Jan 28, 2022
Biomedical Design Program
Grant allows worlds of medicine and engineering to collide
Teamwork makes the dream work.
A phrase that is known all over the world, and in the case of a program featuring three University of Georgia departments, rings true to its core.
DAWG, or Design Achieved with Generosity Engineering Capstone Design, is a biodesign program that partners the Augusta University/University of Georgia Medical Partnership, the UGA College of Engineering, and the UGA Innovation District.
The Medical Partnership’s Dr. Jonathan Murrow and College of Engineering’s Dr. Cheryl Gomillion partnered up with Tim Martin and Kevin Wu from the Innovation District to come up with DAWG.
The program began in the 2020-2021 academic year and is part of the College of Engineering’s Biological Engineering Senior Capstone Design course—the course is funded by a $30,000 VentureWell faculty grant and is modeled after the Biodesign Program at Stanford University.
The two-semester course provides opportunities for students to engage in solving real-world engineering design problems through application of knowledge and skills learned in the classroom.
The program was initially piloted with the UGA College of Veterinary Medicine before Murrow assisted with placing students into medical clinical sites. The students were placed at the Piedmont Athens Regional Community Care Clinic in Athens for the first year.
“My role as campus associate dean for research at the Medical Partnership is to try to connect UGA with clinical partners who might help support research or teaching,” said Murrow.
During their time at the clinic, 20-25 students worked in teams to assess its needs.
“The students worked with clinicians to try to identify areas in their work, their day-to-day workflow, problems they faced while taking care of patients that could be solved by engineering solutions,” said Murrow.
“The biodesign approach emphasizes a multiphase process that centers around integrating engineering students into the healthcare experience through clinical immersion, where the students participate in shadowing of clinical mentors to define an unmet clinical need,” said Gomillion.
Students then identified a problem they wanted to address and came up with a solution. They then had to find a way to combat the issue and pitched their ideas.
“Ultimately, we hope to address needs and issues present in the clinic setting to increase the quality of care for all patients, while driving student innovation,” said Gomillion.
Once students complete the program, they have the opportunity to continue their research and development process with the Innovation District.
Murrow said he hopes to see more of these partnerships that benefit multiples groups of people.
“Students had a good experience. They learned a lot about delivery of care and some of the challenges,” he said.
The program has expanded to two additional clinical site this year to include both Piedmont Oconee Health-Watkinsville and Mercy Health Clinic, and Gomillion hopes they can expand even more in the future.
Gomillion and Murrow also hope the students get awareness of the underserved population in Athens who may not otherwise have access to medical care if not for the clinic—a population the Medical Partnership strives to serve.
“Through partnerships with clinical sites, our goal is to have students work to address problems to support the needs of underserved patients or the staff that work with these patients in the clinic setting,” said Gomillion. “Collaboration with the Community Care Clinic is intended to increase student awareness of underserved communities, enhancing their social competence. We want to integrate engineering design and entrepreneurial innovation with clinical immersion experiences in the community clinic towards inspiring innovations developed by students for solving unmet medical needs for underserved populations.”
You can see this article and more in our latest issue of the Partnership Pulse.