Biomedical Engineering Clinical Internship


Biomedical Engineering Clinical Internship

Experience Information

Employer: Mary Free Bed Rehabilitation Hospital - Motion Analysis Center
Job Title: Engineering Intern; Motion Analysis Center
Major: Interdisciplinary Engineering
Received Credit: Yes
Paid: Yes
Abroad: No

Description of the Organization

The Motion Analysis Center (or MAC, as we like to call it) was established in 1994 at Mary Free Bed Rehabilitation Hospital in Grand Rapids, Michigan. We have a system of 12 infrared, motion capture cameras (similar to systems that create video games) which allow our team study human movement. We can analyze both your gait (lower body movement and walking) and your upper body motion. We use an evidence-based approach to provide recommendations to your treatment team based on your motion analysis data. Our team is comprised of a physical therapist, a biomedical engineer, a physiatrist, and several interns in both clinical exercise science/pre-PT and engineering.

Description of the Tasks/Projects Completed

My daily tasks include operating the technical portions of gait analysis studies, processing motion capture data and creating reports of this data for gait analysis by our in-house physical therapist. Due to recent scheduling changes, I have filled in as the primary engineer in my supervisor's absence, fully operating a system of twelve motion capture cameras, two analog force plates, a plantar pressure mat, electromyography and two-perspective video collection throughout our clinical studies. The data collected is then analyzed using biomechanical models, comparing and contrasting the kinetics and kinematics of our patients' gait patterns to that of a typical, non-pathologic gait. Over the past ten months, I have become acquainted with clinical interpretation of graphs of these kinetic and kinematic measures and have begun to recognize common pathologies associated with derivations from normal gait patterns. The typical interns at the gait lab are clinical exercise science, pre-physical therapy or pre-occupational therapy students. As the first engineering student to work in the Motion Analysis Center, I have been tasked with developing a curriculum for future co-op students. I have expanded upon the typical clinical internship tasks to incorporate Matlab programming, technical troubleshooting, procedural technical writing, data analysis and research interests. In the semesters following my start at the center, we have had four engineering students. These students have continually sought my guidance and instruction in the process of learning technical procedures and troubleshooting our complex and highly nuanced data collection system. As someone who enjoys leadership roles, I have appreciated the opportunities that have accompanied this aspect of the co-op position.

Skills/Knowledge Gained Through The Experience

During my time at Mary Free Bed, I have experienced immense personal growth. As an engineer, I have found myself exposed to an entirely new collection of software and hardware. Navigating this system has been both challenging and educational. On occasion, a technical difficulty will be encountered during a clinical study. I have had to learn to effectively handle these situations, approaching troubleshooting objectively and remaining calm so as not to concern our patients. The atmosphere of this co-op heavily emphasizes troubleshooting and individual work which has forced me to be persistent in my efforts to create successful interdisciplinary dialogues with colleagues in different disciplines. I have also had the opportunity to work in a research capacity, pursuing work with both group research projects incorporating prosthetic patients, as well as self-motivated retrospective data analyses. These experiences have furthered my insight into the clinical portion of the work done in the lab and have allowed me to apply the knowledge and skills I have gained throughout my engineering education.

Favorite Part of the Experience

A unique aspect of this position is the clinical application. During weekly case conferences, our team examines gait data with a physiatrist from the hospital. We discuss the implications of the kinematic and kinetic data collected during the study to make comprehensive recommendations for treatment and surgery. Many of the patients we see are pediatric patients with cerebral palsy, a diagnosis regularly associated with single-event, multi-level orthopedic surgeries. Gait studies play a large role in the treating physicians' decision-making processes.

How the Experience Influenced Future Career Goals

This exposure has sparked my interest in pursuing a career in orthopedic surgery. My experience in both clinical and classic engineering settings has given me an unconventional perspective on the profession and I see orthopedic surgery as an opportunity to integrate my engineering knowledge and clinical passions.

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