Partnering with industry to train biomedical problem solvers in Medical Product Development Program

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Ohio State biomedical engineering students are gaining extensive experience in the biomedical industry through a unique combined B.S./M.S program that also enables companies to cultivate innovation and talent.

Nocera, a white woman talks to students while holding a prosthetic leg
Clinical Associate Professor Tanya Nocera talks to students in the Medical Product Development Program she developed.

Launched in 2018, the Department of Biomedical Engineering’s Medical Product Development (MPD) Program enables qualified engineering students to earn both a bachelor’s and master’s degree in less time, while exploring the medical product development process firsthand.

Clinical Associate Professor Tanya Nocera led the design of the Medical Product Development (MPD) Program, which leverages corporate philanthropy and sponsored research to benefit students and companies. It matches students seeking more industry connections and career opportunities with companies that want creative solutions to market needs and bright minds who one day may join their team.

The hallmark of the program is a two-year, company-sponsored design project that students tackle in teams.

“Companies bring the project scope and mentor the teams. Compared to a nine-month capstone project, students are able to spend more time and energy shadowing, interviewing, and really getting to the root of an unmet clinical need,” explained Nocera. “Having that extra time adds a lot of depth and training students don't get to typically experience.”

Class of 2023 MPD graduates Gerardo Contreras, Kavya Narayanan and Ethan Pozy worked with GE HealthCare to determine the user needs and benefits related to a new ventilator concept that would improve clinician workflows and patient outcomes.

“This was the first time I worked on an extended, two-year project on a device from the actual beginning of defining user needs all the way to prototyping,” said Narayanan, who is now an associate scientist in Procter and Gamble’s beauty, research and development group. “Being able to not only learn, but actually implement the medical device development process was the biggest learning opportunity.”

Three students talk to an anesthesiologist next to an anesthesiology machine
A MPD team talking with an anesthesiologist about an anesthesia machine as part of their research project

The student team interviewed and shadowed respiratory therapists, nurse practitioners and clinicians at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center and other Ohio hospitals to determine user needs and hospital workflows related to ventilators. They also visited a mock ICU room to manipulate equipment and completed usability testing of their ventilator design prototype with medical professionals.

The students met regularly with project sponsors from GE HealthCare’s Anesthesia and Respiratory Care team and formally presented on their progress each semester. At the conclusion of their project, they provided their sponsors with a comprehensive summary presentation and final report.

“They treated us like we worked there and, in turn, we were able to really have a good relationship,” Narayanan said. They were really invested in our own learning too and not just what they were going to get out of the project.”

The collaboration provided GE HealthCare with “a unique opportunity to get fresh minds thinking about the needs of its customers.” The company is sponsoring another two-year student project this fall.

“The Ohio State students were very engaged and created unique designs in response to their learnings around the needs of both patients and clinicians,” said Chief Engineer Tim McCormick, project lead for GE HealthCare Anesthesia & Respiratory Care. “This output created concepts which will be considered for future GE HealthCare product developments.”

Other MPD student research projects have included developing a cardiac monitoring device for use by patients in the hospital and at home, investigating additive manufacturing for prosthetic sockets—the part that interfaces with a user’s residual limb—and evaluating the use of novel 3D-printed capsules and other dosage forms for oral medications.In addition to covering research expenses, funds from sponsors like GE HealthCare, Spacelabs Healthcare, WillowWood Global and Aprecia Pharmaceuticals support three program lecturers with extensive biomedical industry experience. They also enable teams to use resources like Ohio State’s Simulation and Modeling Center and the Center for Design and Manufacturing Excellence, where students receive advanced training in simulation, analysis and manufacturing from experts.

“The company, in my opinion, is receiving fresh perspectives, new clinical feedback, and elevated analyses and results,” Nocera said. “And the students are getting a higher level of training because we can funnel some sponsor funds to work with experienced industry professionals and enable their interaction with advanced resources on campus.”

With 18 graduates so far, the Medical Product Development Program has helped students secure internships and full-time jobs, and inspired the launch of a medical device startup.

It also motivated Nocera to help commercialize a lifesaving medical device she co-invented while developing the MPD program. The HDO Health Journiquet™ is a non­invasive, single-use device designed to stop uncontrolled bleeding at the junction of the torso and an appendage—such as the groin or armpit—quickly and effectively in high-stress combat and trauma situations.

“I see this as a personal training opportunity to utilize what I'm learning from taking a product from concept to commercialization and translate that back into the classroom,” Nocera explained. “Having a learning opportunity like the MPD program where students are safe to make mistakes, to learn, to grow before being fully out in the real world—I hope that is helpful for my students. I wish I had that opportunity.”

The program’s newest graduates attest to its value.

“It was well worth it,” Narayanan said. “Just the sheer exposure of working with people at the hospital, working with GE HealthCare, learning about the medical device development process. There was so much that we learned in two years and we got a master's degree out of it!”

Slightly modified version of an article originally appeared in Forward 2022-23, the college’s annual philanthropy report. Read the full issue.

Tag: MPD