Yale School of Medicine and Yale School of Engineering and Applied Science in New Haven, Connecticut have launched a new master’s programme that combines engineering with personalised patient care.
In modern orthopaedic surgery, medical devices and surgical approaches designed specifically for a patient’s anatomy are linked to lower costs and better quality of life. With this in mind, the new Master of Science in Personalized Medicine and Applied Engineering will train engineers, computer scientists and medical professionals in the use of new technologies in three-dimensional medicine and imaging, with the goal of improving patient outcomes. The first of its kind, the one-year advanced-degree programme will begin this summer.
‘The medical profession has always relied on science, engineering, and technology as the basis for the practice,’ said Vincent Wilczynski, the deputy dean of Yale School of Engineering & Applied Science and the James S Tyler director of the Center for Engineering Innovation & Design. ‘The rate of change in engineering and medical technology now calls for engineering and technology specialists to partner with medical specialists to deliver forms of technology-dependent care.’
Orthopaedic surgery requires surgeons and engineers to work closely together. While surgeons have the expertise to perform operations, engineers possess important technological skills related to 3D planning.The idea for the new programme took form when Lisa Lattanza, a professor of orthopaedics and rehabilitation, was talking to an engineering colleague about the lack of specialised training in advanced 3D technology for engineers and physicians.
‘What became apparent is that there is a wide, wide variation in the skillsets of engineers and surgeon/physicians,’ said Lattanza, who has worked with more than 250 cases involving 3D technology. ‘That’s how this all came about – we started to look into whether a programme like this existed and it didn’t. So, we began designing something that doesn’t exist anywhere else in order to facilitate the use of advanced 3D technology for patient/surgical care.’
Lattanza teamed up with Daniel Wiznia, an assistant professor of orthopaedics and rehabilitation and an assistant professor of mechanical engineering and materials science; Steven Tommasini, a research scientist in orthopaedics; and Wilczynski. Together, they designed the new master’s programme.
‘It’s an amazing thing,’ said Wiznia. ‘There is no other integrated training program that teaches engineers and medical students how to take imaging and create custom treatments, either with robotics, XR or 3D printing from a medical perspective.’
The programme will begin with an eight-week clinical immersion programme during which students will shadow clinical mentors from a number of departments and be trained to identify needs for either new devices or improvements to existing resources. This will be followed by two semesters of coursework in areas such as 3D modelling and printing, personalised-medicine software and medical-device design. They will also produce a research thesis.
According to Tommasini, the programme will evolve alongside the emerging technology. ‘As the technology advances, we will be able to adapt and bring newer things into the curriculum,’ he said. ‘As the VR and AR worlds get more sophisticated, so will the curriculum.’
The goal of the programme is to prepare graduates so that they are can be hired directly by hospitals, healthcare systems and medical-device companies for positions in 3D medicine and imaging, while also training the next generation of physicians to use and develop these technologies.
‘The wave of the future in medicine is to personalise patient care as much as possible,’ said Lattanza. ‘Now is the time for us to really latch on to the technology that’s out there and bring it to the next dimension.’