UC prof game to teach product development

In successful medical device development, grounding new products in the fundamentals of science and medicine is a given. But creativity adds the X factor that can make devices better and more effective, says University of Cincinnati Associate Professor of Biomedical Engineering Mary Beth Privitera.

"There are a lot of grand challenges in treating diabetes, obesity, and stroke," she says. "In every instance, when you look at those grand challenges, what it's going to take to solve them is collaboration and creativity. It's really about not settling for the first answer that comes to your mind. It might be the most obvious answer, but not the best answer."

Privitera, who teaches upper-class undergrad and graduate biomedical engineering students, emphasizes creativity through her work. Among the ways she sparks creative thinking in her classes is through a puzzle/card game she developed that challenges students to find solutions to health problems. Creative solutions are important in the real world for difficult-to-treat patients, Privitera says.

"It impacts patient care. If a treatment doesn't work well for a patient, and that's all a physician has, then you as a patient don't have the best possible outcome," she says.

The game, which she began using in class about six months ago, puts students in teams of three to five. They are dealt a medical problem and challenged to create a medical device to treat it. As part of the game, they must also work to get the device to the market, navigating federal and international regulations and finding ways to pay for it.

"I'm an industrial designer by training, and I've seen other games that encourage creativity in design or transportation. This was a way to break the mold by creating a game around medical devices," she says.

The game has generated interest among several British universities, and a U.K. version is being developed, Privitera says.

College is a prime time to get future physicians and medical device developers thinking outside the box. "What we are creating is a culture of creativity," Privitera says. "If you have a crazy idea, it may be the ideal way to do something. It's very safe in the academic environment to test those ideas."

By Feoshia Henderson

You can follow Feoshia on Twitter @feoshiawrites

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