Olivia Coiado receives ILC Faculty Fellowship

11/22/2022 Bethan Owen

Written by Bethan Owen

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Carle Illinois College of Medicine Director of Student Research Olivia Coiado was recently awarded with an Illinois Leadership Center (ILC) Faculty Fellowship, a prestigious program designed to support faculty members who are interested in furthering leadership research and education. 

It’s a fitting recognition for Coiado, who is passionate about culminating creativity and leadership in her graduate students. Receiving this fellowship requires a research project, and for Coiado, the idea for the project was intuitive. 

Dr. Coiado and MEng students during the BIOE 571 session, where students work together to understand health care problems while developing their communication and leadership skills.
Dr. Coiado and MEng students during the BIOE 571 session, where students work together to understand health care problems while developing their communication and leadership skills.

“It's a leadership project that seeks to nurture creativity in healthcare innovation, whether through engineer-based invention or services redesign,” she explained. “I hope to identify opportunities for innovation through social context, and to develop some assessment tools about the efficacy of creativity and leadership. The goal is to offer development for instructors, and to enhance innovation, creativity, and leadership skills in our graduate students.”

Coiado strengthens these skills in the next generation of medical professionals by presenting real-world problems to small groups of students and encouraging creative solutions. One example of this might be a patient with bone cancer or diabetes who has had a limb amputated as part of their treatment.

In a situation like this, Coiado would encourage her students to consider the practical elements of a prosthetic through the patient’s eyes. But on top of finding a creative solution for the physical aspects of a prosthetic in this particular scenario, students will be expected to consider social and mental factors as well. These elements have a tendency to be forgotten about or not taken as seriously as other factors, but one of Coiado’s goals is to teach students to consider these factors as a primary part of their problem-solving.  

“Everybody knows or has seen a person who uses prosthetics, but we often don't think about how prosthetics can impact the patient's life or their community,” Coiado said. “If this person was functioning in society but now feels that they can’t anymore, what can we do to improve this patient's life? As a medical engineer or as a doctor, I think it is extremely important for students to understand the clinical needs of each patient.”

Creating solutions for these complex problems requires more skills than simply building a device or offering a prescription, which is why creativity and leadership are important to any medical student or engineer, according to Coiado. Successful students need to be able to solve problems creatively, and use their leadership skills to connect with people around them and make their solution accessible.

Just like Coiado believes creativity will follow collaboration and teamwork, part of her class is centered around the idea that everyone is capable of being a leader–even if that’s not how they view themselves.

“I believe that leadership is something that can come naturally to some people,” said Coiado, “But for others, it's not one of their natural tools. Giving students the chance to develop those skills is one of my goals with this research especially. ”

Seeing students develop their creative talents and strengthen their leadership abilities is one of the more rewarding parts of the class, and receiving this fellowship means additional resources to do so. Coiado was honored to receive the fellowship, and excited to be part of its broader initiative.

“I hope to keep spreading the idea that soft skills like communication, leadership, and creativity are very important for an engineer,” she said. “It’s an exciting opportunity to collaborate in the field of leadership not only in my college, but at the campus level.”

Coiado is also a teaching assistant professor of biomedical and translational sciences at Carle Illinois College of Medicine. She is also an affiliate faculty member in the Department of Bioengineering in The Grainger College of Engineering

The original version of this article can be found here.

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This story was published November 22, 2022.