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!