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Media Contact: Alicia Lurry 11 April 2005    
  (404) 778-1503   Print  | Email ]

Emory-Georgia Tech Program Brings Engineering Students to Grady Hospital
Led by Emory University School of Medicine emergency medicine physician David W. Wright, MD, a group of Georgia Tech students are working in Grady Memorial Hospital to design real-world solutions to real-life problems that every hospital may face.

The Biomedical Engineering Emergency Medicine Clinical Immersion Program at Grady Hospital is funded by an endowment from the Coulter Foundation at the Georgia Institute of Technology. It exposes engineering students to the daily clinical practice of medicine. For six weeks, the engineering students shadow Emory emergency physicians for more than 40 hours to better understand the emergency department environment and develop way to improve clinic operations. Dr. Wright hopes the Georgia Tech students will develop ideas for new clinical technologies such as wireless vital sign assessment systems, new IV designs, as well as new monitoring devices.

Dr. Wright is an assistant professor of emergency medicine at the Emory University School of Medicine and assistant director of the Emory Emergency Medicine Research Center at Grady Hospital, and is responsible for bringing the program to Grady. He says the collaboration between Emory and Georgia Tech is a perfect marriage, thanks to Emory's medical school, Georgia Tech's reputation in the field of engineering and the need for innovative clinical technology in biomedical engineering. The joint Emory-Georgia Tech department in biomedical engineering was recently ranked third in the nation by U.S. News & World Report.

"There are very few programs providing an actual course or opportunity for students to become truly immersed," explains Dr. Wright. "What we're talking about here is engineers understanding the culture of medicine and developing the language to be able to cross talk between clinical medicine and engineering. The engineering world has its technologies but only clinicians know their needs. Engineers are trained to look at things in a very different way."

"Getting engineers to understand the medical environment and the real limitations of and opportunities for technologies is a relatively novel concept," adds Dr. Wright. "The Emory-Georgia Tech partnership is in a unique position to address those issues."

Dr. Wright co-directs the program with Wendy Newstetter, PhD, director of Learning Sciences Research in the Department of Biomedical Engineering at the Georgia Institute of Technology. The Biomedical Emergency Medicine Clinical Immersion Program is part of Georgia Tech students' senior design project. It allows students to fulfill a graduation requirement by developing medical technology.

"This is a perfect project because we're trying to get our students to become observers of the same caliber as anthropologists," Dr. Newstetter says. "In order for them to identify their design opportunities, they have to really develop good observational skills."

The program is a three-semester course. Students spend the first semester at Grady shadowing a team of Emory emergency medicine physicians, gathering information, examining technology, asking questions, learning logistics and how various equipment and technology works.

The last two semesters are then spent completing a senior design project, where a physician, resident or an Emory emergency room charge nurse becomes the students' client as they develop technology that can improve the way patients are evaluated and treated in the emergency room.

Dr. Newstetter says she has high expectations of her students.

"The only way students will design well and design appropriately is to live in the place where they're designing, to totally understand the environment, the needs of the people, the urgency of the situation, the ebbs and flows and the pacing of the environment, so that when they do design, it's authentic to the people in the systems that are in place there," she says.

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