Solving real-world medical problems in class

Interdisciplinary Medical Product Development Course

UIC students Lauren Campbell (from left), Jane Gabriel, Sylvia Isteefanos, Victoria Way and Andrew Russell put their heads together in the Interdisciplinary Medical Product Development course, a class for bioengineering, medical, marketing and industrial and graphic design students. Photo: Roberta Dupuis-Devlin


There aren’t many students who can say their end-of-the-semester presentation is covered by a nondisclosure form.

But the yearlong Interdisciplinary Medical Product Development course includes bioengineering, marketing and industrial and graphic design students — and a contract with Baxter Healthcare.

The goal? To create a product prototype, by the end of the academic year, that solves a medical issue.

“It’s a problem that’s of strategic business interest to the company, but also educationally fulfilling,” said Miiri Kotche, clinical associate professor of bioengineering and one of the three professors who teach the course.

The class, which meets weekly in the Innovation Center, is split into six teams that include one to two students from each discipline. The teamwork includes research in medical markets, conceptualizing ideas and designing the product.

“It’s really important that you’re designing something to satisfy a need, and not just making and putting something out there that nobody needs,” said Kotche.

That was an attractive feature for Michael Mercado, who would like to improve hospitals’ outdated equipment. “When I was choosing classes last spring, I had no idea of what kind of designer I wanted to be,” said Mercado, a senior in industrial design. “Making a chair or shoes puts a smile on people’s faces, but they don’t save lives. This class changed my point of view.”

Although the class is listed under Interdisciplinary Product Development courses, the Medical Product Development class is different — this is the first time medical students are included.

“The medical students bridge the gap between the hospital, the doctors,” said Nada Abdelrahim, a senior in bioengineering. “And spending time with them and understanding what they need makes our job a lot easier to see what is the actual solution.”

The medical students’ help is key in grasping the true difficulties encountered in hospital settings, the other students said.

“They’re actively contributing their knowledge about the conditions patients experience and which constraints exist in the clinical setting,” said Martin Strama, a senior in bioengineering.

Although the medical students don’t get credit for the course and participate when their schedules permit, second-year med student Andy Kim said he enjoys the class.

“It’s nice for me, because there’s problem solving and creativity involved,” Kim said. “The first two years of medical school are brutal because there’s a lot of memorization, so I thought it was a nice change of pace to brainstorm ideas and think about different things that are applicable to medicine.

Kotche believes having students in different fields adds a “real world” experience to the course.

“The valuable piece of the class is just learning how to work with different disciplines,” said Kotche. “The language is very different, so I think it gives students a great opportunity to sharpen their communication skills.”

For Katelyn Bouda, a senior in marketing, it’s been an experience in understanding other personalities and learning styles.

“It’s been really interesting because I never really thought that working with the other disciplines would have been that different,” she said.


students working together in the Interdisciplinary Medical Product Development Course

UIC students Joe Hefner (from left), Sam Dreyer, Andrew Kang, Robert Kay and Rudy Melgar work with Vernon Grubisich (center), adjunct instructor in the College of Business Administration. “It’s really important that you’re designing something to satisfy a need,” says course instructor Miiri Kotche. Photo: Roberta Dupuis-Devlin

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