Andrew Chang: Dedicated to Innovative Care

Andrew Chang’s strong background in engineering and innovation paired with his ability to make anyone—even people who have only just met him—feel comfortable are just a few of the qualities that will make Andrew a well-rounded physician.

Andrew is originally from Missouri. However, he moved to the Bay Area in California at a young age so that his father, an electrical engineer, could be close to Silicon Valley. Growing up in the Bay Area was an experience that shaped Andrew’s (as he calls it) “California casual” personality—he and his brother, who is close in age, grew up together playing baseball and immersing themselves in the ever-present wealth of technological buzz in Silicon Valley. This ingrained curiosity for technology and an open mind for possibilities for the future carried Andrew back to his Missouri roots, where he studied mechanical engineering at Washington University in St. Louis.

Having very little idea of what he wanted to do in the future, Andrew chose to attend Washington University because of its interdisciplinary nature. Andrew selected mechanical engineering as his major because he was interested in airplanes and thought he might want to help design and build them as a career. However, as he began his undergraduate education, Andrew wasn’t firm on his future career path and thus seized every learning and experiential opportunity that came his way. And that’s how, without any prior special interests in biology or medicine, Andrew began working in an orthopedic surgery lab during his freshman year.

On his first day at the lab, Andrew was given the task of removing the spine of a cadaver so it could be used for bone strength tests. He recalls this experience as “very shocking, but very cool.” He enjoyed the work and ended up spending five years at the lab, helping conduct research to better understand the risk of fracture in the spine and find correlates to bone health. Through this, Andrew’s interest in medicine grew slowly but surely, and he began gaining exposure to more medicine-related activities and topics. He started volunteering in the emergency room at St. Louis Children’s Hospital, shadowed physicians at a local hospital during his junior year, and became co-president of Engineering World Health, a student organization in which groups of students aim to devise ideas and devices that improve human health.

Andrew’s undergraduate experiences shaped his interest in medicine by showing him what he felt was lacking for himself in an engineering-only major: social interaction. From volunteering in the emergency room as well as at St. Louis Children’s Hospital, Andrew realized how much he enjoyed engaging with patients. As co-president of Engineering World Health, Andrew and his teammates created a transdermal zinc patch for delivering zinc, an essential bodily mineral, to the body through the skin. Andrew recalls the challenges the team faced in finding direction for the project and the trial and error process they used to figure out the science concepts and the business projections behind the device. Andrew and his team won several awards for the device, including the Engineering World Health Competition in 2014. These were formative experiences in Andrew’s undergraduate years that not only encouraged him to apply to medical school, but also taught him transferable skills that he will use as a physician.

Andrew and his undergraduate research team.

Developing the zinc patch and promoting it as a small business taught Andrew to be comfortable with being uncomfortable. From volunteering in the emergency room, Andrew says he learned how to stay calm and collected in chaotic situations and was amazed by the manner in which emergency room physicians carried themselves and were able to earn the patient’s trust in a short amount of time in a high stakes situation. Additionally, the nature of this research with the orthopedic surgery lab forced him to be an independent self-learner.

After undergrad, Andrew stayed at Washington University in St. Louis to complete his master’s degree in mechanical engineering. He also used the time as a bridge year to apply to medical school. Andrew then decided to apply to the Carle Illinois College of Medicine because he “appreciated the theme” of the school. He says it fit everything he wanted in a medical school because it allowed him to keep his identity as an engineer but apply it to a future career in healthcare. Even before he received his admittance package in the mail, Andrew learned he was admitted to Carle Illinois from a phone call from Dean Li. He says he was ecstatic and recalls having told Dean Li on that same phone call that he would accept.

Ski Trip, Carle Illinois College of Medicine, University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign
Andrew with his Carle Illinois classmates on a ski trip.

Regarding the interaction of engineering with medicine, Andrew says that he enjoys the atmosphere at Carle Illinois because of the opportunity to merge the opportunities in medical technology with the centrality of quality patient care. What excites him about the engineering-based medical curriculum is that the school addresses two distinct perspectives in current medicine on technology: first, that machines sometimes overshadow the necessary compassion required in a physician to patient interaction, and second, that the advances in modern medicine are because of these technologies. He identifies with Carle Illinois’ vision to merge these viewpoints by offering immersive clinical experiences to have heartful interactions with patients while also learning about the underlying mechanisms of technologies to be able to better use them in practice and even build better ones in the future. It’s this merging of perspectives that Andrew strives to achieve in his future career.

Dedicated to innovative care

“a doctor isn’t just a doctor. They are a path to the solution.”

Knowing that his passion lies in the social interaction side of medicine, Andrew knows he wants to be a practicing physician. He says everytime he talks to a patient in his weekly clinic sessions, it “gets me out of my bubble and allow me to evolve my perspective.” Furthermore, as an engineer, Andrew also understands the power of technology. Thus, he strives to be what Carle Illinois seeks for all its students to be: physician-innovators, or people who, beyond being exceptionally competent doctors, apply their unique knowledge and skills to construct creative new solutions for unmet healthcare needs. Andrew has truly taken this philosophy to heart, expressing that “a doctor isn’t just a doctor. They are a path to the solution.” Undoubtedly, with his laid back, yet effortlessly warm and charismatic personality, coupled with his Carle Illinois education and a definite desire to do more for human health, Andrew will be the source of plentiful solutions for his future patients and for challenges in medicine.

The generosity of people like you made it possible for Andrew and his classmates to attend Carle Illinois with scholarships.