HTE@USC: An Exciting Approach to Healthcare Problem-Solving in a New Age of Technology
A new era has come to healthcare technological innovation: an exciting time in which physicians, medical researchers and engineers are now working closely with thinkers and innovators in diverse areas (in and out of traditional medical and scientific fields) to solve challenging healthcare problems.
This is indeed a promising era, says Nadine Afari, who as Project Specialist of a timely initiative known as HTE@USC, or the Health, Technology and Engineering program at the University of Southern California, is helping to usher in this new approach to problem-solving in healthcare technology. HTE@USC, is led by Dr. George Tolomiczenko and Dr. Terry Sanger in partnership with the USC Keck School of Medicine and the university's Viterbi School of Engineering - an interdisciplinary program that connects clinicians, physicians, engineers and entrepreneurs to innovative healthcare projects.
The program is also focused on re-designing medical and graduate engineering education to train front-line innovators and leaders among interdisciplinary thinkers and inventors in healthcare.
What are the practical applications of such a team approach, and why should young STEM innovators of tomorrow be excited? "It will allow STEM students to apply their passions across disciplines," says Nadine. "For example, a K – 12 student who may love biology and also love art can create medical anatomy videos or STEM apps. Or a student who loves computers and who also may love hiking or mountain biking can create a software that could 3D model the human body's terrain.
In furthering the mission of HTE@USC, Nadine is currently working on several key fronts, including endeavoring to publish articles about how interdisciplinary teamwork is necessary for innovation and solving complex healthcare problems; and working to bridge gaps in project applications between healthcare and engineers. She is also working to teach aspiring clinicians how to apply their distinct techniques across different landscapes. "For example," she explains, "this may involve bringing surgeons together with civil engineers to redesign the patient surgical suite, or working with computer software engineers to create sensory devices to encourage patient compliance in medical or physician appointments." We want our young aspiring HTE@USC stem students to not think outside the box, but get inside the box and play and experiment.
On a lighter note to demonstrate real-life application of HTE@USC teamwork, Nadine recently helped bring representatives from ABC's hit TV reality show, Shark Tank, to campus so that aspiring entrepreneurs from UCS's student body, and faculty and alumni staffs could pitch their innovative products and ideas to a panel of investors from the TV show. 36 USC teams showed up to the event to pitch their ideas.
A native of Vancouver, Canada, Nadine, before assuming her current post, was Director of USC's Young Scientist Program (YSP), an outreach initiative serving low-income neighborhoods in and around the USC area.
She earned her Bachelor of Applied Science Degree in Innovation Studies and Science and Technology Policy from Simon Fraser University, British Columbia. She completed her Master's in Applied Science from the University of Toronto where her research interests included gene therapy, pain management and systems thinking; with a focus on complexity in the immune system.
She is the recipient of key honors for her work, including being awarded the 2006 Canadian Scholars' Press Prize for her research in pain management therapy, and in 2006 and 2007 being recognized as One of the Top 100 Outstanding engineering faculty at The University of Toronto.
She left Toronto, Canada in 2008 and began teaching research ethics and engineering ethics in the USC Viterbi School of Engineering, which she continues to do.
Click here for more information.