M.Eng. students shadow clinicians in new immersion course

Melissa Mansfield, M.Eng. ‘15, with mentor Dr. Choi, shoulder surgeon at Guthrie Robert Packer Hospital.
Melissa Mansfield, M.Eng. ‘15, with mentor Dr. Choi, shoulder surgeon at Guthrie Robert Packer Hospital.

Interacting with clinicians is critical to the success of biomedical engineers. To prepare BME Master of Engineering (M.Eng.) students for these future interactions Cornell BME previously piloted single-day and week-long clinical immersion experiences. This year a clinical mentorship course was created to provide a more extensive clinical experience with a single dedicated clinician. The mentorship provides a one-on-one interaction with clinicians for an extended period of time to understand their needs and relate the knowledge gained in the classroom to clinical questions. 

Led by Robert R. Karpman, M.D., M.B.A., an adjunct professor in the department, clinician mentors were drawn from the surrounding community including Guthrie Clinic, Cayuga Medical Center and Cortland Regional Medical Center. Mentors were enlisted who were experienced in teaching students and interested in helping M.Eng. students understand the clinical applications of the student’s present and future work. Areas of specialty included minimally invasive surgery, cardiology and cardiovascular surgery, orthopedics, physical therapy, ENT, neonatology, pulmonology, plastic surgery, and neurosurgery.

M.Eng. students spent at least 4 hours per week with a clinician mentor experiencing their daily clinical practice directly. Students also participated in a weekly seminar with Dr. Karpman to discuss their experiences and to relate their understanding of the anatomy, physiology and pathology of disease to their engineering perspective. Upon completion of the mentorship, students submitted a basic design of a new device that would assist their mentor to provide a more efficient or improved quality of care to their patients in the future.
Based on the success of this program this spring, methods to include more students next year are being considered including offering the mentorship both semesters. The Guthrie Clinic staff enthusiastically supports the development of a poster session at the end of the year to allow all medical staff to see what the students have developed during their mentorship. The mentorship will be offered as a full semester 2-credit course called BME 5100 Clinical Preceptorship for Biomedical Engineers starting this Fall 2015.
The interaction between clinicians and students is an extremely valuable part of the M.Eng. learning experience. Hands-on clinical training prepares students for professional practice in BME and provides a unique skill set for Cornell BME graduates.