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July 2009 Issue

Members of UC’s Single Port Solutions team use their laparoscopic access tool to perform a laparoscopic cholecystectomy (gall bladder removal) on an animal model. Pictured from left to right: Steve Haverkos, biomedical engineering; Kyle Fath, biomedical engineering, Prakash Gatta, MD, surgery and team clinical advisor; and Michael Wirtz, biomedical engineering and team leader.
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UC Students Win Top Spots in Design Competitions

By Katy Cosse
Published July 2009

There's no question: Surgeons need high levels of experience, talent and finesse to perform complex procedures. But without well-designed tools, where would they be?

In June, a team of UC students was recognized for designing a medical device that responds directly to the needs of surgeons.

Members of the "Single Port Solutions" team placed second in the BMEidea competition, sponsored by National Collegiate Inventors and Innovators Alliance and the National Science Foundation, and third in the 2009 American Society of Mechanical Engineers Innovation Showcase.

The UC team's device, a single port laparoscopic access tool, allows surgeons to perform common laparoscopic surgeries with only one entry point--located in the umbilicus, or belly button.

Usually, those surgeries are done through four or five entry points, said team leader and medical student Michael Wirtz.

"What our tool does is consolidate all the ports into the access tool," says Wirtz. "Using our device, the surgeon is able to perform a normal laparoscopic procedure, like a gall bladder removal or appendectomy, through the single port."

"They'll still be able to insert all the instruments they need while hiding the scar in the umbilicus--so you have little scarring and it reduces trauma and improves recovery time of the patient."

The team, part of UC's Medical Device Innovation & Entrepreneurship Program, includes three senior biomedical engineering students, one graduate student from the College of Design, Architecture, Art and Planning and many faculty advisors.

Program director and biomedical engineering assistant professor Mary Beth Privitera says the team's work solidifies UC's place as a "national powerhouse in medical device design."

"These competitions truly reflect our cross-disciplinary work," she says. "The team was required to not only produce excellent product design which meets a clinical need but also develop a successful business model," she says.

Since the award presentations, she says they've been contacted by both industry partners and institutions wanting to learn more about their device and best practices.

Privitera credits access from UC's surgery department and support from the UC Office of Research for making the process so successful.

In addition to Wirtz and Privitera, members of UC's Single Port Solutions team include Kyle Fath, of biomedical engineering; Miao Wang, industrial design; Steve Haverkos, biomedical engineering; and Prakash Gatta, MD, general surgery and clinical advisor for the team. 

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