From cell phones that transform into microscopes to designing new materials for targeted drug delivery, engineering discoveries at Texas A&M University are transforming healthcare.
Starting in Fall 2017, 50 physician engineers will have an opportunity to enroll in a graduate program developed as a collaboration between the Dwight Look College of Engineering, Texas A&M College of Medicine and Houston Methodist Hospital. The Engineering Medicine (EnMed) program would be an integrated research and medical school utilizing 75,000 square feet of research space at the Texas Medical Center.
Kristi Shryrock, instructional associate professor and executive director of interdisciplinary engineering programs, said EnMed is envisioned as an innovative medical school where professionals will acquire clinical skills to diagnose problems and an engineering mindset to invent new technologies.
“From the first day, students will study medicine through the lens of an engineer,” Shryrock said. “EnMed students will fulfill all academic and professional requirements for the medical degree but will have the opportunity to engage in additional experiences involving engineering, innovation, and entrepreneurship.”
Blake Teipel, Class of 2016, Ph.D. in material science and engineering and co-founder of two companies Essentium Materials and Trifusion Devices, said EnMed students will not only perform world altering research, but also learn to build businesses.
“Engineering and medicine, as disciplines, are-particularly well suited to tackle our grandest challenges such as public health, poverty and clean water,” Teipel said.
Teipel said as an entrepreneur who has spent a considerable amount of time in the university system as a student he was encouraged to see the university pursue this innovative approach.
“Disruption of the long-standing separation of these programs offers promise to provide novel solutions,” Teipel said. “You have to disrupt yourself or someone else will disrupt you.”
Teipel said he’d like to see the curriculum of the program emphasize “customer discovery” geared towards problem solving.
“Entrepreneurs have a high risk tolerance and [these] people are comfortable going supernova — basically, reinventing themselves or their ventures if necessary,” Teipel said. “[They] are very comfortable with the notion of failure.”
Antara Dattagupta, sophomore chemical engineering major, said she was intrigued by the program given the medical field today is technology driven. Dattagupta said she would like to see the curriculum prioritize hands on experience for medical students with technology.
“Technology will be a huge part of medicine; I feel that the program is going to prosper in the future,” Dattagupta said, “It’s going to be super competitive and people are going to choose A&M over UT or Rice because of the program since, it is integrating engineering and medicine.”
Shryrock said EnMed students can expect to invent transformational technologies and would be provided access to a ‘maker space’ to implement classroom learnings into real-world applications.
“The hope is that many of these technologies will go on to find a home in healthcare’s marketplace and radically change the way that healthcare is delivered,” Shryrock said.
The coursework for the first two EnMed cohorts will be conducted in the College Station campus. Students will have the option to earn either a MEng, MS or Ph.D. degree in engineering, while also earning their MD degree.
According to the EnMed website, the Texas A&M College of Medicine would continue to accept 200 students, with 50 of these students going to the EnMed program. The program looks to initially hire 25 faculty members.