There will be no walking across a graduation stage or turning tassels for Carle Illinois College of Medicine students this May. Instead, the inaugural class of the world’s first engineering-based college of medicine has one more year to prepare for the historic moment when they become newly-minded physician innovators with a medical degree from the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign.

However, you don’t need to look far to find impressive accomplishments among Carle Illinois students. Innovation is peaking as students’ research and projects are evolving and showing real promise in solving healthcare challenges. Even first-year medical students are winning awards and recognition for their ideas and their potential to navigate myriad challenges to bring new products and services to market.

Carle Illinois students have thrived during the pandemic, pushing out innovative solutions, including a COVID-19 innovation cited by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, and engaging in outreach to diverse and low-income communities about COVID-19 vaccination, and volunteering as vaccinators at community clinics.

“Carle Illinois students are demonstrating our mission in action, proving that our curriculum combining data, engineering, innovation, and humanities is producing the kind of physician innovators that can change the face of medicine and improve patient outcomes,” said King Li, Dean of the Carle Illinois College of Medicine.

During Innovation Week in April, Carle Illinois’ students competed with students across campus and won several top awards.

Ariana Barreau won the Fiddler Innovation Fellowshipincluding a $10,000 prize that supports innovations that address cultural or global challenges that incorporate creativity, the arts/design, and technology into interdisciplinary solutions.

Barreau is the co-founder of ProteCKD, a chronic kidney disease (CKD) pre-screening program. African Americans are 3.5x more likely to reach end-stage CKD compared to white counterparts and are less likely to know that they have CKD. Her work will offer marginalized patients an economical way to assess CKD risk for early diagnosis and treatment.

Both Barreau and Shonit Nair Sharma were among five finalists for the Illinois Innovation Prize and Fiddler Innovation Fellowship, awarded through the Technology Entrepreneur Center in The Grainger College of Engineering. Shonit took second place in the Illinois Graduate College’s 2021 Research Live! competition with his presentation, Paperometer: A Low-cost Incentive Spirometer.

Carle Illinois students played key roles in the third-annual Spring Health Make-a-Thon competition, leading or participating on four of the ten winning teams from across Illinois. Several were also honored at Health Innovation Research Day and applauded by experts and influencers at the IDEA Symposium, which features students’ inventive ideas to combine medicine and engineering to transform healthcare. Over 150 prototypable ideas were submitted for the symposium, and five were selected for presentation. *See list below.

Carle Illinois teaches students to harness their creativity through Innovation, Design, Engineering, and Analysis (IDEA) projects. Fourth year medical students will spend their final year transforming one of their IDEA projects into a Capstone Project. Carle Illinois’ Capstone Projects solidify the integration of engineering with the students’ clinical medicine experience. By graduation, they will have developed an innovative new product that will solve a problem in healthcare.

“The Capstone Projects give our students the confidence and ability to identify problems in healthcare and then build solutions – through engineering and design – that improve patient care,” said Carle Illinois Health Innovation Professor Michael Oelze, director of Capstone Projects at Carle Illinois.

So, while tassel turning and stage walking won’t be on the agenda for Carle Illinois students this May, there has certainly been no shortage of achievements, with more on the way as the inaugural class prepares to graduate in May 2022.

Additional Awards List:

Health Make-A-Thon

  • Kenny Leung, A Wire-Free, 12-Lead EKG
  • Jordan Marsh, Nano-Hyperbaric Oxygen Delivery System for Chronic Wounds
  • Nathaniel Brooke and Ariana Barreau, Preventing Acute Renal Failure after Crush Injury
  • Ariana Barreau, Phani Gaddipati, and Andrew Chang, ProteCKD: Earlier Detection of Chronic Kidney Disease among Underrepresented Patient Populations

Health Innovation Research Day Presentations

  • Anant Naik, Best Podium Presentation, Clinical Case Report; and 1st Place, Clinical Case Report, Student
  • Diana Wu, Best Podium Presentation, Medical Education/Healthcare Disparities/Innovation
  • Matthew Lee, Honorable Mention, Clinical Case Report
  • Samantha Houser, Honorable Mention, Clinical Research             
  • Zachary Meade, Honorable Mention, Medical Education/Healthcare Disparities/Innovation; and 2nd Place Clinical Case Report, Student
  • Lindsey Ades, Best Short Presentation, Medical Education
  • Aksal Vashi, Best Short Presentation, Health Care Disparities
  • Jonathan Kim, 1st Place Short Presentation, Research & Innovation
  • Adam Sonnenberg, 3rd Place Short Presentation, Research & Innovation

IDEA Symposium Presentations 

  • Kenny Leung, All-in-One CPAP Mask
  • Zachary Meade, ENT Surgery Tool for Oral Smoke Evacuation
  • Lidija Barbaric, Smart Infusion Pump
  • Neel Jani, Urinary Catheter Infection Prevention
  • Dylan Mann, Bionic Knee Orthotic for Spasticity