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HTE@USC Aims to Transform Health Care

by Eric Mankin and Leslie Ridgeway

Engineers and doctors have teamed up at USC to create a unique four-year program that emphasizes collaboration between the disciplines.

Six medical students and six engineering graduate students now are enrolled in the first cohort of Health, Technology and Engineering at USC (HTE@USC), jointly offered by the USC Viterbi School of Engineering and the Keck School of Medicine of USC.

HTE@USC’s certificate curriculum will teach collaboration and team building in parallel with and in addition to traditional academic coursework throughout its four years. The program aims to form bonds between physicians and engineers that will last throughout their careers, giving them resources to help them solve problems as working professionals.

In the program, engineering students will interact with patients, and medical students will work on the creation of new medical devices in engineering labs. HTE@USC is the only program of its kind.

“The traditional engagement of engineers has been with inanimate objects, with devices and inorganic material,” said USC Viterbi dean Yannis C. Yortsos. “On the medical side, education is more patient-centered. What we have here is an attempt to bring the two together – for engineers to learn a more holistic view of the patient and for the doctors to understand how technology can be used to optimize and improve care.”

HTE@USC addresses a priority expressed by USC president C.L. Max Nikias at his recent inauguration, that of integrating USC’s two campuses so that they “have one character and one shared identity.”

Keck School dean Carmen A. Puliafito said: “With this inaugural HTE@USC cohort, engineering students are joining our medical students in the Introduction to clinical medicine classes, learning what it’s like to talk to patients about their health. Medical students are delving into engineering processes and concepts. As the students transform the way they think, our schools join them in looking at new ways to answer critical questions that will transform medical care for the good of humankind.”

Academic director Terry Sanger and administrative director George Tolomiczenko developed the program and oversee it.

The dozen HTE@USC core students now are taking the special classes created for the program and forming the interdisciplinary research groups that are the heart of the effort.

In addition to the three teams of four certificate program students, eight other students also are forming teams to start collaborative projects and will be taking HTE courses. This expansion of the program was brought on by its unexpected popularity. After applications closed, according to Tolomiczenko, numerous inquiries continued from interested students.

To accommodate some of them this year, Sanger and Tolomiczenko worked out a parallel path through which qualified students who are not in the full HTE@USC certificate program can take HTE courses and form teams. These additional teams will not share the four-year time horizon, but their collaborations will fulfill other research requirements and foster more translational research between engineering and medicine.

“HTE@USC is part of a university-wide trend to bring schools together to give students a comprehensive education that encourages open-minded, creative ways of thinking and communicating,” Tolomiczenko said. “We look forward to an exciting first year and a bright future.”

HTE@USC Aims to Transform Health Care

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