Biomedical Engineering in a Clinical Environment
Employer: Mary Free Bed Rehabilitation Hospital
Job Title: Biomedical Engineering Co-op Student
Major: Interdisciplinary Engineering
Received Credit: Yes
Description of the Organization
My second co-op was done with the Motion Analysis Center at Mary Free Bed Rehabilitation Hospital in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Our main focus is to use biomedical and computer modeling to analyze the gait deviations of patients that we evaluate. Patients come to the center with a variety of diagnoses; cerebral palsy, spina bifida, traumatic brain injuries as a result of terrible accidents, strokes, etc. We use a system of twelve infrared cameras to detect sensors placed on various bony prominences of the patient that allows our computer system to track their motion (similar idea to motion capture done in cinematography). Reports are drawn from the data and a weekly case conference is held between an engineer, a physical therapist and a physiatrist to create a plan of action for each patient. These plans can range from physical therapy to recommendations for Botox to surgical recommendations. The finalized gait studies include interpretations of this data and are sent out to the patients and their practitioners.
Description of the Tasks/Projects Completed
I processed the data collected during the study using a few custom biomedical motion capture software programs and assisted in pulling together the reports that are then given to a physical therapist. The physical therapist and engineer discuss the patient and the study's finding with a doctor and together, they determine a recommended plan of action. As my supervisor, Professor Amy Lenz, is also teaching at Grand Valley this semester, it was my job to learn the systems in detail so that I could troubleshoot in her absence. I had to make sure that the clinical visits go as smoothly as possible from a technology standpoint while the physical therapist in our office works directly with the patient.
Skills/Knowledge Gained Through The Experience
I was acclimated to the clinical environment and given a crash course in anatomy in order to follow the flow of the patient studies. Additionally, I was introduced to biomechanical modeling and reporting software, foot pressure software and video recording software in addition to many other new programs. I was able to draw ties from my engineering background and education to the work being done in the lab. Furthermore, working with such a disciplinarily diversified staff, I was taught how to work interdisciplinary work environment, something which will be incredibly beneficial in my career moving forward.
Favorite Part of the Experience
Being a biomedical engineering with career aspirations in the medical field, the clinical experience I gained from this experience was invaluable. The patient interaction was a unique aspect that is not acquired in most engineering settings. The weekly case conferences that I was able to sit in on were incredibly intriguing from both a clinical and professional standpoint, as I was introduced to new treatments and procedures and was also able to observe professional interaction across disciplines.
How the Experience Influenced Future Career Goals
Working in a clinical environment has solidified my choice in pursuing a career in medicine. Especially sitting in on the case conferences and listening to the surgical recommendations, I am further interested in pursuing a career in surgery and look forward to striving for those dreams even more than I had prior to this experience.