Logo: University of Southern California

USC Aims to Create Doctors, Engineers Who Work Together to Improve Healthcare

USC Viterbi School of Engineering, Keck School of Medicine of USC Collaborate on New HTE@USC Program

October 01, 2010 —

Teaching engineers to think like doctors and doctors to think like engineers is the force behind a new program at the University of Southern California that aims to create a new generation of innovators who will lead the way to better healthcare.

The HTE@USC educational program, organized by the Keck School of Medicine of USC and the USC Viterbi School of Engineering, will enable cross-disciplinary education for engineering and medical students. The goal is to remove obstacles to collaboration between physicians and engineers by helping them understand each other.

Health, technology and engineering – the “HTE” in “HTE@USC” – are increasingly linked together as technological advances provide more opportunities to address the healthcare needs of all patients, including those from traditionally underserved populations.

“USC has long emphasized interdisciplinary work, including the combination between medical, biological and engineering applications,” said Viterbi School Dean Yannis C. Yortsos. “We are delighted to be working with our colleagues at the Keck School to take this next step.”

HTE@USC is designed to empower medical doctors who identify healthcare needs in their daily practice to understand the engineering concepts needed to develop an idea – as well as enable engineers to design medical innovations to meet the needs of doctors, patients or both.

“Healthcare and technology are changing rapidly,” said Keck School Dean Carmen A. Puliafito. “Together with the Viterbi School, we will give our future physicians and engineers the tools they need not only to stay ahead of that change, but to be active instruments for the betterment of healthcare.”

Much of the important education in the program will take place outside of classrooms, with all students assigned to work in small groups on projects that could include device development, diagnostic techniques and informatics, said Terry Sanger, who has appointments at both the Keck and Viterbi schools and will direct the HTE@USC educational effort.

“Engineering and medicine have different approaches,” said Sanger. “We are explicitly creating a cross-disciplinary program that unites the existing medical school curriculum with the existing engineering curriculum.  This not only teaches the individual students how to live in both worlds, but more importantly it teaches them how to collaborate between worlds and gives them practice using these skills to solve real problems.”

USC is an ideal place to put these ideas into practice, said George Tolomiczenko, administrative director of HTE@USC and assistant professor in the department of neurology at the Keck School.

“USC is very serious about meshing medical, biology and engineering perspectives and approaches,” Tolomiczenko said. “I think USC has been exceptional in its efforts to create new transdisciplinary programs. This is a top university priority, and there is strong support for the HTE@USC program.”

Formerly known by the working title “HST@USC,” the new program has been officially renamed HTE@USC to reflect its roots in both Medicine and Engineering disciplines. Program faculty will begin reviewing applications immediately from entering medical students and first-year graduate students interested in admission to the first cohort that will start in the fall of 2011.

For more information on HTE@USC, email HTE@USC.edu or visit HTE.usc.edu.