Problem identification remains a significant challenge in the education of biomedical engineers. Access to clinics and clinicians is limited, and therefore a host of clinical problems and the breadth of healthcare realities are inaccessible to the average student. A popular approach to overcoming this limitation comes in the form of clinical immersion experiences, which have been implemented in various ways and have targeted a variety of educational levels.
We built a summer immersion program with broad curricular impact for Biomedical Engineering (BME), supported by a “Team-Based Design in Biomedical Engineering Education” (R25) award from the National Institute of Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering. This immersion program matches undergraduate BME students with third year medical students. These “BME Clinical Scholars” act as observers during ten-weeks of the medical students’ summer clinical clerkships. Importantly, the Clinical Scholars join an established learning community of medical students who serve as their mentors. The Clinical Scholars gain a personal vantage on the problems encountered daily by clinicians, and have the opportunity to immerse themselves in a small number of clinical fields for weeks each. A holistic yet targeted admissions process helps to ensure the diversity of the Clinical Scholar cohorts.
Two sets of written deliverables are expected of every Clinical Scholar from each clinical clerkship in which they are immersed. The first deliverables are statements of clinical problems or unmet clinical needs, with appropriate user needs and constraints. These Clinical Needs Reports are intended for use in new and existing BME design-build courses, broadening the impact of the immersion experience to a much larger number of students. The second of the deliverables are instructional case studies targeted to BME core or elective courses. These case studies may be used by our degree program faculty for the instruction of the entire BME student body. The case studies will be vetted by program faculty, and will be made publicly available after one semester of in-class use and iterative redesign.
We here report on the inaugural year of our Clinical Scholars program, its impact on participants, and lessons learned on how to broaden its impact to non-participating students via our BME curriculum.
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