Title: Work in Progress - Transdisciplinary Design Education in Biomedical Engineering and Industrial Design Towards Identifying Unmet Needs of US Veterans and their Healthcare Teams
The U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) and Veterans Affairs (VA) clinics and laboratories have the combined mission to maintain the strength and readiness of the active military force while maximizing the long-term health for those who previously served. Active-duty Service Members and Veterans represent a distinct culture with unique health-related needs that may stem from battlefield experiences, common diseases (e.g., heart disease, diabetes), or a combination thereof. Unique needs may also exist within the broader care team, which includes physicians, nurses, therapists, scientists, engineers, support staff, and family members. To uncover these needs, we developed a new course with a clinical immersion component. Our central hypothesis is that transdisciplinary student teams consisting of biomedical engineers (BME) and industrial designers (ID), with proper training and access to clinical environments, will be able to identify unmet needs of wounded warriors and subsequently develop viable solutions. Collaboration among BME and ID is standard in medical device design firms, however, only a handful of academic programs have been reported in literature. The program described herein will draw on several aspects related to biodesign, including content on disease state fundamentals, medical device case studies, and systematic techniques for needs finding and screening. Additionally, the student teams will receive complimentary education on user-centered research methods to enhance their ability to define new opportunities, user behaviors, the use environment, and social and cultural influences. Students will practice these techniques through clinical rotations and learning forums at the Salem VA Medical Center (SAVMC) and Walter Reed National Military Medical Center (WRNMMC), respectively. A pilot program with 15 students began in Spring 2020. Student outcomes will be based on evaluating (1) the students’ ability to recognize unmet needs that, if addressed, will benefit patients/providers and have the potential to support commercialization efforts, (2) the students’ appreciation for different roles and skill sets in medical device development, and (3) the students’ ability to direct a goal-oriented conversation with a range of audiences, including Veterans and healthcare professionals.
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