GMI Student Perspectives | Lamiya Sakarwala: A New Normal

Reflections from Global Medical Innovation MBE students.

Screenshot of a course taken by Lamiya Sakarwala

What a time this is for all of us. In the Rice GMI program, we spent most of our spring break grappling with our new reality amidst one of the worst public health crises in a generation: the COVID-19 pandemic. A virus that emerged in China, has unleashed a massive economic shock around the world and has since gained precedence as the foremost topic of discussion. 

Very soon it became abundantly clear that this virus would substantially impact all of our lives. In an effort to prevent the spread of the virus, Rice University has moved all classes to a fully remote format until the end of the Spring semester. This means that all our GMI Monday weekly team meetings, Tuesday HIE classes, Wednesday engineering lectures and Thursday GMI social are all being conducted via Zoom. Additionally, our stakeholder engagements have also moved online and we are now intentionally working in silos to continue developing our prototypes. 

Fortunately for PediRad, our pediatric radiotherapy distraction device, we completed all our 3D printing requirements and component purchasing during spring break. With our working prototype in good shape, our next steps involve documenting our design outputs (instructions for use, manufacturing plan, cost analysis and verification and validation protocols), conducting usability and material testing studies and finally handing off our project to our stakeholders at Hospital de Amor in Brazil for deployment. Reducing anesthesia use for pediatric patients during radiotherapy was a challenging and ambitious goal, and I hope that the simplicity, reproducibility and affordability of our solution effectively address this unmet need and allows for it’s adoption, not only in Brazil, but in low-resource settings around the world.

My other project, Bloodhound, also continues to make steady progress despite social distancing protocols. Since Bloodhound is designed to be a software platform to detect bleeds, the coding efforts have been unfazed by the current situation because all you need is a computer and an expert programmer. We are using two methods - component analysis and matched filtering - to identify underlying vasculature. During our previous team meeting, Matt ran the matched filtering code on a test image and demonstrated the result to us using screen share. It was exciting to see the substantial progress my team was making even under extenuating circumstances. 

On the business and regulatory side of things, I have been working on drafting our provisional patent and SBIR specific aims and Ross has been developing a comprehensive financial model to help us strategically plan and allocate our resources. Lastly, I am beyond thrilled to be representing Bloodhound at the Heartland Challenge - a renowned start-up competition hosted by the University of Arkansas this May. Due to the novel coronavirus, the competition will be hosted online and I can’t wait to pitch Bloodhound and share the value of our technology again with a larger and more diverse audience. 

I moved to Houston last year from India to pursue the GMI program at Rice University and was fortunate to not only have a transformational and extraordinary academic experience, but also build meaningful relationships with some of the most brilliant minds at Rice.

In a world upto this pandemic, I spent most of my time on campus - either at the Bioscience Research Collaborative, Fondren Library, Mechanical Engineering laboratory, Rec center, Jones School of Business and Rice CoffeeHouse and bookstore. Everyday I would eagerly look forward to spending time with my fellow GMI students, Dr Clifton, Sarah and LaShaune, who are not only my colleagues and professors but also my friends who I care very deeply about. I moved to Houston last year from India to pursue the GMI program at Rice University and was fortunate to not only have a transformational and extraordinary academic experience, but also build meaningful relationships with some of the most brilliant minds at Rice.

Hospital trek with Rice MBA at Texas Children’s Hospital
Hospital trek with Rice MBA at Texas Children’s Hospital

Despite the curveball that life has thrown at us, GMI has creatively re-envisioned teaching to address the current circumstances, under the leadership of Dr Clifton, Sarah Michel and LaShaune De Jean, while still upholding high standards of integrity and excellence. Even though I am disheartened with the abrupt ending to this wonderful year, I will cherish all the memories and experiences I have had at Rice and in the GMI program for years to come and I am immensely grateful to everyone who made this journey worthwhile. Even though part of me wishes to stay longer, the other half is ready to soar.


Learn more about our one-year, full-time Master of Bioengineering in Global Medical Innovation.

Lamiya Sakarwala, 2019-20 Cohort, MBE in Global Medical Innovation