The potential for engineering and medical education to be integrated to drive innovation and improve healthcare outcomes was discussed during the latest edition of the Grand Rounds lecture series at Weill Cornell Medicine-Qatar (WCM-Q).

Visiting expert Dr Roderic I Pettigrew, Executive Dean of EnMed at Texas A&M University and Houston Methodist Hospital, is one of the world’s foremost pioneers of EnMed, a new discipline that combines the teaching of engineering and medicine to produce physicians with the skills to design and build medical devices to solve health problems they encounter in the clinic.

Dr Roderic I Pettigrew
Dr Roderic I Pettigrew

At Texas A&M in the US, Dr Pettigrew has been instrumental in the establishment of a partnership between the College of Engineering, the College of Medicine and Houston Methodist Hospital, which together provide the training for the new EnMed programme.

Speaking to an audience of physicians, pharmacists, nurses and allied health professionals, Dr Pettigrew said that EnMed is an innovative engineering medical school that simultaneously offers an MD degree and an engineering master’s in a four-year programme. It purposefully educates engineering-grounded physicians – or ‘physicianeers’ – and purposefully trains them to invent transformational technology for healthcare that can be utilised in the clinical arena. This could be anything from developing robotics to engineering at the cell and molecular level.

Dr Pettigrew then gave several examples to illustrate how technological innovation serves as the engine for scientific progress in healthcare, helping physicians and scientists discover new knowledge about disease and to turn those discoveries into improved healthcare through invention.

Examples included the use of electrical deep brain stimulation to successfully treat chronic depression, using augmented or mixed reality computer technology to allow a surgeon ‘see’ beneath the skin of a patient and more accurately make an incision to remove a tumor; and using electrical stimulation of the spinal cord to allow a patient move his paralysed legs and stand up.

WCM-Q Dean Dr Javaid I Sheikh said that Dr Pettigrew’s vision for the future of healthcare through the convergence of engineering and medicine is truly a visionary leap of the imagination, but also a tremendously practical and logical solution for bridging the gap between two scientific spheres.

Dr Pettigrew, meanwhile added how he appreciates the opportunity to share his vision and excitement to really transform healthcare for the planet and to make a huge difference in the wellbeing of everyone through the convergence of engineering and medicine.

The lecture, titled Engineering Healthcare to Transform Medicine, was accredited locally by the Qatar Council for Healthcare Practitioners-Accreditation Department (QCHP-AD) and internationally by the Accreditation Council for Continuing Medical Education (ACCME).

For updates and more information about the WCM-Q Grand Rounds lecture series, visit qatar-weill.cornell.edu.