Today’s show is all about EnMed, an MD/MS in engineering program to be offered by Texas A&M University’s College of Medicine and College of Engineering in conjunction with Houston Methodist Hospital. The program aims to teach physicians how to design technology to solve complex problems in medicine.
Our guest is Dr. M. Katherine Banks, vice chancellor for engineering for The Texas A&M University System and dean of the Dwight Look College of Engineering at Texas A&M University. Dr. Banks has had a very distinguished career in academia. Today, as vice-chancellor, Dr. Banks oversees the coordination and collaboration among the engineering, academic and research programs at seven universities throughout the A&M System. As dean of the Dwight Look College of Engineering, she leads one of the largest engineering schools in the country, with more than 16,900 students and 500 faculty.
What is EnMed? [2:00]
It’s an integrated program. We often think of engineering education in a traditional sense. However, as we move towards a healthcare that’s more efficient and effective, I believe the transformation of healthcare will come through technology development.
New technology in medical care is an important part of the healthcare of the future. We decided it was time to create a program that integrated design of technology into the medical program.
Is the focus on biotech, robotics, or improving prevention/delivery of care? [3:55]
All of the above. When we talk about engineering, people often think of new devices, but processes and systems are also important. The focus is on innovation: how to improve healthcare and healthcare delivery.
Students can move from the bedside to the makerspace, and develop new technologies or software. They’ll also work with the office of technology and commercialization. Allowing the healthcare providers to come up with the new ideas will move the products to market (and impact patients) much faster.
What is the program structure? [6:05]
We require an undergraduate degree in engineering or computer science – we want students to have a foundation in design knowledge. Then they move through the med school curriculum. But med school is very different: it’s an integrated med school curriculum (integrated with engineering/mathematics concepts).
There will be 50 students a year.
What is the entrepreneurial part of this program? [7:40]
It’s very important – a unique feature of the EnMed program. Entrepreneurship and innovation is critical.
Who better to move healthcare into the future than people working in healthcare? This is where the new ideas and technologies will arise, and the entrepreneurial aspect will enable that to come to reality.
We will be incorporating business training. And students will not be working in isolation: we’ll be bringing in students from the business school, PhD students in engineering, as well as nurses (who use technology). So the process will involve far more than the 50 students in the program.
What does “translational” mean in the context of your program’s emphasis on “innovative translational research”? [10:40]
It’s the idea of moving ideas from the lab (or clinical) setting into the marketplace/application. Often, researchers work in isolation, and the process of translating these concepts takes a very long time.
If we can have a model where the engineers are the physicians, the translation is speeded up.
An example of this mindset is the Aggie Invent undergraduate entrepreneurial program, where students talk with users first and then start thinking about their products. We’re trying to do a similar thing.
We want to create professionals (physicianeers) who think more broadly about innovation and create the future of healthcare. We want to bridge the gap between medicine, engineering, and business practice.
All EnMed grads will invent something – like what? [14:25]
Robotics, orthopedics, robotics in surgery…There’s a lot of potential in bio-printing. I’m really interested in artificial intelligence in medicine – for example, how we can support physicians as they make decisions in a stressful environment. There are also issues around health records. And technologies to help nurses monitor patients (both in the hospital and at home).
How does an applicant get accepted? [16:20]
There’s a website with detailed application information: enmed.tamu.edu.
In addition to the traditional requirements for medical school, we have additional requirements: why this program is right for you, etc. And we require additional references from professors/supervisors in the tech field.
Students will be able to pursue an MS, ME, or PhD in engineering alongside the MD. (The MS will be more focused on basic science and the ME more focused on entrepreneurship.)
What do you anticipate EnMed grads doing? [18:16]
There are many options open to them – they can really work in any field of healthcare.
Will there be entrepreneurial incubators at A&M? [19:40]
Absolutely, and we anticipate having something on site in Houston as well. The program will be in Houston, associated with Houston Methodist.
We’re hiring 30 new faculty – we’re moving quickly to establish this program.
The first class will be entering in 2017. We’re still improving and finalizing the curriculum.
How long is the program? [21:30]
We expect that the ME/MD can be done in 4 years. It’s possible that the MS/MD can also be completed in 4 years; it depends on the student’s project. It could take 5.
We’re meeting a need in the marketplace and profession for students trained in a different way. [22:35]
I feel very strongly that we’re providing students with a unique approach.
Any advice for a rising junior who’s interested in applying? [24:50]
Contact one of our advisors.
Make sure the student takes the required courses for med school. And they should practice thinking outside the box; they should apply what they’ve learned to how they want to change the world. They should start thinking in a new way – how they can impact the world of healthcare and how they can solve the problems they see.
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