Introduction. In the United States, improvements and advances in medical technologies have made a significant impact on human health, increasing life expectancy and significantly improving quality of life. Despite these advances and a push toward healthcare as a global priority, there is a persistent deficit in healthcare solutions for developing countries. Working with partners in Africa and India, over the past several years, we have supported students at both the undergraduate and graduate-level in our Department of Biomedical Engineering (BME) to create healthcare technologies for low-resource settings in our existing Senior Design and Graduate-level Design courses. Despite our successes with these student teams, we recognized opportunities for enhancements. First, the design and implementation of global healthcare innovations are extremely complex, and often cannot be sufficiently covered in the confines of existing courses, which are often US-centric. Second, we were missing the opportunity to provide our engineering students with an interdisciplinary experience while leveraging the talent of students in our world-class School of Public Health. Third, while students are currently trained and encouraged to explore the entrepreneurial aspects of their global health tech projects, these aspects often receive less emphasis. The current generation of engineering students are eager to tackle global challenges and positively affect patient’s lives. Therefore, our objective was to create a new, experiential course in global health innovation and entrepreneurship where students from various educational levels and schools will identify and understand unmet global health needs, develop and refine sustainable solutions, and form ventures equipped for successful implementation of their solutions.
Approach. We created a semester-long course, “Global Health Innovation and Entrepreneurship” aimed at preparing students (BME and Public Health) to create sustainable solutions to global healthcare problems. The course includes a variety of methods for learning, including group project-based learning, case-based learning, and engagement with external experts. Interdisciplinary project teams work systematically through the iterations necessary to design, develop, and implement solutions for unmet global health needs. At the conclusion of the semester, a subset of the students will be selected to participate in a global immersion trip to Uganda. Assessment of learning outcomes, course dynamics, and effectiveness will be achieved using within semester surveys (including Likert Scale and qualitative responses) and a final course survey, in addition to tracking and supporting of teams beyond the classroom.
Results. The course make-up includes BME students (combined undergraduate and graduate students, N=11) and Public Health students (N=9). Our first within-semester survey results (response rate=80%) reflect “strongly agree” or “agree” in 100% of the student responses that the inclusion of case studies and external speakers support their learning in the course. 93% of the student responses also indicate “strongly agree” or “agree” that the interdisciplinary classroom environment and the group project support their learning in the course.
Conclusions: We have successfully designed and implemented a new course around global health innovation and entrepreneurship. Based on student feedback and instructor experience, the interdisciplinary classroom has significantly enhanced the classroom environment and the inclusion of opportunities for project based learning and case based learning has supported student learning.
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