New collaborative learning hub helps bridge the gap between medicine and engineering

Clinician Engineer Hub

The Clinician Engineer Hub, founded by Dr Neel Sharma of the University of Birmingham's Institute of Immunology and Immunotherapy, aims to educate medical students and early career doctors about the diagnostic and treatment challenges in clinical medicine and how to potentially solve these issues with engineering.

Dr Sharma, a clinician academic registrar in the field of gastroenterology at Queen Elizabeth Hospital Birmingham, along with two engineering colleagues, Dr Mads Bergholt (King's College London) and Dr Ali Yetisen (Imperial College London), recently established the Clinician Engineer Hub.

The international hub aims to bring together the clinical and biomedical engineering field and provide talented medical students and early career doctors exposure to the world of clinical medicine, the challenges doctors face in diagnosing and treating patients and how to potentially solve these issues with cutting edge engineering solutions.

Dr Sharma said: “As a doctor in training I recognised that practice is changing. While traditionally we focused purely on history taking and physical examination of patients, currently we utilise an array of engineering technologies to diagnose and treat our patients. For example the CT scan for imaging, the endoscope, cardiac stents, dialysis machines or ventilators. However, clinicians are simply tech adopters with no training in how these devices work.

"As clinicians treat patients and can recognise limitations in current practice, I felt there was a strong need to gain appropriate engineering training to produce more advanced solutions. Clinicians would never treat patients without appropriate medical training however currently we are adopting technologies without training in the engineering field.”

Dr Yetisen, one of the Clinician Engineer Hub's co-founders, commented: “The Clinician Engineer Hub will also offer a wide range of training opportunities to medical students and early career doctors in medical device regulation, quality standards and commercialisation of medical devices.”

The two-week programme, which is free for participants, was first launched in August. International medical students were invited to spend a week at Queen Elizabeth Hospital Birmingham where they gained an understanding of current engineering devices and their limitations. During the second week at Imperial College London and King’s College London, they gained expert theoretical engineering teaching and lab exposure on various methods such as optics and wearable devices. The programme has already received recognition by AMEE, the premier international organisation in medical education and will be featured as a forum discussion by the NEJM in early 2020.

Dr Sharma added: “We believe that doctors trained in engineering methods can then move on to develop new solutions for the betterment of patient care.”

The programme will run again in December and feature robotics and training in 3D printing.

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