With a $10 million seed investment, UVA’s Center for Engineering in Medicine brings the two disciplines together.
Recognizing that major breakthroughs in healthcare occur when engineering and medicine join forces, the University of Virginia has made a significant investment to bring the two disciplines together.
While UVA is one of only eight schools in the country with top schools of engineering and medicine located within a mile of each other, UVA’s Center for Engineering in Medicine goes even further to inspire collaboration. The center provides a first-of-its kind ecosystem where faculty and students from across 20 departments work together to develop the innovative ideas that can transform how we prevent, diagnose, monitor, and treat disease.
“Here at UVA, we thrive on creating knowledge and technologies that will make the world a better place, so we offer our faculty and students the opportunities and resources to conceptualize and develop new ideas,” said Craig Benson, Dean of the UVA School of Engineering and Applied Science. “Bringing engineers and clinicians together is one of the most important ideas I have seen in my career. In doing so, we can develop the precision treatments for diseases that plague humanity, like cancer, diabetes and Alzheimer’s, giving people a quality of life that we can hardly imagine right now.”
The Center for Engineering in Medicine, which includes more than 120 faculty from across the University, began with a $5 million investment from the University and a matching, $5 million combined investment from UVA Engineering and the School of Medicine. Over the past year, the center has catalyzed medical innovation by fostering partnerships between engineers and clinicians and is on track to launch 70 high-impact research projects at the intersection of engineering and medicine over the next five years.
The center also offers a first-of-its kind embedding initiative in which engineering students have opportunities to work side by side in clinical settings with physicians, while nursing and medical students gain experience in engineering labs, teaming up to create the innovations that can have a practical impact.
The result of this collaborative, multidisciplinary approach has led to a wave of ground-breaking projects, including:
- Ultra-thin, high-tech skin patches that can unobtrusively and seamlessly deliver medications directly to areas of pain;
- Apps on smartphones for caregivers of cancer patients that are able to monitor their anxiety and stress levels--and deliver personalized alerts and guidance; and
- Airflow-powered, wifi-connected sensors embedded in the tracheas of patients with asthma and respiratory issues, with the ability to send immediate alerts to emergency medical technicians and hospitals whenever they experience a lack of airflow.
“Many of our best weapons in the fight against common diseases, such as pacemakers and stents to treat heart disease, or mammography to detect breast cancer, developed at the interface between engineering and medicine,” said Jeffrey Holmes, Biomedical Engineering Professor and Director of the Center for Engineering in Medicine.
“This same interface holds enormous promise to deliver the next generation of advances.”