Educating the next generation to solve complex health problems through design thinking


Intern Insights: A Summer of Design Thinking and 3D Printing


At only week 7 it really is amazing how far we have come. Having finished my first year of medical school, this summer has been a whirlwind learning experience and I feel well on track to accomplish the goals I set for myself. One of our first projects, working with the ENT department, started out as a specific task requested by an ENT resident, but it seemed interesting so Denis and I put our names down.  We thought we were going to whip up a few jaws as models for the ENT department. We couldn’t have expected that the initial impression our models had on the ENT resident and attendings would uncork a volley of ideas.

We started by 3D printing mandibles from a patient’s pre-op CT scan to use as a template upon which the surgical plate for reconstruction would be shaped. Surgeons usually do this intraoperatively, taking up precious OR time.

From all of this we now have in the works a paper on the workflow we developed, handled by some of our very capable undergraduate interns, a new Ultimaker 3 on the way for a midface reconstruction project, a plan in place for a write up on patient communication and a resident education project. Along with the potential for CV building, this project has been a valuable lesson in 3D printing, one of my main goals for the summer. I certainly feel much more comfortable using our machines and the associated software.

Intraoperative fitting of a plate molded on our 3D model

Intraoperative fitting of a plate molded on our 3D model

Beyond the collaboration with the ENT department, we have been working to provide design-thinking workshops as a service to some of Philadelphia’s nonprofits. I was given the opportunity to present one of them, which initially was a nerve-wracking experience, being a bit out of my comfort zone, but I am glad I went through with it and felt it went well.

 It’s a shame summer is so short. Switching back to the predictable pace of medical school curriculum may now seem slow in comparison. Fortunately we can continue on with this project during the school year.

-- Nick Rankin MS2