From Idea to Innovation: BerbeeWalsh Prototype Pathway Engages Wisconsin Science Community in Healthcare Solutions | By Kate Rodgers

Physicians are known for saving lives, curating ground-breaking research, and prescribing medical treatments. However, many UW physicians are adding the title of ‘inventor’ to this list with the help of the BerbeeWalsh Prototype Pathway.

The BerbeeWalsh Prototype Pathway enables clinicians to take an idea that would help patients and turn it into a functional device, with the help of medical engineering students and the Morgridge Institute for Research Fab Lab. Clinicians approach the Morgridge team with their ideas, and Morgridge researchers and UW-Madison medical engineering students collaborate with them to bring the medical device to fruition.

Each panelist represented the key players in the pathway, from moderator Jim Berbee, Founder of the BerbeeWalsh Prototype Pathway and Clinical Assistant Professor, BerbeeWalsh Department of Emergency Medicine, to undergraduate research assistant Kayla Huemer.

Berbee introduced panelists, while taking time to also reiterate the importance of medical device prototyping, collaboration amongst clinicians, students, and industry, and Wisconsin’s contribution to improving human health on a global scale.

Clinicians Dixon Kaufman, Chairman, Division of Transplantation Section of Kidney and Pancreas Surgery at UW-Health, and Christopher Ford, Chief Resident in the UW-Madison Department of Emergency Medicine, shared their personal experience with developing a medical device via the prototype pathway.

Both Kaufman and Ford discussed how a simple idea often presents unforeseen challenges as the technology becomes more complex. These constraints, such as regulation requirements and affordability, are where the engineers provide expertise to design a prototype viable for the medical device market.

Kaufman came to the fab lab with unmet needs for proper organ cooling during organ transplants, and an opportunity to improve clinical care for all transplant patients. The fab lab team went to work on designing a prototype for the operating room with the right features based on the quality control the surgeons needed, and a successful prototype soon followed.

This isn’t the only success story of the pathway, novel medical technologies that have emerged from the program include an advanced otoscope device and a tracheal intubation tool.

Morgridge Fab Lab Director Kevin Eliceiri joined the conversation serving as a collaboration liaison between the clinicians and the students.  “That’s what’s so fun, the spark between clinicians and the student engineers,” said Eliceiri. The program fosters the unique opportunity for students to gain exposure to real-life medical device development, as well as collaboration alongside top-tier innovators.

All panelists reiterated the importance of education, research, and collaboration when it came to Wisconsin improving human health through novel means.

“The university has several missions including education, research, and clinical care. The other mission is a larger responsibility in terms of our work making a global impact,” said Jim Berbee. “The work we do at the fab lab extends past the state of Wisconsin and impacts the world.”
View a segment of the panel’s discussion here.

View additional recap blogs from the Wisconsin Medical Imaging Forum.