2019 Clinical Immersion Program Experience

Joint replacements, bone fracture repairs, open heart bypass surgery—these may not be experiences that come to mind when you think of the life of an SBME undergrad, but they’re exactly what a group of students experienced via observation this summer, as part of SBME’s clinical immersion program. Now in its second year, this program offers a seven-week, full-time immersion at the University of Colorado Health Medical Center of the Rockies. Students also visit the University of Colorado Health Clinical Education and Innovation Center, where they participate in clinical simulation for these high-level emergency situations. The program is co-directed by Ellen Brennan-Pierce, SBME’s senior design instructor, and Julie Dunn, Medical Director of Trauma Research at the medical center (and chair of SBME’s Industry Advisory Board).

During their time in the program, students rotate through specific specialty areas that rely on medical devices and biomedical technology, such as interventional radiology, intensive care, and a wide variety of surgeries. Annie Elefante, a fifth-year biomedical student, was one of this summer’s participants. “One of my favorite rotations was in the operating room because it encompassed a plethora of medical devices and instruments,” Elefante said. “In speaking to the medical teams…I learned more about biomaterials and the significance of clinical heritage when considering implant design. The summer flew by with everything we were exposed to at the hospital.” The clinical immersion program offers a level of hands-on experience that’s an excellent supplement to the classroom education students get on campus.

Another student participant, Meghan Morrill, spoke to other benefits of the experience: “This program showed how difficult the medical procedures are, giving [the students] ideas on how to improve them, all while forming connections that only improved the experience.” What better way for students to learn about medical devices than to interact with the patients and doctors who use them? Morrill continued, “The medical staff [explained] the faults in even the most successful medical devices in the operating room. I was so humbled and excited for the program.”

The Clinical Immersion Program is supported by the National Institute of Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering of the National Institutes of Health. It will enter its third year next summer.

Story written by Michael Benedict