Medical Design Club — an instructionally related activity (IRA) in which student members propose and design solutions to issues in the medical field — added three new projects to its agenda.
The newly added projects include a redesigned gluten sensor device, a seizure prediction device and a pain treatment evaluation project. The club will also continue working on two projects carried over from previous years, which include a redesigned EpiPen and a non-invasive electrolyte monitor.
Biomedical engineering junior Lily Williams, the team lead for the new pain treatment evaluation project, said the aim of the project is to create a more accurate tool for evaluating and communicating a patient’s pain level. The current tool widely used in the medical field, known as the Wong-Baker FACES Pain Rating Scale, uses cartoon faces and a 0-10 scale to evaluate pain.
“The current Wong-Baker pain chart is very subjective and there is no standardized way of using it or implementing it within the medical field,” Williams said.
The lack of standardization in pain evaluation, coupled with implicit biases held by healthcare professionals, has resulted in immense disparities in the way women and people of color are treated for their pain, Williams said.
Williams said the project would create a more universal scale for pain evaluation based on linking common painful experiences to certain pain levels.
“If you say, ‘I feel like I got hit in the nose by a baseball,’ that means a lot more than, ‘My pain level is a seven,’” Williams said.
Although the project is still in the early phases of development, Williams said her team plans on conducting background research on the Wong-Baker scale as well as designing a survey to discover which painful experiences are the most common on average and at what pain level individuals rate these experiences.
Williams also plans to eventually collaborate with professors in the ethnic studies department to ensure the evaluation scale is accessible and translatable to individuals across all ethnic backgrounds and ages.
Biomedical engineering junior Kaajal Khanna, a team lead on the ongoing redesigned EpiPen project, said the goal of their project is to eliminate the needle that delivers epinephrine during a severe allergic reaction.
“The purpose of removing the needle is to eliminate those needle phobias that are developed in children when they go through the use of an EpiPen when they are little,” Khanna said.
The redesign was inspired by a study done on needle-less insulin injections. The redesign would use a pressure chamber that, once punctured, causes an increase in driving force on another chamber that propels epinephrine through the skin. The epinephrine drug is used to treat severe allergic reactions.
Biomedical engineering junior and club president Kaisei Tokita is the other team lead for the epipen project. He said the most challenging aspect of the redesign is balancing reliability, safety and convenience in its mechanical design.
“It’s something you don’t need until you need it,” Tokita said. “We need to make sure that our product will be able to operate with that reliability so we can give anyone using it a sense of security.”
Tokita said that his team will eventually try to get the redesign approved by the Federal Drug Administration (FDA), conduct trials on it and send it to local healthcare professionals for use.
Tokita said that projects led by students have a lot more passion in them.
“That’s something I try to emphasize as president,” he said. “What I want to see from people leading these [projects] is passion, because a lot of the time once you graduate and work in industry, you may not get the chance to work on something you really love.”