X-Labs Trailblazers Course: Medical Innovations

The Trailblazer
JMU X-Labs is excited to welcome Eric Major (‘91), a global leader in medical technologies that produce surgical solutions to the most complex spinal pathologies as our inaugural Trailblazer in Spring and Fall ’23. A member of JMU’s College of Business Board of Advisors as well as the Gilliam Center for Entrepreneurship Board of Advisors, Mr. Major has over 20 years of experience in the spine industry and was the 2010 recipient of the Entrepreneur of the Year Award for Emerging Technologies in the Greater Washington, D.C. region. Mr. Major will serve as a Trailblazer (a collaborating expert/industry mentor) for the JMU X-Labs-College of Business course, which will involve experts from across campus and industry partners. The X-Labs Trailblazer is involved (as their time and interests allow) in the course from the design stages through implementation.

X-Labs Trailblazers Course: Medical Innovations
Medical Innovations is a transdisciplinary team- and project-based course engaging in the development and commercialization of medical devices. Unique to this two-semester engaged learning experience is the transdisciplinary approach. In the first semester, participants will identify, research, and begin to design solutions for global grand challenges and their relationship to medical device design and development. Transdisciplinary teams will research areas and develop an initial version of a solution. At the end of the semester, at the X-Labs Innovation Summit, an invitation for industry partners to participate in Part 2 of the course will be shared. Student teams will create a way to pass the project to the students in semester 2 (Fall ’23). In Part 2 of the course (Fall ‘23), students will develop a marketable prototype while learning about the process of intellectual property protection, data protection, and commercialization. Significantly, the research and data generated by the course will have the potential for industry impact as well as faculty and student research.

Participation in both semesters is not required but is encouraged. Both semesters aim to have students bridge the gap between being undergraduate students and the next phase of their trajectory.

The following instructors will have their individual classes meet in JMU X-Labs on Thursday evenings from 5:30-8 for this 3-credit course. Please get in touch with the instructor most closely related to your career or course of study interests.

BIO 427: Topics in Biology with Laboratory – Ethcal Medical Device Development

Dr. Patrice Ludwig, Interim Director of X-Labs and Associate Professor, Department of Biology (CSM): [email protected]

KIN 428Advanced Topics in Exercise Science and Leadership — Medical Innovations Lab

Dr. Cathy McKay, Paralympic Skill Lab, Associate Professor of Kinesiology (CHBS): [email protected]

Please note: We’d be happy to have you in the class. We want to make sure you understand that this course acts like a capstone. Expectations are high regarding time you’ll put into this team-and project-based class. However, 95% of students who take these types of classes find the workload worth it and the experience to be highly transformative.

Fall 2021

South Africa

COVID-19 Innovations

Student teams did deep research, developed empathy maps, designed prototypes, and performed usability testing to address various challenges brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic, resulting in several mask prototypes, a website, and app, and an online game to address the following:

  • How might we address constraints to wearing masks, such as acne-prone skin or difficulty breathing, while still protecting others and following mask guidelines?
  • How might we reintroduce stability and consistency to improve college students’ emotional and physical health?
  • How might we encourage children to be active with their peers, while being safely socially distanced, to improve their well-being?

Hexo product prototype

The Opioid Crisis

In this course, engineering, kinesiology, and nursing students worked in multidisciplinary teams to develop and communicate solutions to the opioid crisis.

Medical Innovations

In this course, engineering, health, kinesiology, and nursing students work in multidisciplinary teams to develop and communicate solutions to a community health challenge. During the fall 2018 class students will use innovative technology to produce a tangible product aimed at alleviating aspects of the opioid crisis while also exploring technology’s potential to cause harm. In addition to technology instruction, students learn problem solving, collaboration, and leadership skills while accomplishing the following:

  • Apply problem-solving skills to an actual community health challenge for vulnerable populations.
  • Use collaboration skills to work together with a group of diverse pre-professionals.
  • Engage in self analysis to identify systemic factors relevant to supporting quality team work.
  • Evaluate personal strengths and their applications to leadership and participation in professional teams.
  • Discuss the ethical, legal, and practical implications of applying novel technologies, particularly for use with vulnerable populations.
  • Produce and communicate a tangible product using technology that has the potential to improve people’s lives.
  • Evaluate feasibility, potential impact, and limitations of potential solutions.

The Opioid Crisis

Medical Innovations expanded in the fall of 2018 with the addition of students and faculty from the Department of Kinesiology. It was the second consecutive year multidisciplinary student teams focused on aspects of the opioid crisis

Addressing the Opioid Crisis

In the fall of 2017, the Medical Innovations class at JMU X-Labs taught students to design practical, ethical solutions to address the opioid crisis. Students worked in transdisciplinary teams using innovative technology to develop products that offered solutions, such as an alternative option for pain relief, and a secure, timed, medicine dispensary unit for patients suffering from addiction.

Associate Professor Erica Lewis in purple scrubs, looking out a window


4-VA funding made this course possible by providing the space and resources needed to
produce the prototype solutions and by generating interest and engagement through
promoting our work and the work of our students,” said Dr. Erica Lewis.

Mitigating Metabolic Syndrome

The successful pilot in the spring of 2015 segued into a second iteration of the class in 2016, this time with a connection at UVA. David Chen from the UVA Department of Biomedical Engineering (BME) program offered his expertise on prototyping and provided feedback to the Medical Innovations students at JMU. Similarly, Dr. Lewis and Dr. Ludwig helped Mr. Chen judge projects for his BME design course. The faculty met several times to learn more about each other’s courses and to discuss future partnerships.

Just like their predecessors, the 2016 class invited community members to offer feedback on their final presentations. Students introduced a seat cushion with scale technology and Bluetooth connectivity, a model of an indoor playground for both children and adults, an instructive lamp that encourages activity during the workday, and a pedaling machine to use at your desk.

The instructors used quantitative measures to assess student learning outcomes. Students were assessed on problem solving, creativity, attitudes about teams, and ethical reasoning. Early analysis showed that students made gains in some of these areas. The team also worked with Dr. Allison Ames, Assistant Professor in the Department of Graduate Psychology, to finish analyzing and submit these data for publication. In addition, the faculty had conversations with a group from Tennessee Technological University who were teaching a course with engineering and nursing students—very similar to the Medical Innovations course—and who were considering similar assessments.

Headshots of Dr. Lewis, Dr. Nagel, and Dr. Ludwig

Mitigating Metabolic Syndrome

Dr. Erica Lewis, Dr. Patrice Ludwig, and Dr. Jacquelyn Nagel designed our medical innovations pilot course that allowed biology, engineering, and nursing students to leverage maker technology to produce and communicate solutions for current community health challenges.

The students formulated ideas for mitigating metabolic syndrome—a disorder which affects about 34% of Americans and increases the risk of heart disease and diabetes. Students found it both challenging and rewarding to learn how to communicate their knowledge and ideas across disciplines and made great strides in solving problems in a collaborative setting. Guests from the community were invited to meet students, listen to their presentations, ask questions, and provide feedback on their work from a professional standpoint.

Spring 2023

X-Labs Trailblazer Course: Medical Innovations
Th 5:30-8:00 pm | Lakeview Hall 1150 | 3-Credits

BIO 427: Topics in Biology with LaboratoryEthical Medical Device Development

KIN 428: Dr. Cathy McKay

By instructor permission only
Please email the instructor for the course you are interested in

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Interested in this class?
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Client Partner

  • Does your organization face local or global challenges in healthcare, education or security?
  • Are you aware of a technology that could transform your industry but you don’t have time to explore it?
  • Does your organization have long–range design problems that you don’t have the resources to solve yourself?
  • What if you could hire graduates who are ready to start working on your top needs from Day One?

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