San Diego, CA, February 5, 2019 -- Matching physicians with engineers and computer scientists, and then providing seed funding for their research collaborations, are two critical roles played by UC San Diego’s Galvanizing Engineering in Medicine (GEM) program. UC San Diego clinicians identify unmet needs in patient care and then work with teams of engineers and computer scientists to solve the problem and move the technology to the clinic. There is more of this important work to be done.
“Are there ways that we could be doing things differently in order to avoid the silos? We believe there are,” says Andrew Baird, Vice Chair of Research in the Department of Surgery at UC San Diego Health. “The trick is to create a kind of matchmaking environment, where surgeons can say, ‘This is my problem,’ and engineers can in turn say, ‘This is my solution.’”
Match-making is what the Galvanizing Engineering in Medicine (GEM) program at UC San Diego aims to do. Through the program, clinicians identify an unmet need in patient care and then work with a team of engineers to solve the problem and move the technology to the clinic. Each year, four physician-engineer teams from UC San Diego are selected to receive a GEM award of $60,000 to help fund their projects.
The GEM is a collaboration between the Altman Clinical and Translational Research Institute (ACTRI) and the Institute of Engineering in Medicine, and facilitated by the UC San Diego Office of Research Affairs. The UC San Diego initiative is led by Gary Firestein, Shu Chien and Deborah Spector.
“The GEM program is another way we foster interactions between the two disciplines by bringing engineers and physicians who want to better understand each other’s culture and language together to practice engineering-based translational medicine,” says Shu Chien, MD, PhD, Professor of Bioengineering and Medicine, and founding Director of the Institute of Engineering in Medicine. “We’re now in the fourth year of this program and have seen many successful teams emerge.”
The latest batch of GEM awardees include Ryan Orosco MD and Michael Yip’s work to address challenges in telerobotic surgery; Michael Bouvet MD and Peter Wang’s research to treat pancreatic cancer; and a project to develop a next-generation spinal cord neuro-electronic implant to treat paralysis, which includes Department of Surgery faculty Joseph Ciacci, MD, together with Shadi Dayeh, PhD, an Associate Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering.