The polio vaccine. ECMO. The Bovie. These revolutionary medical innovations have not only improved countless lives but also share a common starting point: the University of Michigan Medical School (UMMS)!
Rising M4 students celebrate the completion of their I&E Capstone projects
As UMMS students, we are fortunate to walk the same halls where brilliant minds have dedicated their efforts. Now, it is our turn to contribute to the strong tradition of innovation and entrepreneurship (I&E) at Michigan.
A recent symposium united medical students who are dedicated to advancing healthcare through innovation, whether it’s leveraging technology, conducting research, or reimagining healthcare systems.
The day began with design thinking presentations by three teams of M1 students. These teams had collaborated on projects for months, utilizing the five phases of design thinking to tackle patient challenges. By empathizing, defining, ideating, prototyping, and testing, they devised innovative solutions aimed to improve the patient experience and health outcomes.
One standout project by “Team Zopf” addressed the concerns of a parent caring for a young patient with amyoplasia. The parent frequently monitored their child’s O2 saturations and performed jaw thrust maneuvers to relieve airway obstruction. Their solution? A low-cost, adjustable device that mechanically maintained the jaw in an elevated position while employing continuous O2 monitoring to alert the parent of prolonged desaturation events.
This solution not only showcased Team Zopf’s empathy towards the parent’s desire to avoid additional surgeries but also demonstrated their creativity – utilizing household objects to craft a functional prototype – and their scientific expertise – explaining an impressive torque diagram and 3D CAD model. They discussed next steps for their design, including prototyping and testing, navigating the regulatory pathway, large scale manufacturing, and determining the market value and impact.
Team Zopf’s Design Thinking presentation (Members: Mike Allevato, Dhanya Asokumar, Mikoto Kobayashi, Anna Riegger, James Schlabach, Jasnoor Singh, Sunny Singh, Daniel Wieczorek, Hannah Xu, and Jess Yen)
The symposium also provided the opportunity to learn from influential voices within our University of Michigan innovation community. We heard from our I&E Path Co-Directors, Dr. David Zopf (Pediatric Otolaryngology-Head & Neck Surgery) and Dr. Sonal Owens (Pediatric Cardiology), and Michigan Medicine surgical residents Dr. Jaes Jones (Neurosurgery PGY-4) and Dr. Taylor Kantor (Integrated Cardiothoracic Surgery PGY-5). The panel explored applications of 3D printing in surgery, virtual reality (VR) in medical education and patient care, and the relationship between industry and academia.
A highlight of the panel was Dr. Owens sharing her experience collaborating with the Stanford Virtual Heart experience, which has now evolved into the Michigan Anatomic Congenital Heart in 3D (MACH3). As M2 students on the Pediatrics rotation, my classmates and I had the opportunity to immerse ourselves in a virtual heart, exploring chambers, vessels, and learning cardiac anatomy. The integration of VR into our curriculum added a whole new dimension to our learning, and I eagerly await its further incorporation. Dr. Owens’ announcement that the new MACH3 program will lead the development of a hypoplastic left heart syndrome (HLHS) module filled the room with excitement. It’s incredible to witness the advancements happening at UMMS in real-time!
Medical students were all ears for Drs. Jones, Kantor, Owens, and Zopf
Next, we moved into M4 presentations. Demetri Monovoukas and Nick Zugris shared their journey launching Scalpel – a free online platform that offers foundational surgical training (think Khan Academy for the Surgery rotation), while also providing 3D printed hardware for suturing practice. Kian Pourak unveiled a 3D-printed surgical knot tying device designed to help trainees master the art of tying knots at the optimal tension, and Michelle Benedict shared a video documenting her experiences working at Apple before entering medical school, adding another unique perspective to the mix.
The symposium’s grand finale was a poster session in Taubman Health Sciences Library, inviting students from all classes to explore the capstone projects of rising M4 students. These capstone projects, a requirement for graduation from the I&E Path of Excellence, showcased students’ innovative laboratory endeavors, collaborations with startups, quality improvement projects, and more. The poster session fostered connections between M1s and rising M4s, who were on the lookout for successors to carry forward their projects once they graduate.
Jeremy Shapiro (rising M4) presents his research using AI to predict blepharoplasty outcomes
As UMMS students, we have the incredible challenge, privilege, and responsibility to carry forward the legacy of medical innovation. We invite incoming students to join us on this mission through the I&E Path of Excellence. Mark your calendars for the 2nd Annual I&E Symposium in June 2024 – all students welcome!
Lisa Chionis is a rising MS-4 applying into Otolaryngology-Head & Neck Surgery. She is from Chicago, IL, and attended Washington University in St. Louis, where she was captain of the Women’s Varsity Tennis Team. Lisa is interested in applications of AI in Otolaryngology. Twitter and LinkedIn @lisachionis.
I grew up as a ballerina. Ballet was my life, my identity. When I discovered a passion for medicine, many people questioned how I could reconcile dual interests in both ballet and medicine- such seemingly different disciplines. However, since entering the field of medicine, I have developed a fondness for the differences between these two worlds, while also continually being struck by the parallels I find every day between the two.
Still enamored by both ballet and medicine, I have come to appreciate even more the opportunities I have had both in tutus and in scrubs, and further come to relish even more so the similarities I find across both. It seemed a natural step for me to join the Medical Humanities Path of Excellence at the University of Michigan Medical School, one of several interest-based pathways students have the opportunity to join. In the Medical Humanities Path of Excellence, I’ve connected with likeminded classmates and faculty also interested in the arts and the intersection of the humanities and medical sciences. For my Capstone for Impact, I wanted to create a lasting art exhibit that would allow me to share my experience and connect with others who may have similar experiences blending their worlds and passions across disciplines.
For my project, I dove into a new form of art for me – photography! This exhibit depicts my journey integrating my love for ballet and medicine. Through the process of staging and capturing these images, I came to realize even more similarities between dance and medicine than I had before. Trying to integrate such seemingly different objects and imagery, I was struck by both the tension and dichotomy as well as the harmony and blending of the two worlds. When ideas for certain images came to mind, I was surprised each time by how seamlessly the scenes came together. My two worlds blended together even more smoothly than I ever imagined, something I have experienced in my life over the past few years as well as through the journey of taking these photos.
The collection begins with still life images, consisting of objects typically associated with medicine strewn with subjects classically associated with ballet and the arts, creating a playful tension between the two while also showing how seamlessly they can appear to integrate. These first few images are meant to be subtle. The photos become increasingly more forward in demonstrating the melding of ballet and medicine as the collection progresses. Furthermore, the editing and lighting in addition to the subjects become more dramatic in each subsequent photo. This parallels my own feelings toward reconciling my passions for art and medicine. Initially, I tried to keep my worlds separate and not allude to one or the other my dual allegiances. However, as is demonstrated through the images, over time I have become bolder in demonstrating my passions for both dance and medicine, and finding ways to ensure both remain a part of my life.
This exhibit is meant to evoke the feeling behind my personal transition from one career to the next, from ballerina to doctor. My hope is that this collection will inspire others to give thought to ways in which seemingly dichotomous aspects of their lives may be more similar or harmonious than they once thought, and to find beauty in the contrast. I had a blast creating this project and was delighted by how well received it was by my peers and mentors. This is just one example of the incredibly unique opportunities allotted to University of Michigan med students.
Here is my photo collection – I hope you enjoy!
1. Tutus and S2’s
Early in medical school, our white coats and stethoscopes feel like a costume we don. These items feel like props from a child’s game of dress-up when we first put them on, but over time they become as much a part of us as a sign of our occupation. This photograph shows a stethoscope hanging amidst a wardrobe of ballet tutus and costumes. A tutu transforms the ballerina into a character for the audience and into a new version of herself for the performance. Similarly, the stethoscope is itself a symbol of medicine that transforms us from students into doctors.
Putting on stage makeup and doing one’s hair becomes somewhat of a pre-show ritual for dancers. While execution of the choreography takes precedence for the audience, the hair and makeup are crucial to the performances well and also take time and dedication to perfect. Medical students spend countless hours training in physical exam maneuvers to prepare for seeing patients. While the reflex hammer may be an infrequently used tool amidst our equipment, it represents the tireless hours of preparation that go into evaluating, diagnosing, and treating each patient just as the makeup indicates the disciplined ritual of dancers preparing for each show with care.
3. E sharp
Music is an integral part of dance; it drives the movement and emotion of choreography. Here an eye chart is casually placed next to sheet music, accompanied by a tuning fork. This image is meant to evoke the playful dichotomy of the science of medicine next to the art of music, tied together by the tuning fork, which is used in both.
4. Simple. Interrupted.
This photograph shows a surgical needle driver and sutures being used to stitch a ballet shoe. This is meant to show a direct integration of the passion and skills of medicine and ballet complementing each other.
5. Breaking Scrub
The mayo tray with its surgical instruments is the surgeon’s toolbox. A ballerina’s pointe shoes are the primary tool she uses in her craft. This photograph displays a pair of pointe shoes among medical instruments and supplies on a surgical tray, exemplifying the contrast of the satin shoes amongst the cold metal instruments. While medicine, and surgery in particular, are often focused on as a hard science, they too are an art as physicians individually find solutions to the endless novel problems that patients present.
6. On Call
Here a dancer stands en pointe in a white coat, holding a stethoscope at her side. This image is meant to evoke a sense of both the tension and reconciliation of these two seemingly opposite worlds colliding.
7. Tipping Pointe
This final image is meant to be playful and thought provoking. I would like to leave this final image open to interpretation by each viewer. Perhaps one sees a dancer flippantly disregarding a stethoscope, abandoning science for art; perhaps one sees a physician skillfully balancing the stethoscope as well as her dual passions. To me, this image depicts the balancing act that we all undergo as we dedicate our lives to medicine and helping others, while also trying to remain well-rounded and continue to pursue our other passions, whatever they may be, that make us who we are.
Victoria Stoffers is a 4th-year medical student going into internal medicine. In her free time you can find her spending time by the Huron river near the medical school or practicing for Biorhythms, the biannual medical student dance show!
I first became interested in health policy when the Affordable Care Act was being discussed in the news. I was in high school at the time. I remember feeling uncomfortable with how money (or lack thereof) affected people’s access to health care and decisions made by their doctors. Several years later, I have a slightly better understanding of the “why” and “how,” but I still do not like it. Since money will always affect healthcare, whether we like it or not, one career goal of mine is to help make sure there is as little harm to patients as possible.
At Michigan Medical School, I have learned about many fascinating health policy topics as a part of the Health Policy Path of Excellence. One example is government health care programs that assign hospitals financial penalties and rewards based on their performance on quality metrics. The idea is to give hospitals financial incentives to treat their patients better – instead of making more money only by treating more patients.
This sounds like a great idea in theory, but it is hard to implement in reality. Things get complicated when hospitals are compared to each other, since different hospitals take care of different populations of patients. Hospitals should not be penalized if the patients that walk in their doors happen to be sicker. Also, if payment programs do not account for patient characteristics, hospitals might avoid treating patients who are sicker at baseline. This could lead to inequities in care. Fortunately, there is a potential solution to these issues: a statistical method called “risk adjustment.”
However, what variables should be measured as part of the risk-adjustment process is controversial. Study after study has found that social factors (like wealth and education) are just as powerful as medical factors (like hypertension and diabetes) in their effects on health outcomes. This begs a very interesting question: should “social determinants of health” be included in risk-adjustment models used to model medical outcomes? If so, how should they be measured? (There are compelling arguments both for and against risk adjustment for social factors. You may be surprised. If you are curious, you can read more here!)
I was able to take a stab at this question while working on a research project with mentors at the U-M Medical School, the School of Public Health, and the School of Nursing. We just published a paper in JAMA Network Open, finding that the current methods used by programs like the Hospital Readmissions Reduction Program (HRRP) to account for social risk factors may be less successful than they claim to be. So, if programs like HRRP want to better incentivize health systems to address health disparities, they should consider better statistical methods.
One of the reasons I came to UMMS was the opportunities in health policy research. The school has not disappointed. I am grateful for the wonderful team I was able to work with. Doing this kind of research requires more legwork than any medical student could handle on their own. For example, obtaining hospital data from Medicare is a process that takes several months to years. UMMS had the resources to help make it happen. Also, the UMMS curriculum has several sessions on health policy and health services research throughout M1 year. The Health Policy Path of Excellence runs policy seminars and connects students with mentors who have similar interests. These experiences have been some of the highlights of my medical school education.
Most importantly, I have found many classmates with similar interests, and I have learned a ton from them inside and outside of class. Everybody at UMMS – students, faculty, staff, administration – is incredibly “gung ho” about what they do. It is such a wonderful community to be a part of.
I really enjoyed doing this project. I am sure these experiences will come in handy no matter where I end up. And if this work can have even the slightest influence on people’s health, even better!
Benjamin Cher is a second-year medical student at University of Michigan Medical School. When he is not inventing ridiculous mnemonics to cram for his shelf exams, he can be found enjoying the outdoors or playing his violin in the UM Life Sciences Orchestra.