Texas A&M ‘physician’ graduates hope to change health care

If there’s one thing everyone seems to hate about hospitals, it’s the clothes.

“Doctors” from The ENMED program Texas A&M University and Houston Methodist hope to change that.

Dresses that tie back and It often makes patients feel exposed, are designed so that the workers can put them on a stationary or stationary person. But most patients are able to dress themselves, ENMED student Priya Arunachalam said.

“It makes sense why we have dresses the way they are,” she said. “It makes no sense to have more than one patient in the hospital.”

Arunachalam, 27, and her ENMED classmates tackled the problem by developing a dress that can be worn over the head. It still opens in front to give the staff easy access to examine the patient’s chest or abdomen.

Ashmi Patel makes a splash at Houston Methodist.  She is among the first group of 22

Ashmi Patel makes a splash at Houston Methodist. She is among the first group of 22 “physicians” to graduate from Texas A&M and Houston Methodist’s “EnMed” program on May 20.

Melissa Phillips / Staff Photographer

The prototype they hope to pilot at Houston Methodist is an example of that approach. ENMED Physicians – The university brings a word that combines doctor and engineer – to health care. ENMED is the only school in the US where students can earn a doctorate in medicine and a master’s degree in engineering innovation in four years. Its doctors are trained to solve problems by thinking like engineers and doctors at the same time.

In the year The first batch of 22 doctors from the ENMED program, which started in 2019, will graduate on Saturday and move on to their medical residencies. Management believes that a new breed of doctor will be the first to devise ways to improve the healthcare industry and put those plans into action.

“It makes a lot of sense to produce health care professionals who are trained and equipped to solve medical problems that benefit humanity,” said Dr. Roderick I. Pitgrew, dean of the Texas A&M University School of Medicine. Engineering medicine. “This is our wish.”

Read more: Texas A&M, Methodist Hospital launches medical program with emphasis on innovation

As health care continues to improve, the graduates are beginning their residencies. Pettigrew said there have always been problems in the industry, but the COVID-19 pandemic has brought that message home. It’s forced health care workers to adapt on the go and embrace new technologies like telehealth and mRNA vaccines, Pettigrew said.

The pandemic also spurred innovation in other areas of health care. Dr. Timothy Boone, director of education at the Houston Methodist Academic Institute, said this innovation is critical.

Ashmi Patel is one of the first group of 22

Ashmi Patel is one of the first group of 22 “physicians” to graduate from Texas A&M and Houston Methodist’s “EnMed” program on May 20 at Houston Methodist.

Melissa Phillips / Staff Photographer

“We have a lot of problems in medicine, but we approach them the old way. Basically, the way we’ve done it for 100 years,” Boon said. “While we’re having some success, we still have painful problems across the board and room for innovation.”

It’s a challenge that students like Arunachalam are willing to take. The Austin native earned a bachelor’s degree in biomedical engineering from Johns Hopkins University and founded a company that supplies refrigeration equipment for food shipments in sub-Saharan Africa. The ENMED program was an opportunity to continue innovation while in medical school.

“I always saw myself as a ‘doctor and’. In my case, I wanted to be a doctor and an innovator,” she said.

ENMED students have a traditional medical school curriculum complete with Houston Methodist clerkships in specialties such as internal medicine, psychiatry and OB-GYN. But they spend their time working with classmates and Houston Methodist researchers to develop projects that are part of a “creative portfolio.”

The projects range from something as simple as moving patients around the hospital as efficiently as possible to something as complex as nanotechnology to time-release drugs into the patient’s body, Pettigrew said.

Read more: Texas A&M is to build a $550 million complex at the Texas Medical Center in Houston.

Graduate Ashmi Patel, 26, had the opportunity to play a lead role in a Phase 1 clinical trial focused on bladder cancer. She has been working with Dr. Raj Satkunasivam, a urological oncologist at Houston Methodist, to see if a dye used to detect tumors in the bladder can still be used if cancer has spread to the lymph nodes.

Patel, who earned a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering from Southern Methodist University, plans to continue in clinical trials as she completes her residency in internal medicine at Houston Methodist.

“It’s one of the most rewarding projects I’ve ever done because I’ve been working on it almost all my years in medical school,” she said. “I feel like it’s a very unique experience for a medical student because we don’t normally get to participate in clinical trials and kind of run the process.”

Ashmi Patel holds a cystoscope as part of a clinical trial for bladder cancer on May 18 at Houston Methodist.  She is among the first group of 22

Ashmi Patel holds a cystoscope as part of a clinical trial for bladder cancer on May 18 at Houston Methodist. She is among the first group of 22 “physicians” to graduate from Texas A&M and Houston Methodist’s “EnMed” program on May 20.

Melissa Phillips / Staff Photographer

Apart from the redesigned gown, Arunachalam’s innovation portfolio also includes a vacuum seal for wound care. More portable and durable than the current one. She has also developed a way to use robotic simulation to train left-handed surgeons, who often face challenges such as a lack of access to left-handed instruments.

Frederick Wang, 25, and his classmates worked together to modernize the endoscope that doctors use to look inside the body. Using the endoscope can strain doctors’ hands and lead to complications such as carpal tunnel syndrome, Wang said.

“It’s old and reliable,” Wang said, “but it never hurt to think about whether it could be done better.

Wang, who earned a bachelor’s degree in biomedical engineering at the University of Texas at Dallas, and his classmates decided to use an endoscope using a video game controller, 3D printed gears and a few motors. Young ENMED students will continue to work on the prototype, which is still being designed.

Some of the students’ projects were presented by researchers, but many came up on their own as they saw things that could be improved during their time as hospital clerks.

More from Evan McDonald: A heart transplant helped a 4-year-old boy return home after 281 days at Texas Children’s Hospital.

Pettigrew said the students’ dual curriculum is essentially bilingual, allowing them to speak the language of an engineer and a doctor at the same time. Arunachalam agrees that this is a great advantage when considering ways to improve the workplace.

“At the end of the day, you don’t really understand the clinical environment and clinical workflow until you experience it,” she says.

Having ENMED students at Houston Methodist benefits the hospital because leadership provides an opportunity to recruit and retain promising young health care workers, Boone said. Wang, Patel and Arunachalam are among five ENMD graduates who will remain in residence at Houston Methodist, Wang and Patel in internal medicine and Arunachalam in surgery.

“We’ll see how they think, how they fit the culture, how bright they are (and) how good they’ll be,” Boone said. “They’re basically listening all the time.”

Wang said it was a challenge to get his medical doctorate and master’s degree in engineering in four years. Now that he’s finished the program, though, he’s glad he didn’t settle for a traditional medical school experience.

When the first class of physicians enrolled in the new program four years ago, they didn’t know what to expect, but that uncertainty helped them bond with each other, Wang said. Proud to be a part of the inaugural episode.

“I always joke that you’re a guinea pig in a lab. You are being investigated. Because with any new program there are some growing pains,” he said. But being first class makes it even better.


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