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‘Soul ablaze’

Passionate researchers use 3D printing technology to advance health care

Research

By Jeff Green

A group of researchers is using cutting-edge technology to provide critical training to health professionals at home and abroad.

The MUN MED 3D team designs and engineers advanced anatomical models and educational tools for simulation training and clinical application. Their research is aimed at improving patient outcomes and saving money for health-care systems.

“For rural and urban training sites the cost of simulators is a significant barrier to training,” said Dr. Adam Dubrowski, professor, emergency medicine, Faculty of Medicine and principal investigator of the project.

The research team also includes Greg Walsh, project manager and engineer; Christine Goudie, research assistant and designer; and Nicole Bishop, research assistant.

3D printers in the Memorial-based lab.
3D printers in the Memorial-based lab.
Photo: Submitted

“Simulation is the new standard in education and medical practice, and we are a unit that is able to help ensure our learners and patients benefit from that standard.”

In addition to educational benefits, he says pre-planning surgeries with 3D-printed models significantly reduces time in the operating rooms which, in turn, reduces re-admission rates and hospital stay.

Big boost

Earlier this year, Dr. Dubrowski, along with co-investigators Michael Bartellas, Dr. Steve Ryan, Travis Pickett and Dr. Gary Paterno, professor of oncology, Faculty of Medicine, received more than $1.4 million from the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency.

2.MUN Med 3D team in March 2018. Back row, from left: Christine Goudie, Dr. Adam Dubrowski, Michael Bartellas, Stephen Ryan, Greg Walsh. Front row, from left: Tybalt Lea (former intern student), Nicole Bishop, Travis Pickett.
The MUN Med 3D team are back row, from left, Christine Goudie, Dr. Adam Dubrowski, Michael Bartellas, Stephen Ryan, Greg Walsh and front row, from left, Tybalt Lea (former intern student), Nicole Bishop and Travis Pickett.
Photo: Submitted

The funding is being used to advance simulation-based health profession education and patient care across Newfoundland and Labrador by expanding the existing MUN Med 3D lab at the Faculty of Medicine, where the team is based.

The group has established a network of research and development sites within rural communities across the province, which are now using 3D printing technology.

Researchers in the main lab are providing ongoing project support, as well as engineering and biomedical expertise.

Carpal tunnel simulation task trainer.
A 3D-printed carpal tunnel simulation task trainer.
Photo: Submitted

“The reaction from the sites has been fantastic,” Dr. Dubrowski told the Gazette.

He says about 30 per cent of the team’s projects come from those areas.

Making a difference

The impact of the group’s work is diverse and far reaching.

They’ve helped train general surgeons based in rural parts of the province perform emergency craniotomies; designed specialized assistive devices, such as adaptable cup holders for wheelchairs; and teamed up with the Dr. H. Bliss Murphy Cancer Centre in St. John’s to use CT imaging to design and print bolus molds, which provide a better fit for patients undergoing radiation therapy.

“The thought of possibly affecting change on a global scale is what sets my soul ablaze.” — Christine Goudie

They’ve also worked one-on-one with medical professionals in Bangladesh, assisting with rehearsing suturing high-risk lacerations that occur during childbirth.

In September, team member Christine Goudie took part in a medical trip to Bangladesh with Team Broken Earth, a group founded by Dr. Andrew Furey, a Memorial alumnus and an orthopaedic surgeon.

Delegates participating in the Uterus Compression Suturing Workshop to Manage Postpartum Hemorrhaging as part of Team Broken Earth’s International Course on High Risk Labour and Delivery in September 2018. The uterus models were designed and developed by MUN Med 3D.
Delegates participating in the Uterus Compression Suturing Workshop to Manage Postpartum Hemorrhaging as part of Team Broken Earth’s International Course on High Risk Labour and Delivery in September 2018. The uterus models were designed and developed by MUN Med 3D.
Photo: Travis Horn, Team Broken Earth

“We brought 25 simulation models designed in collaboration with several OB/GYN surgeons to Bangladesh for local clinicians to rehearse suturing high-risk lacerations that occur during childbirth, which are directly linked to a significantly high maternal mortality rate for women in the region,” said Ms. Goudie.

Watch a Team Broken Earth video featuring Ms. Goudie below.

Training and Simulation tools in the developing world

Thank you to Broken Earth's partner, MUN 3D Network, for providing cost effective training and simulation tools for our conference trainees. These accessible, portable tools are highly effective for teaching and practice in rural and developing country settings. Thanks for joining us in Bangladesh, and we look forward to utilizing your 3D printing technology with us on future medical missions!

Posted by Broken Earth on Thursday, November 1, 2018

 

She says the trip was eye-opening, giving her a better sense of how a health-care ecosystem operates in a developing country.

“If we can help to improve the quality or save the life of one woman through simulation-based medical training, by mitigating the unnecessary risk that is associated with rural childbirths in Bangladesh, that would be an incredible win for everyone,” said Ms. Goudie, who received her biomedical education and training outside the province and is now applying her in-depth experience to the team.

“The thought of possibly affecting change on a global scale is what sets my soul ablaze — it’s the reason I chose biomedical engineering as my career.”

Christine Goudie and Dr. Adam Dubrowski at the SIM One Forum in Toronto, Ont., in June 2018.
Christine Goudie and Dr. Adam Dubrowski at the SIM One Forum in Toronto, Ont., June 2018.
Photo: Submitted

Armed with that tenacity, Dr. Dubrowski says he and his team are hopeful they’ll secure further funding from government, industry or a private donor, allowing them to continue their work and expand their operations.

“We have only seen the tip of the iceberg of this initiative’s potential.”

Learn more about MUN MED 3D team and the innovative work of the MED 3D Network here.


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