Original Research Article| Volume 225, ISSUE 4, P667-672, April 2023

A course in medical device design & commercialization for medical students pursuing surgical fields

Published:November 25, 2022DOI:


      • Biomedical engineering (BME) is integral to the advancement of the medical field and surgical training.
      • There are very few BME-centered graduate medical courses, and fewer still in undergraduate medical curricula.
      • The fundamentals of BME can be successfully integrated into a medical undergraduate curriculum.
      • A BME course can be completed within one standard semester with minimal intrusion into medical students' clinical rotations.
      • Early exposure to BME may streamline medical advancement by encouraging early multidisciplinary competence among surgeons.



      The modern surgeon faces an ever-changing landscape of procedural innovation. The demands of present-day healthcare highlight the importance of successfully developing new medical devices and technologies. This effort requires multidisciplinary collaborations of professionals ranging from manufacturers and engineers to researchers and healthcare providers. Surgeons regularly interact with complex equipment and user interfaces without substantial formal education on their design and development. The objective of this study was to ascertain the impact of a 10-week BME course into a medical school curriculum on surgery-bound students’ knowledge of product design and gauge their ability to develop an actual product to meet a real need in a surgical field.


      A Medical Device Design and Commercialization co-enrolled elective course was offered to medical students at a single institution. Five students with an expressed surgical and procedural interest were enrolled. At the beginning of the course, they were tasked with developing a product to meet a clinical need they observed. At the conclusion of the course, students filled out a questionnaire about their level of comfort and knowledge of the material using a 5-point Likert scale. This survey was administered to a control group of medical students who did not take the course.


      The BME student cohort was able to successfully identify a post-operative need, develop a prototype of a novel device, and present their product to attending surgeons. A total of 35 survey entries were received: five from the experimental group and 30 from the comparison group. The experimental group scored higher than the comparison group for all survey questions and reached the level of statistical significance in 13 of the 15 questions (p < 0.05). Survey respondents reported similar degrees of knowledge and comfort in recognizing unmet needs in a hospital setting and formulating a comprehensive statement describing them.


      The principles of biomedical engineering are integral to advancing the field of surgery. Presently, a small cohort of medical students/residents successfully acquired and applied basic BME concepts in a relatively short period of time relative to other training paradigms. Our findings also suggest medical students recognize unmet needs in the hospital setting, and those who completed a BME course felt more able to take steps to meet those needs. Early integration of biomedical engineering principles in medical training may help produce more innovative and well-rounded surgeons.

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