A belt to transfer patients safely and easily, a device to reduce infections in dialysis patients, and an electronic band to prevent pooling of blood in legs were just some of the innovative projects displayed at the inaugural Medical Grand Challenge (MGC) organised by students of the NUS Yong Loo Lin School of Medicine (NUS Medicine).
Undergraduates from NUS Medicine, Engineering, Law, Arts and Social Sciences, and Business faculties formed multidisciplinary teams and spent over a year developing solutions to various healthcare problems. The prototypes of 17 shortlisted teams were exhibited at the final showcase on 18 August and assessed by a panel of judges for business strategy, creativity, design quality and healthcare impact.
“The Medical Grand Challenge serves as a stimulus to encourage bright young minds to collaborate, unleash their creativity and apply their ingenuity to important needs in Singapore healthcare. We hope this sparks a lifelong interest in innovation, thinking out-of-the-box and solving real life problems,” said Associate Professor Yeoh Khay Guan, Dean of NUS Medicine.
Walking away with a grand prize of $20,000 was the team who developed Hipportable, a device that facilitates one-to-one lifting and transferring of disabled elderly.
The team chose to tackle the prominent issue of an ageing population in Singapore and visited nursing homes to uncover the most difficult tasks. “The nurses told us it was lifting. They spend about three hours each day just lifting and transferring patients,” said Julian Low, Year 2 NUS Medicine student.
The group then tried different methods of lifting another person and eventually devised a double loop belt system that capitalises on the strongest parts of the human body, the hips and legs, allowing a 40kg female to seamlessly lift a 60kg male with the device. Hipportable has since been awarded a provisional patent.
Coming in second place was the team behind PDSafe, a contactless sterilisation system for peritoneal dialysis used to treat kidney failure.
Improper sterilisation of the peritoneal dialysis connecting tubes can result in infections, which proves to be fatal in half of infected patients in Singapore. PDSafe, which showed 100 per cent inactivation of E.Coli in preliminary tests, makes the sterilisation process foolproof for patients.
Year 4 NUS Engineering student Poon Chong Wei found his experience in the Challenge rewarding and appreciated the opportunity to work in a cross-faculty team. “I found the team very inclusive and saw how I could use my technical expertise to fill the gaps for this project.”
Clinching the Change Maker Prize for the most creative and impactful project was eVand, a palm-sized electronic leg band for treating chronic venous insufficiency, a common condition that causes blood to pool in the legs resulting in swelling, skin changes and leg ulcers.
The device uses an electric current to induce contraction of the calf muscles and promote blood circulation. It incorporates a motion sensing technology which automatically turns the device off when the user is walking to prevent falls. The team hopes to further develop their device into the size of a watch and revolutionise existing treatment options which are either bulky, unsightly or uncomfortable.
Said Year 3 NUS Medicine student Samuel Ng, “This competition is a good platform for us to learn from students of other faculties and how each can contribute to the healthcare landscape of Singapore.”
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