Surgery and Bioengineering

hjsja

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Hi all, I am currently a premed in a combined BS/MD majoring in biology. I was interested in bioengineering and was thinking about pursuing a bioengineering masters bc its too late to switch from my bio major. I think bioengineering is really cool and would love to learn more about it so I may be able to innovate and design something years down the line as a surgeon. Could any surgeon engineers out there who have done this share their experience? Does the masters help you as a surgeon in research and design?
 
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The wise one

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How about staying in your program and then pursue a master in bio-engineering during residency?

----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Not a surgeon, just trying to be one.
 

Dr G Oogle

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I was a biomedical engineer but only with a bachelors. It really depends on what your goals are. If you want to be a straight up clinician probably not that useful. If you want to do research or consulting that’s a different story. I do a fair bit of engineering (and other) research and my background helps with hypothesis generation and communicating with my collaborators in engineering, If I didnt speak the lingo it would be much harder. The key question though is can you get a masters in BME without doing undergrad in BME, and I am not sure of the answer to that.
 
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hjsja

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@The wise one that seems like a good idea. I was just thinking it may help to use the Masters to help me do BME/biomedical research in med school. Also, I feel like I want to finish all my education in one go.

@Dr G Oogle I hope to be mainly a clinician but I wish to design new surgical techniques or devices by identifying clinical/surgical problems. I have found programs that don’t require a bachelors in engineering
 
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JETER

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I have found programs that don’t require a bachelors in engineering

Just like medical school teaches you how to think medicine, undergraduate engineering teaches you the fundamentals of engineering. Masters degrees are often easier then BS, and your time is spread more thinly (teaching TAs, RAs, lab work, etc). While you can get by without the fundamentals (such as statics, dynamics, thermo, fluids, CS intros, mass transport, DiffEQ, etc etc) in a masters program to get a degree, unfortunately it is exactly those fundamentals that you are going to need if you want to create real innovation in medicine. Also, innovation/discovery requires funding, and there are too few real opportunities for doing so with only a watered-down masters. If real medical innovation is your passion, you should strongly consider a real BS in real engineering then onto real PhD programs. Just my $0.02 (from someone in the trenches).
 

hjsja

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@JETER yeah you seem right. To really be able to do something it makes sense to know the basics first. I can’t pursue a BS in engineering because I’m far too into the program. Do you have any other suggestions for me that could help me for a career in surgery?
 

soundofwonder

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I am interested in engineering as well, and I also want to become a surgeon (transplant surgeon). I'm passionate about organ generation/engineering for the pancreas to be specific (pancreas generation). My degree is in B.S. in Molecular & Cell Biology, I do wish I had done Biomedical Engineering in undergrad (since I could have learned some coding, which could help out on the bioinformatics side of things like working with single cell RNA sequencing data and genomic data) but now I'm sort of looking to just wing it from a developmental biologist perspective by understanding at all the gene regulatory networks involved in the developmental process and how changing around how different signals are expressed changes what cells grow and differentiate, and then hopefully connect this to some engineering ideas I have. There's an interesting paper that was published on this in how the group used two different signals in a sinusoidal signaling regimen. If you're interested: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.devcel.2020.01.015 I could go on and on about this!

(This is just my opinion, but you could perhaps try joining a lab in undergrad that has a similar focus to your interest at your undergrad institution or even try at your med school that your associated with or use yours summers to do research at places like the NIH with people who are focused on research your interested in.)

I am also pre-med, but one person I kind of look to emulate is Dr. Harald Ott His lab is focused on organ engineering and regenration.

What he does is basically strips organs of cells, leaving only their extracellular matrix (collagen and stuff) and then recellularizes. It's an interesting approach.

Here are some links on him:

His lab page: Harald C. Ott, M.D. | The Ott Laboratory for Organ Engineering and Regeneration


I was looking for a interview on him about his life that i found before. Not sure how accurate this is, but this is kind of what I was looking for:

University of Innsbruck, Medical School (1995-2000)
University of Innsbruck, Dep. of Surgery (CT Residency 2001-2004)
University of Minnesota, Center for Cardiovascular Repair (2004-2006, basic research)
Massachussetts General Hospital (Gen Surg Residency 2006-)
Massachussetts General Hospital (CT Surg Residency 2009-)
Harvard Medical School (Instructor in Surgery 2009-)


So when he came to the states he did basic research on cardiovascular repair as pasted above. But he said in the interview, that he was advised by surgeons he was close with to finish becoming a surgeon. so he went to MGH for General Surgery Residency. I have checked on the MGH page that he was indeed involved in the basic science research program there (at MGH). It's a 2 year program, so 5+2 years GS residency. I think that above pasting isn't accurate because he did go Univ. of Toronto. This is another posting:
  • MD, Leopold-Franzens University
  • Residency, Massachusetts General Hospital
  • Residency, University Hospital Austria
  • Fellowship, Toronto General Hospital
But to give you an idea of how someone has done it. Now he's a Professor of Surgery (Faculty) at MGH, which means he has his own lab for organ engineering research, and is involved in teaching as well as surgery.
 
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soundofwonder

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I myself am planning/hoping to go to a DO school and research with someone focusing on pancreas cancer, which is basically pancreas development gone wrong. and then maybe use a year to do research with the NIH through their MRSP program. Here is the link: NIH Clinical Center: Medical Research Scholars Program
and then hopefully publish enough and do well on boards to be the first DO in GS at MGH and jump in on labs like Dr. Ott's and Dr. Melton! Sounds like a huge leap, don't know til I try! and "there is no try only do" - yoda
 
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GenSurg2019

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Hi all. I think I can give some insight to your question. I did my undergraduate degree in BME. Was very involved with research/device research prior to medical school. I did not do a masters. However my goal was always to become a surgeon and continue using my engineering degree to make innovations. However here has been my experience:

-As a pre-med i focused hard on engineering and really enjoyed it and did well in my classes and research (nothing ground breaking). I went to a pretty good engineering school so the opportunities were really good. I worked on device development and some clinical research looking at the medical devices around clinical settings

-Undergrad took me 4.5 years-- I felt that my engineering course did not have enough basic biology and chemistry classes so I ended adding a minor in biology which added some time. At this stage I dont know how much that helped but I like to think the few extra biology/chemistry courses helped with the MCAT.

-Took a 1 year GAP--working and studying for MCAT/applying for medical school. I did not seek out any engineering jobs as I felt dishonest to apply for jobs and not telling them that I would leave in like 7-8 months. So ended up working in fast food

-First 2 years of medical school was as expected. I had my head down and worked. Again at this time I was FOCUSED on learning the basic science and do really well in medical school. So as a result I did not look for any engineering research as I just couldn't possible do well on my medical school classes while trying to do engineering research. I did try to search out some opportunities and even spoke to some PIs but at the end I decided that the time commitment would not be worth trying to juggle medical school, engineering research and spending time with family (btw at this time I was married and had a kid). I am glad I focused on school as it allowed me to have good grades and do well on my steps

-Second 2 years of medical school I was too busy with studying for shelves and doing well in clinical rotations to be able to do research in a lab. So i decided to take on more clinical research

-Started surgery residency and the first 2 years was the busiest I have even been. I barely have enough time to study my surgical books and working on my technical skills that I did not think of research

-After the first 2 years of residency I am no in my dedicated research period. I once again tried to go do research in engineering department in a near by school however it was not as easy as you might think. If you look back, I have been out of engineering for about 7 years. A lot of the things I had learned I had forgotten due to not using it. But more importantly a lot of the skills I did remember was pretty outdated. finally I realized that at this stage when I went to go get involved in engineering my best way would be to do a masters. However that is more $$$ (as I would end up getting paid as a gradstudent instead of as a resident). So finally i ended up doing other basic science research.

Now all that to basically express:
--Without a biomedical engineering undergrad you really wont be able to do any hardcore engineering as you will have missed out on the fundamentals of engineering. However if you want to do bioengineering working with cell biology/immunology--i think it is very do able with a good biology background (this is what i ended up doing)
--Doing a biomedical engineering undergrad is nice but note that by the time you have gone through the pre-med, medical school and surgical training you will be very outdated and lost (thus needing a way to update yourself by going back to school). I could have considered doing a MD/PhD but with the length of surgical training I did not want to add more time.
--Had i wanted to continue with Biomedical engineering then my best bet would be to have done a 2 year masters with a thesis during my research years as that would allow me to update my skills and learn the new things. A masters prior to medical school would not have done that because i still would have had the same issues as listed above with outdated skills.
--Finally, trying to juggle basically two different highly technical skill sets (engineering and surgery) takes a lot of work and is difficult. It is possible but I think you have to realize that you will have to sacrifice a lot of personal things to make it happen
 
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docmcstuffins3

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Hi all. I think I can give some insight to your question. I did my undergraduate degree in BME. Was very involved with research/device research prior to medical school. I did not do a masters. However my goal was always to become a surgeon and continue using my engineering degree to make innovations. However here has been my experience:

-As a pre-med i focused hard on engineering and really enjoyed it and did well in my classes and research (nothing ground breaking). I went to a pretty good engineering school so the opportunities were really good. I worked on device development and some clinical research looking at the medical devices around clinical settings

-Undergrad took me 4.5 years-- I felt that my engineering course did not have enough basic biology and chemistry classes so I ended adding a minor in biology which added some time. At this stage I dont know how much that helped but I like to think the few extra biology/chemistry courses helped with the MCAT.

-Took a 1 year GAP--working and studying for MCAT/applying for medical school. I did not seek out any engineering jobs as I felt dishonest to apply for jobs and not telling them that I would leave in like 7-8 months. So ended up working in fast food

-First 2 years of medical school was as expected. I had my head down and worked. Again at this time I was FOCUSED on learning the basic science and do really well in medical school. So as a result I did not look for any engineering research as I just couldn't possible do well on my medical school classes while trying to do engineering research. I did try to search out some opportunities and even spoke to some PIs but at the end I decided that the time commitment would not be worth trying to juggle medical school, engineering research and spending time with family (btw at this time I was married and had a kid). I am glad I focused on school as it allowed me to have good grades and do well on my steps

-Second 2 years of medical school I was too busy with studying for shelves and doing well in clinical rotations to be able to do research in a lab. So i decided to take on more clinical research

-Started surgery residency and the first 2 years was the busiest I have even been. I barely have enough time to study my surgical books and working on my technical skills that I did not think of research

-After the first 2 years of residency I am no in my dedicated research period. I once again tried to go do research in engineering department in a near by school however it was not as easy as you might think. If you look back, I have been out of engineering for about 7 years. A lot of the things I had learned I had forgotten due to not using it. But more importantly a lot of the skills I did remember was pretty outdated. finally I realized that at this stage when I went to go get involved in engineering my best way would be to do a masters. However that is more $$$ (as I would end up getting paid as a gradstudent instead of as a resident). So finally i ended up doing other basic science research.

Now all that to basically express:
--Without a biomedical engineering undergrad you really wont be able to do any hardcore engineering as you will have missed out on the fundamentals of engineering. However if you want to do bioengineering working with cell biology/immunology--i think it is very do able with a good biology background (this is what i ended up doing)
--Doing a biomedical engineering undergrad is nice but note that by the time you have gone through the pre-med, medical school and surgical training you will be very outdated and lost (thus needing a way to update yourself by going back to school). I could have considered doing a MD/PhD but with the length of surgical training I did not want to add more time.
--Had i wanted to continue with Biomedical engineering then my best bet would be to have done a 2 year masters with a thesis during my research years as that would allow me to update my skills and learn the new things. A masters prior to medical school would not have done that because i still would have had the same issues as listed above with outdated skills.
--Finally, trying to juggle basically two different highly technical skill sets (engineering and surgery) takes a lot of work and is difficult. It is possible but I think you have to realize that you will have to sacrifice a lot of personal things to make it happen
This was very helpful! I am considering getting a ms in bioengineering between 3rd and 4th yr med school through my school, it is team project/thesis based. I was a biochem major but I have always been really interested In engineering and was hoping this could be a way to get my foot in the door.
 
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Rainbow Zebra

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Hi all. I think I can give some insight to your question. I did my undergraduate degree in BME. Was very involved with research/device research prior to medical school. I did not do a masters. However my goal was always to become a surgeon and continue using my engineering degree to make innovations. However here has been my experience:

-As a pre-med i focused hard on engineering and really enjoyed it and did well in my classes and research (nothing ground breaking). I went to a pretty good engineering school so the opportunities were really good. I worked on device development and some clinical research looking at the medical devices around clinical settings

-Undergrad took me 4.5 years-- I felt that my engineering course did not have enough basic biology and chemistry classes so I ended adding a minor in biology which added some time. At this stage I dont know how much that helped but I like to think the few extra biology/chemistry courses helped with the MCAT.

-Took a 1 year GAP--working and studying for MCAT/applying for medical school. I did not seek out any engineering jobs as I felt dishonest to apply for jobs and not telling them that I would leave in like 7-8 months. So ended up working in fast food

-First 2 years of medical school was as expected. I had my head down and worked. Again at this time I was FOCUSED on learning the basic science and do really well in medical school. So as a result I did not look for any engineering research as I just couldn't possible do well on my medical school classes while trying to do engineering research. I did try to search out some opportunities and even spoke to some PIs but at the end I decided that the time commitment would not be worth trying to juggle medical school, engineering research and spending time with family (btw at this time I was married and had a kid). I am glad I focused on school as it allowed me to have good grades and do well on my steps

-Second 2 years of medical school I was too busy with studying for shelves and doing well in clinical rotations to be able to do research in a lab. So i decided to take on more clinical research

-Started surgery residency and the first 2 years was the busiest I have even been. I barely have enough time to study my surgical books and working on my technical skills that I did not think of research

-After the first 2 years of residency I am no in my dedicated research period. I once again tried to go do research in engineering department in a near by school however it was not as easy as you might think. If you look back, I have been out of engineering for about 7 years. A lot of the things I had learned I had forgotten due to not using it. But more importantly a lot of the skills I did remember was pretty outdated. finally I realized that at this stage when I went to go get involved in engineering my best way would be to do a masters. However that is more $$$ (as I would end up getting paid as a gradstudent instead of as a resident). So finally i ended up doing other basic science research.

Now all that to basically express:
--Without a biomedical engineering undergrad you really wont be able to do any hardcore engineering as you will have missed out on the fundamentals of engineering. However if you want to do bioengineering working with cell biology/immunology--i think it is very do able with a good biology background (this is what i ended up doing)
--Doing a biomedical engineering undergrad is nice but note that by the time you have gone through the pre-med, medical school and surgical training you will be very outdated and lost (thus needing a way to update yourself by going back to school). I could have considered doing a MD/PhD but with the length of surgical training I did not want to add more time.
--Had i wanted to continue with Biomedical engineering then my best bet would be to have done a 2 year masters with a thesis during my research years as that would allow me to update my skills and learn the new things. A masters prior to medical school would not have done that because i still would have had the same issues as listed above with outdated skills.
--Finally, trying to juggle basically two different highly technical skill sets (engineering and surgery) takes a lot of work and is difficult. It is possible but I think you have to realize that you will have to sacrifice a lot of personal things to make it happen
Excellent write up on your experience. My brother is a 3rd year GS resident, but did a lot of computer programming in medical school using the med records, big data something or another. Did a CS degree in undergrad. Had Google calling on him during 2nd year of MS, but they wanted him to quit med school to come to CA to work full time, he wanted a 1 year internship. No negotiating with the big "G", their way is the only way.

GS Residency programs could have cared less about his patents and stock options in a startup. All they want is to know someone isn't going to quit surgery, and not doing research in surgery was a big minus, though he had other research. It is a brutal residency, and he now doesn't have time to sleep much less pursue his programming. And that he has been out of programming for a few years, he is no longer current, and has moved on to more technical surgical stuff.

Being a polymath sounds good in theory, but in practice, seems like residencies want one-trick ponies, and the trick better be related to the program you are applying for.

Just an n=1, but as I am applying to residency next year, taking this to heart, and I am making myself a one-trick pony, all research and activities related to my app. Narrow, but breadth is not rewarded from what I have seen in family members and friends experiences. I invite others to prove me wrong.
 
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Excellent write up on your experience. My brother is a 3rd year GS resident, but did a lot of computer programming in medical school using the med records, big data something or another. Did a CS degree in undergrad. Had Google calling on him during 2nd year of MS, but they wanted him to quit med school to come to CA to work full time, he wanted a 1 year internship. No negotiating with the big "G", their way is the only way.

GS Residency programs could have cared less about his patents and stock options in a startup. All they want is to know someone isn't going to quit surgery, and not doing research in surgery was a big minus, though he had other research. It is a brutal residency, and he now doesn't have time to sleep much less pursue his programming. And that he has been out of programming for a few years, he is no longer current, and has moved on to more technical surgical stuff.

Being a polymath sounds good in theory, but in practice, seems like residencies want one-trick ponies, and the trick better be related to the program you are applying for.

Just an n=1, but as I am applying to residency next year, taking this to heart, and I am making myself a one-trick pony, all research and activities related to my app. Narrow, but breadth is not rewarded from what I have seen in family members and friends experiences. I invite others to prove me wrong.

I don’t disagree. Learning to surgeon is pretty all-consuming. It is tough to appreciate what goes into it until you are/have gone through it. The side-interests and hobbies will be there when your training is done.
 
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Rainbow Zebra

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I don’t disagree. Learning to surgeon is pretty all-consuming. It is tough to appreciate what goes into it until you are/have gone through it. The side-interests and hobbies will be there when your training is done.
But will the spouse and kids be there when the training is done??? My dad is an academic .child psychiatrist so maybe my sensitivity to the stress on GS families is more acute. I have neither spouse nor children so the discussion is moot for me, though I do have sympathy for spouses of GS residents.
 
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But will the spouse and kids be there when the training is done??? My dad is an academic .child psychiatrist so maybe my sensitivity to the stress on GS families is more acute. I have neither spouse nor children so the discussion is moot for me, though I do have sympathy for spouses of GS residents.

Some programs are more supportive and family oriented than others. Seek those out. It will be hard no matter what but believe it or not there are a lot of programs that don’t consider divorce rate of trainees a point of pride. Good luck!
 
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Dr G Oogle

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I was engineer before residency and didn’t do much and then in fellowship and as an attending i got significantly into it, doing more coding developed some apps and patents and publish a lot in this space. It’s not that residencies want one trick ponies they want versatile individuals who have many interests but the ponies are just too tired to do anything other than doctoring and any residency has as their primary goal to produce competent doctors. There are some solid community programs with great training and reasonable hours where you can explore other interests, probably some university ones too but there you more likely to drown in clinical stuff, Med recs and discharges. But maybe while someone is doing that an idea will pop into your head to make the process more efficient.
 
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