Special Projects | 17-May-2017

Healthcare, On Earth & Beyond!

UTS M4 (Grade 10) student, Bridget, spent some of her March break at the International Medical Innovation and Research Program (IMIRP). Held at the world-renowned Texas Medical Centre in Houston, the program offers participants the opportunity to learn about cutting-edge treatments and technologies and what they hold for the future. Or, as the IMIRP describes it:  “Five days to imagine the future of healthcare – on Earth and beyond”!

The central medical challenge looked at how to deal with a health emergency in a remote area, i.e. in space or on Mars. Through lectures and workshops, the program provided access to and interaction with leading scientists, engineers and doctors in the field of aerospace medicine. It also included a competition that allowed students to experiment using 3D technologies, augmented reality, robots, and nanotechnologies to create their own 3D prototype that had the potential to be employed in future space missions. 

In this rarified atmosphere, Bridget stood out for many reasons not the least of which was the fact that, in a program designed ostensibly for undergraduate students, she was the youngest scientist there! Other participants included 3rd year university engineering and medical students, with attendees from as far afield as Mexico and Ecuador.

Bridget reports that the first day took place at the John P. McGovern Museum of Health & Medical Science where a guest speaker introduced recent medical innovations geared to use in space. This was followed by a special simulated “lock down” activity complete with organizers decked out in Hazmat suits. The scenario: a virus had been released into the museum and the students had two-and-a-half hours to scour the museum for an antidote, based on a clue left by a leading researcher who had perished quite suddenly.
The jam-packed program included visits to the Learning Centre of the Texas A&M College of Medicine, Rice University, University of Texas McGovern Medical School, the Orthotics and Prosthetics lab at Baylor College of Medicine, and the Houston Methodist Institute for Technology. Among many other things, Bridget had the opportunity to hold a human brain and heart, learned about the uses of radiology, viewed 3D-printed cadavers and organs used for surgical training, and saw the da Vinci surgical robotic device.
For the competition, Bridget and her team designed and 3D-printed a prosthetic device and provided a feasibility and business plan for its production. The final presentations were given on stage to a panel of seven scientists, engineers and doctors. It’s worth noting that past competitions have only been won by university students. However, this year, the group comprising Bridget, along with a Grade 12 Canadian student and two high school students from Mexico, won first place! 

Bridget found the program incredibly interesting and says it opened her eyes to future possibilities. The five days flew buy but she is looking forward to attending future programs!

See a compilation video, courtesy of IMIRP, here.

Photo: Courtesy IMIRP. Inset, Bridget.