Day 203: Cardio experience prior to med school

Today’s inane image of the day:

As an undergraduate student in Biomedical Engineering [University of Michigan], we built a basic circuit to view EKGs — last week as a medical student, we hooked up the leads to this magic box [containing the circuit] and saw a beautiful signal. It’s so different on this side of things — instead of building the hardware, we’re just using it to analyze the waveforms.

Being in the midst of the Cardiovascular block has been a constant reminder of how much interaction I had with the field prior to medical school. My Senior design project “client” [the person we were building a medical device for] was an Interventional Cardiologist and through this interaction I had the opportunity to shadow him in the clinic and OR. It was an enriching experience to understand and watch stent placement through a single wire inserted in the thigh area. Already, technology has led medicine to a place where so much can be done through a single, small incision.

Last summer, I worked at Terumo Cardiovascular Systems on their heart-lung machine. This opened the doors to a completely different prospective; we were the diligent people trying to design, test and sell a medical device. In a way, I was on the starting-end of the device while physicians were the end point users [keep in mind that engineering is a cycle — there really is no true “end”]. I learned about the intricate details of how a heart-lung machine operates, how it is built in the factory, how it is tested for safety and how it can fail. Additionally, I learned how difficult it is to be a medical device company in the U.S. — FDA regulation is quite stiff [and for a good reason], which tends to result in many, many, many failed attempts to bring a product to market.

These two experiences really make me look like I’m preparing for a life in Cardiology. And to be honest, I’ve considered it. The heart is a magnificent organ; it’s essentially a glorified pump, but it makes sense. It’s a logical organ with a well-defined purpose. Not to say that other organs don’t make sense, but this particular organ system has always held a special place in my heart.

I’m sure you guys are getting sick of my discussions over specialties, but I think it’s fun to ruminate over every feasible direction I could go in. Anyway, time to get back to work!

2 thoughts on “Day 203: Cardio experience prior to med school

  • March 5, 2012 at 2:24 am
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    Cardiology really has to be the most rational field in medicine, especially for people with an interest in physics and mathematics. Fluid/circuit dynamics can easily be extrapolated to understand virtually all ailments which plague our beloved four-chambered pump and its associated closed network of vessels.

    That’s so cool that you got to learn about the heart-lung machine in such detail! Yeah, the FDA… tying the hands of so many researchers and engineers trying to make a difference. I guess it’s for the safety of everyone though. =/

  • March 5, 2012 at 4:54 am
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    @Rishi: You totally catch my drift.

    The FDA is just doing its job — it was just hard to constantly hear about the updates in heart-lung machines across the pond that were already being used on patients, while we were still sorting through paperwork for our current design. Regardless, it does seem like Cardiology is moving more toward catheter-based procedures over open-heart procedures (which makes sense).

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