GMI Student Perspectives | Matthew De Venecia: A New Hope (After Post-Brazil Recovery)

Reflections from Global Medical Innovation MBE students.

A view from the 26th floor of MD Anderson Cancer Center

Recap of last month’s episode: our protagonist (me) had just finished his clinical observations in Brazil. He was reflecting and being emotional about all the things he’d miss from Barretos. Has our protagonist been able to cope well with the reverse culture shock? Has he been able to make any progress on his medical devices? How much does he miss rice and beans? Keep reading to find out!

To answer those questions: eh, yes, and I actually just cooked some the other day. Feel free to stop reading now (kidding, keep going). Anyway, since returning to the States nearly 2 months ago, there’s been plenty of things going on. The first few weeks or so in Houston were actually fairly relaxing. I reconnected with my fellow GMI classmates, which was like getting a breath of fresh air. I was finally able to say things like, “Oh man, that exec summary was brutal.”, “I picked up on some of the foreign language basics!”, or “My mind map looks like a dinosaur.” and have people relate. On the flip side of that, I’ve definitely been missing my friends in Barretos. I’m looking forward to the day where we’re able to meet again!

As far as my classes go, I’ll be honest, I was expecting graduate school to be much more difficult than it is right now. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve had my fair share of sleep depravity and stress since classes started, but the thing is, it’s been fun. All my classes are challenging and teach me things from new and uncharted territories. That, and I never know what the next week is going to look like. One day, I could be researching statistics on radiation exposure in the workplace, and the next, I could be watching a surgeon pull a tumor out of somebody’s opened chest cavity. Every day feels like a new opportunity to make a difference or learn something that can help the people around me. So far, the most rewarding aspect of my program has been implementing facets of the biodesign process, which is the same process that companies use to make medical devices today.

In our classes in the GMI program, we’ve been learning about the basics of creating a new product. The first phase is needs identification and validation from various sources. In my case, the needs I sourced are from Hospital de Amor in Brazil while my colleagues’ were from Costa Rica or the Texas Medical Center. My classmates and I split into teams and decided on the needs we thought were best based on our technical abilities, passion for the subject, and the projected impact the need would have on clinical outcomes. I’m currently working with some awesome colleagues, Aedan Mangan and Hannah Jackson, on a device for use in the nuclear medicine department. After choosing the need we wanted to focus on, we used our connections to get feedback from doctors at local hospitals, and we also conducted more literature research on our own time. It’s been humbling to see just how much effort goes into validating every step of the design process. It really shows that we’re working towards something that people will actually want to use. We’re just about to finish up the first phase of our project, and I couldn’t be more excited for the next part: defining design criteria and brainstorming possible solutions. It’s going to be a hectic next couple of weeks, but I’m sure my team and I will be ready for whatever comes our way.

Now, I want you to imagine all the work that my team and I have had to do based on the description in the previous paragraph. Imagine that all of our effort was liquefied and put into a bucket. Next, I want you to double the size of that bucket, because my classmates and I aren’t just focusing on global projects during our time here, but we’re each sourcing a second project from the Texas Medical Center! For this second project, I’m grateful to be working with Luc Samblanet who just always seems to be on top of things. In addition to Luc, I’m also working with 2 people from the Baylor College of Medicine, and an MBA student. The perks of being on a team like this is that everybody has something different to bring to the table. We’ve been working together for a little over a month, and we’ve just about caught up with my global project in terms of progress. It’s a fast paced environment, and I don’t see it slowing down any time soon.

Overall, I’ve been enjoying my time here at Rice University. It definitely feels more like I’m working at a startup rather than taking classes at a college. As both of my projects begin to enter the next phase of the biodesign process, I can definitely feel the change in myself that’s occurred since arriving here. I’m more knowledgeable about what it takes to create something with an impact, I’m more comfortable with the unknown, and it’s been getting easier to manage what seems to be a million different tasks. Now, I’ve done way too much in this past month to talk about it all in this blog. But, if you want to hear more about market analysis, IP risk, or what somebody’s esophagus looks like outside of their body, click that little envelope icon underneath my bio. You can ask me anything you’re curious about! Otherwise, you’re just going to need to read my next post. Tchau!

Matthew De Venecia, 2019-20 Cohort, MBE in Global Medical Innovation