UCL Institute of Healthcare Engineering


Mini MD: CDT students get hands-on in hospitals

6 November 2018

This summer, students from the UCL EPSRC Centre in Medical Imaging spent two weeks gaining clinical experience in a clinical setting.

CDT students in scrubs

This summer, students from the UCL EPSRC Centre in Medical Imaging spent two weeks gaining clinical experience in a clinical setting. 

The short ‘Mini MD’ course, organised by the School of Life and Medical Sciences and NIHR UCLH Biomedical Research Centre, is designed give students a better idea of how their research is applied in clinical practice. The course places particular emphasis on interacting with patients and collaborating with clinicians.  

Five CDT students - Maura Bellio, Richard Caulfield, Savvas Savvidis, Jack Highton and Ruaridh Gollifer – spent the first week shadowing staff in the vascular department at Royal Free Hospital, before spending the second week at the National Hospital for Neurology and Neurosurgery.

The students had the opportunity to take part in a wide range of hospital activities - including observing surgeries in the operating theatre, attending patient rehabilitation clinics, and witnessing imaging technologies being used in a real healthcare setting. 

They had the opportunity to tailor their sessions to their areas of interest, for example diabetes or cardiovascular disease. By interacting with surgeons and doctors from their specialty areas, the students were able to discuss their research ideas and hear first-hand how they could help improve efficiency. 

Another key part of the course was taking part in the multidisciplinary team meetings, exposing the students to a fundamental part of the clinical decision-making process. During these meetings, specialists with different areas of expertise discuss complex cases and share knowledge to make the best-informed decision. For the students, it was an excellent lesson in how different minds and disciplines contribute to finding the best outcome. 

Maura Bellio, a second-year PhD student, described the course as a “fully hands-on experience”.

“We immersed ourselves in the clinical needs, clinicians’ tight schedules, how they interact with patients and how they deal with time pressure, requirements and resources”.

Maura also gained a deeper appreciation of how important it is to take a patient-led approach.

“We learnt how technology plays a central role, but sometimes we need to take a step back and consider what is the best solution for an individual patient, which isn’t always the most technically efficient solution”.

With a deepened understanding of the challenges faced by clinicians and patients, the students will be better-equipped to develop their own innovative solutions. The course underscored the importance of placing the patient at the heart of everything they design - not merely engineering for engineering’s sake, but creating technology which will have a substantive positive impact on a patient’s treatment.