Shaashua, and Daniel Levi – produced ideas, presentations, 3D printed plastic models, and theories. The vibe in the room was palpable.
With one problem placed on hold, four proposed solutions were presented to a panel of judges to decide which should receive support for further exploration. (The collation of Ethiopian spine curvature was not addressed.) Presentations were made by teams of MSIH and Engineering students. The former explained the problem, the latter, their solution.
Why has this not been done already?
More than once this writer thought, “why has this not been done already?” The answer is simple: never before has this specific low-income medical problem been brought to the attention of engineers. Why would an engineer know that untreated diabetes sufferers have ulcers on their feet?
A panel of the University’s senior doctors and biomedical engineers sat as judges. They were:
- Prof. Opher Donchin, Head of the Department of Biomedical Engineering
- Prof. Hadar Ben-Yoav, Head of the Nanobioelectronics Laboratory, Department of Biomedical Engineering
- Yosef Shavit of the Bengis Center for Entrepreneurship & Innovation
- Prof. Noah Liel, Senior Cardiologist, Head of Global Health at MSIH
- Dr. Marcel Brus-Ramer, Radiologist, MSIH Instructor, and co-founder of www.EliteMedicalPrep.com.
Interestingly, one team concluded that their solution wasn’t technically viable because of the lack of telephones in low-income settings. They were quickly put right by the assembled experts, many with first-hand knowledge of the abundance of cell phones in India, Africa and Eastern Asia. The team quickly re-assembled to re-asses.
In the halls of BGU, the MSIH-BioMed Engineering project is echoing loudly. In just two meetings, it’s clear that great things will come of it. The University’s technology transfer office has already cast a glance.
Further reports can be expected.