Surgineering: curriculum concept for experiential learning in upper-level biomedical engineering

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Purpose: A strong foundation in the fundamental principles of medical intervention combined with genuine exposure to real clinical systems and procedures will improve engineering students’ capability for informed innovation on clinical problems. To help build such a foundation, a new course (dubbed Surgineering) was developed to convey fundamental principles of surgery, interventional radiology (IR), and radiation therapy, with an emphasis on experiential learning, hands-on with real clinical systems, exposure to clinicians, and visits to real operating theaters. The concept, structure, and outcomes of the course of the first run of the first semester of the course are described. Method: The course included six segments spanning fundamental concepts and cutting-edge approaches in a spectrum of surgical specialties, body and neurological IR, and radiation therapy. Each class involved a minimum of didactic content and an emphasis on hands-on experience with instrumentation, equipment, surgical approaches, anatomical models, dissection, and visits to clinical theaters. Outcomes on the quality of the course and areas for continuing improvement were assessed by student surveys (5-point Likert scores and word-cloud representations of free response) as well as feedback from clinical collaborators. Result: Surveys assessed four key areas of feedback on the course and were analyzed quantitatively and in word-cloud representations of: (1) best aspects (hands-on experience with surgeons); (2) worst aspects (quizzes and reading materials); (3) areas for improvement (projects, quizzes, and background on anatomy); and (4) what prospective students should know (a lot background reading for every class). Five-point Likert scores from survey respondents (16/19 students) indicated: overall quality of the course 4.63 ± 0.72 (median 5.00); instructor teaching effectiveness 4.06 ± 1.06 (median 4.00); intellectual challenge 4.19 ± 0.40 (median 4.00); and workload somewhat heavier (62.5%) compared to other courses. Novel elements of the course included the opportunity to engage with clinical faculty and participate in realistic laboratory exercises, work with clinical instruments and equipment, and visit real operating theaters. An additional measure of the success of the course was evidenced by surveys and a strong escalation in enrollment in the following year. Conclusions: The Surgineering course presents an important addition to upper-level engineering curricula and a valuable opportunity for engineering students to gain hands-on experience and interaction with clinical experts. Close partnership with clinical faculty was essential to the schedule and logistics of the course as well as to the continuity of concepts delivered over the semester. The knowledge and experience gained provides stronger foundation for identification of un-met clinical needs and ideation of new engineering approaches in medicine. The course also provides a valuable prerequisite to higher-level coursework in systems engineering, human factors, and data science applied to medicine.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalInternational Journal of Computer Assisted Radiology and Surgery
Volume15
Issue number1
DOIs
StatePublished - Jan 1 2020

Keywords

  • Biomedical engineering
  • Curriculum
  • Interventional radiology
  • Radiation therapy
  • Surgery

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Surgery
  • Biomedical Engineering
  • Radiology Nuclear Medicine and imaging
  • Computer Vision and Pattern Recognition
  • Health Informatics
  • Computer Science Applications
  • Computer Graphics and Computer-Aided Design

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