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Engineering moves into healing

21 December 2012

(From left) DCP students Chong Ming and Hui Lin observing patient Mr Joseph Phua (second from right) undergoing rehabilitation, assisted by SGH principal physiotherapist Mr Adon Chan and Dr Ng (far right)

Patients at the Singapore General Hospital (SGH) can expect more "engineered" help in their recovery process with an Engineering-in-Medicine (EIM) module specially created by NUS. Offered by the University's Engineering Design and Innovation Centre (EDIC), the first-of-its-kind module in Singapore is one of the themes under the Design-Centric Programme (DCP).

Since August this year, the pioneer batch of second-year Engineering students has been acquiring real-life experience on the different aspects of rehabilitation medicine at the hospital. They interact directly with patients afflicted with stroke, Parkinson's Disease, brain and spinal cord injuries, and learn how clinicians and therapists work with these patients.

The multidisciplinary classes are jointly conducted by NUS engineering faculty, physicians, nurses and allied health professionals from SGH's Rehabilitation Medicine, Nursing and Allied Health departments. The course underscores the practical and real issues patients face, such that the students in interdisciplinary teams understand the challenges when developing their solutions over three years.

Dr Ng Yee Sien, Head and Senior Consultant at the SGH Department of Rehabilitation Medicine, observed: "The demand and importance of medical technology and engineering in medicine is exponentially rising. This is particularly so for rehabilitation, given the rapidly ageing population and the rising prevalence for chronic disabling disease, with advances in acute medical care." The clinical course director was glad that the module provided the undergraduates an immersive experience that familiarises them with the clinical environment and related activities.

Professor Tham Ming Po, Director of EDIC, explained that the successful adoption of technology in medicine hinges on cooperation among specialists in the various medical, rehabilitation and engineering fields such that the DCP students can learn from and work with doctors and engineering faculty.

Koh Hui Lin, a Bioengineering student who is doing the module, said: "Through interviewing patients and working closely with doctors and therapists, we understand the patients' needs better and we hope to develop engineering solutions that could address these needs more effectively."

Coursemate Teo Chong Ming from Mechanical Engineering concurred: "To me, this module fulfills what engineering is all about - designing solutions to benefit people through the use of technology."