Commissioned News Story (Source: University of Utah)
The University of Utah’s Bench to Bedside program unites medical, engineering, and business students with the goal of creating new medical treatment products and teaching students “the value of multidisciplinary thinking.”
Bench to Bedside is a competition, which was designed to introduce students to the world of medical device innovation.
It was developed by founding member Noah Minskoff, as a beta-test for the BioInnovate program, but has become one of the University’s most popular student programs.
“What’s novel about the program is how it creates a collaborative team between these students with really different backgrounds and basis in their education,” he says. “It creates a synergistic overlap so they can all bring their experience together and develop technologies that can really have an impact on the lives of patients and the healthcare ecosystem.”
“Physicians walk around all day and see tons of problems with the current standard of care that we’re delivering to patients, and we have an idea of how to make it better, but we don’t know what to do with the idea,,” Minskoff says. “The process of taking an idea and translating into a meaningful change in healthcare practices is so daunting that these ideas seldom emerge as innovations.”
In the program, student teams form “start-up” companies, and are given the task of identifying unmet clinical needs. They have access to over 100 University physicians from various specialties. These physicians serve as consultants.
“Through the education process, medical students are not taught anything about business or engineering,” Minksoff says. “Engineering students are not taught about healthcare delivery, or current problems with healthcare technology that is used to treat illness and disease. Business students have very little exposure to the metrics that drive real world healthcare decisions or the engineering processes involved in new technology development. However, in order to solve many of the critical issues in medicine it requires that all of these disciplines collaborate and contribute in order to successfully bring innovative technologies to market.”
“The education system is so stove-piped, the fields of medicine, engineering, and business never interact in their training, and then you get out into the workplace and you have a lot of talented people who have no idea how to talk to each other,” he says. “They don’t speak the same language, have no familiarity with how each discipline needs to contribute in the process of new technology development, and it creates this invisible wall where a lot of ideas don’t come to fruition because you can’t easily interact within those different disciplines.”
Each team has six months and a $500.00 development fund to develop medical device concepts. During this time, students evaluate the IP landscape, prototype their design, and construct a business plan.
“Different students think about problems differently,” Minskoff says. “All of these people, individually, hold the keys to the larger puzzle, but there is a fundamental difficulty in the ability to interact, and that skill-set is never provided to them in their education.”
“This kind of cross-communication should be part of a student’s core training,” he says.
You can see an overview of the program here.
The program has seen some tremendous successes. In 2012, a student won for a device for asthma treatment called the “Last Inhaler You’ll Ever Need”. This year, twelve students were awarded $72,000 in prize money for their efforts.
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