by Lori Brandt, UCI Samueli School of Engineering
Dec. 1, 2022 – An overflow crowd of around 300 people attended the UCI Department of Biomedical Engineering 20 year anniversary celebration Nov. 4, 2022. The event kicked off in the morning with a Med/Tech Industry Panel in the ISEB auditorium.
Panelists included top executives from Edwards Lifesciences, Johnson and Johnson, Masimo, Medtronic and the NIH National Institute of Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering. Students, faculty and alumni attended the discussion about the future of health care, which was moderated by Naomi Chesler, professor of biomedical engineering and director of the UCI Cardiovascular Innovation & Research Center.
Samueli School Dean Magnus Egerstedt welcomed attendees and expressed his appreciation for the remarkable forward-thinking group of individuals who changed the engineering curriculum and the course of history at UCI in 2002 with the founding of the Department of Biomedical Engineering.
“You’ve managed to be extraordinarily successful and a role model on campus for connecting to industry and community and bringing in national funding,” said Egerstedt. “Thank you for being fearless, for changing the course of history. I know I speak for the Samueli School when I say how impressed we are with the first 20 years and how much we look forward to seeing what the next 20 brings.”
Zoran Nenadic, professor and department chair, also welcomed everyone and shared the history of the department’s formation. Three of the four founders – Steven George, Bruce Tromberg, Nicolaos Alexopoulos – attended the celebration. The fourth, Michael Berns, passed away in August. “His presence is sorely missed at this event and to honor his legacy and contributions to the forming of our department, we are launching the Michael Berns family scholarship to support undergraduate students in biomedical engineering,” said Nenadic.
After the five panelists introduced themselves, Chesler began the discussion with a question. How can medical technology companies help with preventive care so that our health care system becomes more proactive and less reactive?
“At Massimo, we develop noninvasive monitoring systems that are comparable to hospital systems,” said Dan Ho, director, systems engineering. “We’re figuring out how to get these technologies, sensors and devices, into the home. With wearables, we can help people monitor their vitals at home and seek help before they become critical. We also need to build platforms that allow clinicians to engage with patients, share a care plan and check in more easily.”
Virginia Giddings, vice president of exploration at Edwards Lifesciences, agreed with Ho. “How do we move care upstream and predict negative events earlier?”
Diagnostic-led precision medicine is where we want to go and where things will be in 20 years, said Tromberg, director of NIH NIBIB. “Right now, we are doing human biology snapshots, with blood panels and imaging for example, but what we need is to increase the frequency of these observations and measurements, increase the power in point of care, in-home access to this information. That’s where technology needs to go. We need to understand how to define someone’s health trajectory and how to alter or intervene. We need better input devices to gather higher value and actionable data. “
This thought brought the discussion around to data collection and sharing and artificial intelligence. Chesler noted that with all these new monitoring technologies, the industry was generating a lot of data. “But we’re not particularly savvy in how to integrate it, use it and be predictive about it. How can we use big data today to change health care?” said Chesler.
Giddings shared that Edwards has an AI algorithm that sits across monitoring devices in the ICU and is actually able to predict the future. “Our system can predict hypotension before it happens, which is huge because for patients after surgery, hypotension leads to complications such as kidney failure, heart damage and even death,” said Giddings. “Monitoring patients for this condition is also intensive from a nursing perspective, so having a predictive algorithm that can red flag a patient heading toward hypotension so nurses are able to intervene early helps with staffing issues.”
AI has played a significant role in improving stroke treatment, according to Dan Volz, president of Medtronic. “We have an AI software package that sits on CT scans and can identify and alert the clinician when a stroke is identified in a patient, helping increase the efficiency in time to treatment for these patients.”
Ho emphasized that this collecting of high level information should be accessible to everyone, including researchers, clinicians and patients.
John Knudson, director of research and development at Johnson and Johnson, explained how AI was advancing capabilities in robotic surgeries, which have the potential to standardize care and address physician shortages. He also mentioned the benefits of using AI in imaging to help identify diseases, particularly in ophthalmology. “It’s an exciting time for engineers, there’s the mechanical side, the electromechanical side, there’s a huge space to work in, for those going into engineering today.”
The panel addressed the importance of reducing disparities in care by hiring a diverse work force and conducting clinical trials that include all races and genders. Giddings shared that on the education side, nearly 50 percent of BME students were female, but companies’ leadership teams were not as good, only 30 percent. Chesler asked the executives what they were looking for in new graduates.
Knudson advised students to get hands-on experience in being able to work with people, gain an understanding in how to find common ground and develop solutions.
“There are very real problems to solve and we are energized by that,” said Volz. “It is a purpose-filled life, and if you are someone who leans toward that kind of mission, we need you.”
“We need smart people who are solution-oriented and can think differently and creatively,” said Giddings.
Follwing a robust question and answer session, the audience then had the opportunity to attend breakout sessions with alumni. A med/tech networking fair was held in the courtyard with eight businesses hosting tables and engaging with students. Pizza was served for lunch before an afternoon of carnival games, including a dunk tank, in which several BME professors participated along with Dean Egerstedt. All got wet, one way or another. The day was capped with a dinner and fireside chat with the department’s founders.
For pictures, see the BME 20th Anniversary Celebration Facebook album.
Click here to read the full article on the UCI Samueli School of Engineering website.