Technology has vastly improved almost all aspects of health as well as healthcare. Today, diseases, which were previously considered undiagnosable, can be treated successfully. Patients can access various healthcare benefits even in the comfort of their homes. The achievement behind this transformation is, to a significant degree, accredited to healthcare engineers who represent an essential part of the engine driving healthcare forward.
“The healthcare industry needs more qualified engineers from various engineering disciplines in terms of both quantity and quality, particularly computer, chemical, electrical, and mechanical engineers. However, most engineering students are not familiar with the career opportunities existing in the healthcare industry,” remarks Dr. Ming-Chien Chyu, Founding President of the Healthcare Engineering Alliance Society (HEALS).
During a conversation with Corporate Leaders Magazine, Dr. Chyu offered deep insights into the purpose behind founding HEALS and its array of solutions. He also highlighted how HEALS has overcome several challenges to become one of the leaders in healthcare at present.
What was the major inspiration behind establishing HEALS?
I embarked upon my journey in the field of Healthcare Engineering with a passion to
- improve and advance healthcare through engineering,
- bridge the gap between healthcare and engineering,
- prepare engineering students and engineers for jobs/careers in healthcare, and
- help healthcare professionals apply engineering to solve healthcare problems.
To this end, I founded the Healthcare Engineering Alliance Society, popularly known as HEALS.
Given your experience and expertise, how did you ensure inculcating your research(es) and observation(s) into the array of offerings provided by HEALS?
For years, I have helped medical doctors and other healthcare professionals who, based on their clinical experience and expertise, have developed inventions to the extent that need help from engineers, researchers, consultants, or companies to elevate to a level closer to FDA approval, manufacturing, and commercialization. On the other hand, I have also helped engineers, engineering professors/researchers, and companies connect with clinicians to make sure that their inventions/products can benefit patient outcomes. Based on such experience, I established a platform that allows healthcare professionals, engineers, researchers, inventors, consultants, entrepreneurs, and companies to collaborate on projects leading to the commercialization of new medical devices and technologies.
The main function of the platform is to showcase many technical projects that address the unmet needs in patient care, mostly originating from clinicians, engineers, and medical device/technology companies seeking collaborations on the conceptualization, research, design, prototyping, testing, clinical trial, regulation compliance, FDA clearance/approval, manufacturing, capital funding, etc. The platform also provides excellent opportunities for engineering students to learn by working with clinicians, engineers, and companies on real-world healthcare projects.
As a powerful tool for the invention and development of new medical devices for student projects as well as healthcare engineering professionals, I have built a comprehensive, user-friendly medical device platform (Medical Device Net) that provides systematic state-of-the-technology information for all medical devices (currently over 210,000), including the most recent, cleared/approved by FDA.
What measures did you undertake to help engineers, engineering researchers and students in serving or contributing to healthcare?
For engineering researchers and students conducting healthcare research, it is often a dilemma when searching for the right venue to publish their results. Their papers might be rejected by engineering journals for too much healthcare content and hard to find qualified engineering reviewers to review their manuscripts. On the other hand, they might be also rejected by healthcare/biomedical journals for too much engineering content and a lack of qualified reviewers. The same problem faces healthcare/biomedical researchers trying to publish their engineering papers.
To address such issues, I founded and have been serving as the founding editor-in-chief of the Journal of Healthcare Engineering—one of the first journals that publish scientific articles on the intersection of healthcare and engineering. It encourages collaborative research in this field, focusing on the direct impact on patient outcomes. I have also introduced the Healthcare Engineering Online Communities, bringing healthcare and engineering communities together and providing updated information about more than 500 topics from artificial intelligence to 3D printing for surgery, engineering for cancer diagnosis, nanomedicine, and many more.
I started a platform aiming at helping engineering students and young engineers succeed in the healthcare industry and helping the healthcare industry recruit qualified engineers. To bridge the existing gap between the healthcare industry needs and engineers, I started a program to technically prepare engineering students for jobs in the healthcare industry by inviting medical doctors with expertise in healthcare engineering and medical technology innovation, particularly those few MDs with engineering degrees, to deliver lectures to engineering students. The topics of focus are healthcare issues and problems that need engineering solutions to improve patient outcomes directly. Engineering leaders from the healthcare industry, particularly the medical device/technology sector, as well as medical school professors with degrees in engineering are also invited as guest speakers. These experts with dual expertise are most qualified and effective in teaching healthcare to engineering students.
In helping prepare engineering students for jobs in healthcare, I have also developed a healthcare engineering certificate program featuring the innovative “Cutting-Edge Courses Customized” (CeCoCu), which allows individuals to self-decide the course topic, objectives, and scope of learning, based on their backgrounds, interests, career strategies, and market opportunities. This certificate program was also designed to help practicing engineers transition from other sectors of industry to healthcare, as well as help healthcare professionals (physicians, dentists, nurses, pharmacists, allied health professionals, etc.) learn to apply engineering to their practice, problem-solving, and advancing healthcare. On the other hand, I have been working with healthcare engineering professionals and industry leaders on strategies to better train engineering students for healthcare jobs and help university professors and administrators improve their curricula.
Additionally, I am the founder of one of the world’s first graduate healthcare engineering degree programs, at Texas Tech University and have pioneered the first platform that assists engineers and engineering students to locate employment and internships in the healthcare industry, as well as a platform that assists healthcare industry firms in recruiting skilled engineers and engineering students. The Healthcare Engineering Mentoring Program is a platform where healthcare engineering professionals and leaders volunteer to share their knowledge, skills, and experience to help engineering students prepare for occupations in the healthcare/medical technology industry and to help young healthcare engineers thrive.
Please highlight the factors distinguishing HEALS in the healthcare industry.
At HEALS, we keep generating new ideas and improving our services by communicating everyday with members/followers of this society while taking the initiative to reach out to people we have never met who may help us generate new ideas. We not only communicate with people who can help us, particularly those experts at the intersection of healthcare and engineering, but also with people who need our help. These are healthcare professionals (including physicians, dentists, nurses, pharmacists, allied health professionals, etc.); engineers and engineering leaders working in the healthcare industry (medical device & technology, etc.); researchers, professors, and students in both healthcare and engineering; inventors, consultants, and entrepreneurs.
It has been through communicating and learning every day from experts who provide valuable advice and stimulating thoughts, and people who need help, while keeping up with the new technology and trends, that we learn what healthcare professionals need and how engineers can help, what engineers need and how healthcare professionals can help, as well as how to create synergy between healthcare and engineering.
When we talked to people, everyone seems to have strong feelings about the need of bridging the gap between healthcare and engineering, but very few can be committed to taking action and making a difference.
With that being said, I have taken the initiative to approach hundreds of experts individually at the intersection of healthcare and engineering and to formulate and execute solutions. It was a difficult journey from “not sure about what I am doing” to an exciting connection with more and more people sharing the same passion and being able to serve people with various needs.
It is a well-known fact that engineering, in general, has been playing an important role in serving healthcare by bringing about revolutionary advancements in healthcare. Many healthcare problems benefit from engineering solutions, while many advancements in healthcare stem from breakthroughs in engineering/technology. However, when I started my journey in the initial years, it was challenging to define what healthcare engineering is for students, colleagues, and university administrators. After talking to hundreds of people, I led 40 expert co-authors, with the support of more than 280 reviewers worldwide, first defined Healthcare Engineering in a milestone whitepaper and on the current Wikipedia profile. Our definition and contributions continue to serve as the cornerstone for developing this unique and ground-breaking sector.
How would you describe the team at the HEALS? Being at the helm, how do you encourage the team to stay motivated and productive in the workspace?
Currently, HEALS comprises over 15,000 members and followers including healthcare professionals, engineers, industrial leaders, researchers, professors, students, inventors, consultants, entrepreneurs, government officials, and more. We are particularly proud of their transdisciplinary expertise covering both healthcare and engineering. The majority of our team are medical doctors with expertise in healthcare engineering and medical technology, and engineers working in the medical device/technology industry.
Our team members are always encouraged to generate new ideas based on their own expertise and experience or through communicating and learning from other experts outside HEALS, while keeping up with the new technology and trends. “A great idea is usually generated after talking with multiple individuals, particularly those professionals on the frontline of patient care and medical technology development.”