Engineering Students to Help Doctors Bring Their Ideas to Life

Jun. 23, 2013
University of Rochester Opens Center for Medical Technology & Innovation

 Physicians can often name a medical device or procedure that would improve patient care – if only that device or procedure existed.

“The University of Rochester Medical Center is a treasure trove of ideas,” says Greg Gdowski, executive director of the new Center for Medical Technology and Innovation (CMTI) at the University of Rochester.  “There are 1,400 clinicians, all of whom likely have novel ideas based on what they do in their practices.”

The trouble is, doctors don’t usually have the time or capacity to turn their ideas into products.   So the university is launching the CMTI to connect physicians with biomedical engineering faculty and students who can help develop product prototypes.  The center is also forging relationships with companies capable of taking prototypes to the marketplace.

“The idea behind the CMTI is to bring all three facets – clinician, engineer, and company – into one community.  Our physicians will have a way to get something built,” says Gdowski.

This week, the center is welcoming its first batch of students.  They will spend the next two months working side by side with doctors in clinical settings, including the operating room. They will also visit regional biomedical companies to learn from industry insiders.  From these experiences, students will generate ideas for potential medical devices or procedures.  After choosing the most promising projects, they will break into teams.  Each team will spend the remainder of the yearlong program developing a prototype.  Upon completion, students will earn a master’s degree in biomedical engineering.

“The large advantage of this innovative program is the students will be better trained for industry.  They will know about company product lines, how products are built, and what the regulatory processes are for getting a device approved for clinical use.  They will understand the unmet needs of physicians and patients, and they will know whom to call when they have medical questions,” Gdowski says.

The CMTI is a collaboration between the School of Medicine and Dentistry and the Hajim School of Engineering and Applied Sciences