Some of our experiences so far....
In the Spring of 2016, we partnered with the Comcast Collaboration Studio and worked with Philadelphia OIC and The Food Trust to develop a truly unique educational program centered around health and technology for the students at HA Brown Middle School in Philadelphia.
This is the first of a series of articles I will be writing called "REFRAME" where I will be exploring the intersections of design and health, and how reframing the challenges we see in healthcare today could be the spark that ignites a true evolution in care.
One of my goals for this summer was to rediscover my enthusiasm for medicine. I knew that I wanted to be at the intersection of medicine and technology. I love new toys and I wanted to be a part of development of these tools. When I heard about the Summer Design Program at Jeff, I was intrigued by the philosophy that formed the foundation of its curriculum. It was an environment built to foster self-directed projects and team-based problem solving—two ideas that I have not even thought about since I graduated college. Most importantly, failure was seen as a part of the problem-solving process and not a result. I saw the design lab as an opportunity to learn how to marry innovation and design to clinical medicine.
This summer has been unexpected in every way possible. For starters, I had never been to Philly and was shocked when I arrived and saw the size of the city. Everything was super foreign to me, like the concept of having street after street named after trees, and having a grid system that actually worked and made sense. My first day I was thrown the curveball of having to take an excursion to the Navy Yard to get blood drawn.
Hello, our names are Ashley and Brooke Barlow and we are 3rd year pharmacy students at Thomas Jefferson College of Pharmacy. On Tuesday August 8th, we were honored to join the JEFFDESIGN team to impact underserved communities in Philadelphia as a part of the Health Insights 215 initiative. Our role as student pharmacy volunteers was to perform blood pressure screenings, and to educate patients on the importance of a healthy lifestyle. Community members who stopped at our booth expressed immense gratitude for all they have learned, but what we realized was that we truly have them to thank for what they taught us in turn. As we packed up our tents and parted our way, we sat back and had to REFLECT on the impact this had on our role as a health care providers that day.
When I came down to Philadelphia for the first time in my life at the beginning of the summer, I wasn’t sure what to expect. All I knew was that when I had interviewed for an internship at TJU, Bon asked me to help out with a bit of troubleshooting for some Bluetooth sensors. As an engineer at Princeton, I had taken a couple of computer science courses, so I decided to give it a shot. When I first stepped into the vault, I was amazed. It was a treasure trove of cool tech - outfitted with six 3D printers, a whole deck of circuitry, a special STL printer, and even an Oculus Rift, I knew I was in for a fun ride. However, work came first, and after an initial session of design thinking training we started our work on the smarterPlay project.
Reports show that Philadelphia is one of the unhealthiest large cities in the United States. They also show how zip codes determine life expectancy within Philly: those in Center City are predicted 88 years while those in Kennsington are only given 68. What reports don’t show is what challenges those in the zip codes with lower life spans face when trying to lead healthier and longer lives. We are provided with statistics displaying the effects of neglect by the healthcare system on lower income areas; yet, we are not given the causes: the reasons behind the percentages.
In the Health Design Lab, there are always several projects going on at once. Whether that’s the smarterPLAY project looking at how community members use playgrounds and public space, or rehearsal of design thinking workshops, there’s constantly something interesting happening. One project that’s currently moving at a lightning fast pace, is our Ear, Nose, and Throat (ENT) 3D Printing Project. This project focuses on a surgery called mandibular reconstruction during which a part of the mandible is removed, leaving a gap in the bone that has to be supported by a metal plate. This plate must be manually bent and re-bent so it fits into the patients jaw just right; this process can take up to 45 minutes and is common practice in most operating rooms.
It’s insane how fast this summer has gone by, considering we’re now at the end of week 8. As a neuroscience major at Swarthmore College, I never expected to work side by side with medical students and physicians, interact with community members in Philadelphia, and conduct research on four different projects all at once. This summer has been more than I ever could have imagined it to be. One of our ongoing projects, Health Insights 215, has probably been the most grounding experience for me in a while. This project involved going out into underserved communities in North Philly and talking to individuals who live in that area about what they need to be healthier and what being healthy means to them. The responses from some of the people we met were astounding, and described realities I never would have thought of.
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.
Written by Robert S. Pugliese, PharmD, BCPS - About the author