Cultivating Physician-Engineers as Clinical Innovation Inﬂuencers: The
Medical Innovators Development Program (MIDP)
The number of transistors and resistors on a chip doubles every 24 months.
— Gordon Moore.
Every body continues in its state of rest, or of uniform motion in a right line, unless it is compelled to change that state by forces impressed upon it.
— Isaac Newton.
Resistors on a chip have a pattern of innovation.
However, just as mountains do not like to be moved,
the health care industry—intentions and altruism asi-
de—is often a large, resting force. New ideas are often
bridled in clinical settings by a culture of complacency,
overwork and inertia that creates a chasm between
engineering development and clinical adoption with no
pattern of innovation. Some of the main barriers in-
clude culture, reimbursement, and competing stake-
holders. This is not at the individual level but there are
complex systems that make it diﬃcult to promote
Substantial obstacles to innovation are that
healthcare providers and patients are typically com-
fortable with the status quo, and may have negative
experiences with prior change. For example, intro-
ducing innovative health information technologies and
electronic health record systems into clinical practice is
commonly considered a barrier to eﬃcient and high-
quality healthcare delivery.
In contrast, a clinical
practice that is ready for change has a culture that
looks for ways to improve; and promotes and supports
ways to enhance quality, patient care, and efﬁciency.
There is a need to overcome the existing chasm that
results in poor adoption to change. The ability to
change is crucial to the success of any organization and
has never been more important than it is in today’s
changing practice environment. Diffusion of innova-
tion requires a well-adapted team of inﬂuencers that
share a common ‘‘why’’, despite the differences in the
‘‘what’’ and the ‘‘how’’.
The ‘‘convergence’’ of engineering, physical and
computational sciences with biomedical and life sci-
ence creates a synergy that can transform innovation
as a new praxis and culture in healthcare.
has motivated the development of academic-based
interdisciplinary healthcare innovation programs.
Notable examples include Stanford Biodesign and
hospital-based programs such as The Healthcare
Transformation Lab at Massachusetts General
Hospital. However, according to the Convergence:
The Future of Health report,
true convergence edu-
cation models ‘‘require considerable funding, teaching
and research teams that cut across traditional disci-
plinary boundaries, shared physical space, and curric-
ula that balance specialization with breadth of
From this perspective, the Vanderbilt University
School of Medicine has recently introduced the Med-
ical Innovators Development Program (MIDP) to
educate and develop a cadre of clinician engineering
innovators. This program’s goals are to combine the
students’ speciﬁc areas of expertise at an advanced le-
vel with formal medical education to reinvent medicine
into a clinical innovation hub that more rapidly
translates technology advancements to clinical care.
Candidates for the program have already completed
their Ph.D. in an engineering discipline prior to
applying to medical school. During the interview
process for the program, the candidates engage in an
innovative one-day design challenge where we are able
to assess design thinking, team working ability, diver-
gent and convergent thinking, and the ability to resolve
a consensus solution.
We are creating Engineer-Physicians armed with
graduate level engineering principles and education on
systematic problem identiﬁcation, needs assessments
and solution. They are being armed with advanced
design thinking geared towards solving healthcare
problems as they also learn diﬀerential diagnosis. The
medical training oﬀers a deep biomedical science
exposure and an absolute and necessary connection to
the role of treating physician. They are also being
armed with the history of medicine encompassing
medical humanism, a feature that cannot be learned in
design school or a brief exposure to medicine that the
Ph.D. postdoctoral scholar might gain from doing
At its core, the MIDP is designed to accelerate
innovation into the ﬂow of clinical practice by training
students to be activists. This innovation activism
requires the students to eﬀectively bridge the domains
Cellular and Molecular Bioengineering, Vol. 11, No. 3, June 2018 (
2018) pp. 157–161
2018 Biomedical Engineering Society