Posted on November 19, 2021 by Rory Dew

November 19, 2021 – UTSA biomedical engineering students are partnering with professional biomedical engineers at San Antonio-based Nvision Biomedical to get real-world experience in medical design. Throughout the semester, 17 students enrolled in Orthopedic Medical Device Design have designed and fabricated biomedical implant devices to address the health concerns of a hypothetical patient. Earlier this week, Nvision Biomedical employees and local surgeons met with the class to implant their student-designed medical devices into cadavers and test the devices’ real-world viability.

The objective of the class was for students develop a device addressing an acute ailment of the big-toe joint. Students were expected to learn about the joint in question, explore current remedies on the market, and develop an understanding of professional jargon required to explain their product and guide the surgeon through the implant process.

“We were very pleased with the outcome of the lab,” said Brian Kieser , CEO of Nvision Biomedical. “The students were fully engaged with their surgeon advisors, our engineers and each other. The surgeons were impressed with the concepts and felt the students had a solid understanding of the design requirements necessary for the patient diagnosis being treated.”

This is the second time that the UTSA College of Engineering and Integrated Design has partnered with Nvision to offer the class. The previous class, conducted in 2019, also saw students develop devices for implant, however this is the first time the class has included a cadaver lab in which to implant and test the devices for viability.

“When hiring new engineers, we find the most challenging aspects for them to grasp are the interactions with surgeons in the design process, designing in true 3D space as we like to say, and the sheer volume of documentation required for compliance with FDA regulations,” said Kieser. “The class aims to shorten the learning curve so that we can get them fully engaged in the work of design and development earlier, thus making us more efficient. We encourage the students to take their completed design history file (DHF) into interviews as a way to differentiate themselves from their peers. We’ve had several past students tell us that taking the class and the DHF have been the difference in receiving job offers in the industry.”

“The fact that the students understand the process of launching a medical device, the FDA pre-market notification activities and the design control procedures is a great advantage for them because they will be more prepared than any other graduate that has not been exposed to this process before,” added course instructor and Nvision engineer Analaura Villarreal Berain —a 2017 graduate of UTSA’s M.S. in Biomedical Engineering.

Hands-on application such as that offered in the class with Nvision is a cornerstone of CEID’s curricula and exemplifies the dedication to producing career-ready graduates. In the previous iteration of this class, UTSA student Erin England was offered a full-time position by Nvision. She currently works at the firm.

“CEID is thrilled to collaborate with Nvision to offer our students unparalleled opportunities to hone their skills and emerge from their program ready to make their mark on the professional world,” remarked JoAnn Browning , dean of CEID. “Where theory is a foundational part of our programs, hands-on experiences such as the ability to design, fabricate, implant and test these devices is an invaluable educational opportunity for our students to learn more about their targeted industry. I am thankful to Nvision for extending this opportunity to our students.”

Students in the class will now take their notes and learnings from the cadaver lab and begin the process of refining their implant devices. For their final exam, the groups of students will be required to present their devices—complete with testing documentation fit for U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) parameters—to a board of practicing surgeons. At the conclusion of their presentation, the panelists will gauge student understanding through a formal Q&A.

VIDEO: A short video highlighting some of the cadaver lab class

— Rory Dew