Health, Technology, and Engineering

HTE@USC: An interdisciplinary program in Engineering and Medicine

Curriculum for PhD Engineering Students

Engineering Doctoral Student Program

Brochure for prospective PhD student applicants in pdf format: HTE@USC PhD brochure

To prepare motivated engineering doctoral students to be successful innovators equipped with new technology and demonstrated methodological skills, we have created a program that involves close collaboration at all stages with students and faculty in the Keck School of Medicine. Our vision is that graduates of this new educational program will be experts in collaboration. Through interdisciplinary teamwork, graduates will be able to identify and solve the most important healthcare problems more rapidly and more effectively than has previously been possible.

First and foremost, students in this program must become excellent engineers with the strong theoretical and practical background that characterizes educational programs at the Viterbi School of Engineering. Students therefore will be enrolled in and responsible for all the requirements of one of the regular PhD programs within any of the departments in Viterbi. In addition to these requirements, starting in the second year of their PhD program, students participating in the HTE@USC program will take additional classes side-by-side with medical students enrolled in the MD degree at the Keck School of Medicine. The purpose of these additional requirements is to expose students to the reality of clinical medicine, the methods, strengths, and weaknesses of physicians, and the language and thought processes of doctors in the clinic and hospital. Most importantly, students will learn how to collaborate effectively with clinicians to solve health-related engineering problems by participating in project groups that are expected to solve real problems and lead to functioning tested prototypes or methods by the time of graduation.

Additional courses will be required for all HTE@USC students. “Topics in Health Technology and Engineering” will be taught by faculty from multiple USC schools and will cover ethics, regulatory requirements, intellectual property, methods of collaboration, rapid prototyping, basic clinical trial design, reimbursement, intellectual property, licensing, and commercialization. “Case Studies in Health Technology and Engineering” is a seminar course that will discuss opportunities for innovation and lessons learned from successful and unsuccessful attempts to solve particular medical problems. Through this seminar, students will gain experience with the identification of important medical challenges and critical analysis of potential solutions. Group exercises within these two courses will be aimed at building effective design-team experience that will sustain participation in student group projects throughout their training. Viterbi students will also join the Keck students for one year of the “Introduction to Clinical Medicine” course in which they will learn the same techniques of history-taking and physical examination as their medical peers.

HTE@USC PhD Information Video 

The following summary lists the full requirements for becoming a graduate of the HTE@USC program:

Topics in HTE

A two-year lecture course that covers multiple topics affecting the successful development of collaborative projects. Topics will include techniques for collaboration and brainstorming, principles of design, ethics, regulatory controls on research and device development, intellectual property, creation of a business plan, strategies for approaching potential manufacturers, technology transfer, distribution, legal issues, licensing, and medical reimbursement. The course will be taught by faculty from several different schools at USC, including the Gould School of Law and the Marshall School of Business.

Case Studies in HTE

A one-year seminar course with in-depth analyses of specific healthcare problems and the factors that contribute to successful technological solutions. Under the close supervision of faculty from both Keck and Viterbi, students will discuss examples of successful and unsuccessful examples of technological devices for healthcare. Discussion will include elements from design and prototyping, through regulatory, research and development, technology transfer, manufacture, marketing, and reimbursement. Invited speakers from small and large corporations will discuss their personal experiences and the decisions that were made in their teams.
Introduction to Clinical Medicine: A one-year course that meets twice per week for 3 hours: once in a supervised clinical setting and once at the medical campus. Students will learn clinical history-taking and physical diagnosis, including the use of common medical instruments (stethoscope, ophthalmoscope, etc.) and the role of the differential diagnosis in guiding medical tests and decision-making.

Pre-Clinical Medicine Block

Viterbi students will spend 4 or 6 weeks full-time in one of the regular medical pre-clinical course blocks, in order to learn in-depth the physiology and pathophysiology of a particular organ system, the terminology used by clinicians, and the depth of knowledge that physicians are expected to achieve. It is expected that most Viterbi students will choose to take this block in Neurology/Neuroscience or Cardiopulmonary medicine, but any core organ system may be selected.

Clinical Rotation

Viterbi students will join a medical team for one month during the 3rd or 4th year of their HTE@USC program. They will participate as observers in order to learn the detailed function of a medical or surgical inpatient service. It is expected that the choice of the particular service will depend on the interests of the student as well as the relevance of that student for the collaborative health technology project.

HTE Project

The project will run throughout the time enrolled in the program. During the first year, HTE@USC students will identify a list of medical needs and opportunities and each will belong to a project group around a particular problem. All project groups will consist of two students from Keck and two students from Viterbi. During the summer between the first and second year of the program, project groups will start to develop plans for prototypes and assess challenges to manufacture, distribution, and clinical use. Appropriate laboratories at Keck and Viterbi will be identified. During the second to fourth years, project groups will continue to work together under close faculty supervision to develop and test prototypes or candidate methods, obtain preliminary clinical data, and work toward development of commercializable products, methods, or systems. We anticipate that the projects will form the core of the PhD students’ theses, and the medical students will be closely involved with testing, usability determination, and needs assessment throughout the second through fourth years of their training. Students will be closely mentored by faculty from both Keck and Viterbi, and as part of their projects they are likely to be involved in more than one laboratory. Projects are intended to solve real unmet healthcare needs, and groups are expected to file preliminary patents or submit descriptive manuscripts by the end of their training, with the intent that commercialization will be possible shortly thereafter. Our goal for the projects is to give students the experience and familiarity with the entire design process, from development of the initial concept through to technology transfer.