Medical students serve as mentors for biomedical engineering students while gaining human-centered design experience
During the fall 2022 semester the School of Medicine piloted a clinical TA concept in which fourth year medical students (M4) participated as clinical TAs in the Introduction to Biomedical Engineering Design course in the Emory School of Medicine-Georgia Institute of Technology shared Wallace H. Coulter Department of Biomedical Engineering (BME).
In this undergraduate course, students work in teams to analyze existing medical devices utilizing problem-based learning and human-centered design methodologies to create an improved concept for a new patient population. At the end of the course, students have a working prototype and pitch their product to the class. The intent of the clinical TA is to increase the amount of clinical interaction for Georgia Tech undergrads and in return, the clinical TA learns basic engineering concepts and observes the human-centered design process in action to create new medical devices.
“The clinical TAs provided very helpful insight on how real patients might interact with our product and the doctor's perspective on the device. Their comments directly influenced our design and helped us move forward.”
Introduction to Biomedical Engineering Design undergraduate student
The clinical TAs agreed that M4s are the ideal candidates for this role, due to the time constraints on third year medical students and second year students lacking clinical experience. Four M4s were chosen for the pilot.
“This was a very neat experience that allowed me to gain exposure to the engineering framework and approach to problem-solving. My involvement has provided me with a new lens with which to approach other initiatives that I have committed to. The exposure provided through this opportunity is particularly valuable to me as it is unique and otherwise not available through the typical extra-curricular activities available to medical students,” says Mohamed Munye, clinical TA and MD candidate class of 2023, Emory School of Medicine.
BME faculty, clinical TAs, BME TAs and BME students all expressed overwhelming satisfaction with the pilot. In addition to providing clinical guidance and expertise, an unintended benefit of the clinical TA role was the mentoring that occurred between the clinical TA and BME students interested in going to medical school.
“It was really interesting to watch the clinical TAs step in, initially serving as a sounding board and challenging the students' expectations. At this point, they know the teams quite well, and are a great source of encouragement and validation when teams are on the right track and feel comfortable pushing the teams to take their ideas further where they are still weak. It's just awesome to have them in the room, every time,” says Marty Jacobson, design instructor design shop manager, Wallace H. Coulter Department of Biomedical Engineering, Georgia Tech and Emory University.
TAs and students expressed value in getting involved earlier in the design process when students are selecting a project and researching physiological need and the desire for clinical TAs to represent a variety of fields of study (i.e surgery, medicine, psychiatry, etc.), backgrounds, and interests. The clinical TA program was approved for continuation in the spring semester with ideas for expanding it to other sections of the course if there is interest from M4 learners or residents.
The pilot is part of the School of Medicine’s Education Transformation which is reimagining and transforming the education curricula for all School of Medicine programs. The school is widely known for producing superior clinical providers and outstanding scientists, yet the school’s programs must keep up with increasing demands on clinicians and scientists to solve the health challenges of today and in the future. A broad-based steering committee is guiding the process and plans to release recommendations this summer.