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Surgeons and design students partner to create medical prototypes

By Dermot - 01st Nov 2019

An agreement between RCSI and the National College of Art and Design (NCAD) to collaborate on healthcare innovations was signed on 31 October.

The Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between the two institutions establishes a collaborative framework for further engagement, including joint projects with industry partners in the fields of medical device design, surgical trainer design, procedure task analysis, prototyping, and innovation in healthcare practices and processes.

Marking the agreement, NCAD students showcased prototypes of surgical training simulators, developed in partnership with RCSI, as part of their masters in medical device design.

Amongst other activities, this collaboration enables NCAD students to observe live surgeries within the RCSI Hospitals Group, where they can analyse the technical steps involved in completing a surgical procedure. This allows them to create new, realistic surgical simulators, which will then be used in RCSI to teach surgical skills.

“Practicing on realistic surgical simulators helps surgeons reach competency quicker,” said Ms Leonie Heskin, Lead in Simulation Technology Development for Postgraduate Surgical Education at RCSI.

“This programme creates a unique partnership between design students and surgeons to lead the way on developing accurate surgical simulators, which in turn broadens the curriculum for teaching surgical skills in RCSI.”

This year, the four surgical simulator projects are in the specialties of orthopaedics, hepatobiliary, cardiothoracic and general surgery. In the past three years, students have also worked in the disciplines of plastic surgery and ear, nose and throat (ENT) surgery.

To date, 14 novel simulators have been created, and since the start of the collaboration in 2016, two NCAD graduate MSc students have gone on to work in the surgical simulation industry.

 “We are delighted to sign this agreement with RCSI, which formally establishes a strategic, multi-faceted partnership between our institutions,” said Mr Derek McGarry, Head of Innovation and Engagement at NCAD.

 “The MSc Medical Device Design students come from a range of fields, including design, health care, engineering and business. This diverse background allows them to solve the challenges presented to them in our collaboration through innovative means.”

Ms Heskin first developed the collaboration in 2016 with Mr Enda O’Dowd and Mr Derek Vallence, Programme Coordinators for the MSc Medical Device Design at NCAD.

 “This partnership facilitates sharing of knowledge and expertise across both organisations – access to NCAD’s design expertise for RCSI medical device innovations and improved opportunities for RCSI surgical trainees and opportunities for NCAD students to upskill on surgical procedures. This will ultimately improve device innovation and patient care,” said Prof Fergal O’Brien, Director of Research and Innovation at RCSI.