Habiba Yasmin

Habiba Yasmin
3rd Year, MEng Medical Engineering
My name is Habiba. I'm a second year Medical engineer. Prior to this degree, I had completed a Higher National Diploma in Product Design. I wanted to help people through products using science and engineering, and this is where it has led me! I would like to pursue a career in the clinical engineering field. However, with so many possibilities available to an engineering graduate, I am open in considering other career possibilities!

Queen Mary Awards Ceremony 2013

This year I had the pleasure of being invited to the awards ceremony held at Queen Mary during its Industrial Liaison Forum. This is a day where students have the opportunity to network with associates from external science and engineering companies/organisations such as Land Rover, Rolls Royce, Caterham, MHRA, NHS, Contour 886, Airbus, and many many others.

The day started with a display of selected posters exhibiting research work being undertaken by current students at both undergraduate and post graduate levels. The industrial associates have the opportunity to see the impressive level of research that QM students carry out. Moreover, it is an opportunity for students to gain industry interest and recognition.

This is followed by the prize giving ceremony – an event dedicated to recognising the achievements of QM’s best students, which includes rewarding them with a certificate and often a prize from an external company. This was my second year of receiving the award for the ‘highest achieving medical engineer’ in my year. On both occasions my award was presented by Apatech, a world leading medical materials specialist  in synthetic bone graft technologies – who were generous enough to award cash prizes every time. I shall not disclose the figure awarded, but it was certainly enough for me to do something useful with it. I must say that aside from the superficial benefit of receiving a prize, it is rewarding to be recognised for your achievements. Having received it in my first year, I felt that it has been one of the motivating factors that drove me to excel through my second year and outperform my first year results significantly. Moreover, it has given me a sense of confidence in my abilities. It really does make a difference when your institution makes a conscious effort to reward you for your efforts, and also showcase their high achieving students to the external companies.

The ceremony was followed by special panel sessions. where students had the chance to ask industry specialists questions regarding internships, jobs, career prospects etc. I attended the healthcare panel, which included one of the clinical scientists that I had the pleasure of working with on my summer placement. It was very insightful, for example, they gave constructive advice on how to stand out when applying for their respective companies.

Finally, the day ended with a networking session where students were able to speak to all companies that were present on the day individually. This was an opportunity to exchange contact details and also find out more about the companies from personal interaction with the client. A great way to end the day! Images from the event are included below.

My award at ILF 2013

My award at ILF 2013

Receiving my award at ILF 2013

Receiving my award at ILF 2013

M Top Achievers Medical & Material Engineers 2013

QM Top Achievers Medical & Material Engineers 2013

QM ILF Healthcare Panel 2013

QM ILF Healthcare Panel 2013

M Prize Giving Ceremony 2013

QM Prize Giving Ceremony 2013

Watching a live surgery!

I was presented with the opportunity to view my first ever surgical procedure a few weeks back. It was related to a design project I was working on at UCLH. A surgeon at the National Hospital for Neurology and Neurosurgery had identified a problem with monitoring the pressure bags they use during an endovascular embolisation procedure – a surgery which treats patients with brain aneurysms. This is when a blood vessel in the brain develops a pocket that begins to expand like a balloon and can burst at any time. The outcome of which can be fatal. Due to the sensitive location, a catheter is carefully fed through the femoral artery in the groin, and then into the brain using real time x-ray images. A coil is then released into the aneurysm to block off the blood supply there ,and a stent is used to close it off from the vessel. This is a life changing procedure which can make the difference between life and death.

I was very excited but also apprehensive to see the surgery. I was unsure of what my reaction would be like at the sight of blood and an unconscious patient……. But it all went well. In fact, the environment is nothing like what you see in an episode of casualty – thank god! Unfortunately, I am unable to speak about the details of the project, as it is still ongoing. However, it was interesting to try and test our concept without using a live patient! Instead, we opted to test the prototype using pressurised saline bags to depict a simplified model of the human arterial medium. After some preliminary tests, we were confident that the prototype would withstand the pressures within a human artery. Now it is just a matter of confirming whether it will work on a patient – any volunteers? 🙂

In Scrubs to Watch Surgery

In Scrubs to Watch Surgery

Modelling Facial Deformities for Reconstructive Surgery

Only a week to go before my summer placement is over. Three months have just flown by! So there was something quite interesting they do at the Medical Physics and Bioengineering Department, that I thought I would share.

Often patients suffering from facial disfigurements due to a range of congenital deformities come to UCLH for reconstructive surgery. Understandably, these disfigurements can have a huge impact on how the patient and society perceive their personal appearance. This can be quite detrimental on a psychological level.  And I am sure there is nothing worse than a reconstructive surgery that still leaves a patient looking abnormal. As a result, the clinical engineers from the Medical Graphics and Imaging group at UCLH assist surgeons in achieving the most aesthetically appealing reconstruction; which can help to significantly improve their quality of life.

Using a 3D camera system and in-house software, the engineers mathematically model facial features of both the normal population, and of patients suffering from a range of deformities. This allows them to compare the common characteristics of various syndromes with the normal population. In addition, they can also compare the deformity of a specific patient with the normal population; enabling them to model the most appealing and surgically achievable facial reconstruction. To demonstrate how the camera system worked, I had a 3D scan taken. It was certainly very weird to be able to view and rotate a 3D image of myself. Take a look for yourself!

3D Scan of Myself

3D Scan of Myself

Summer Placement at UCLH

Following the end of year exams many students use the summer holidays as a time to unwind. I alternatively opted to attend a summer placement at the University College  Hospital (UCLH). Having been there for over a month now, I thought it would be insightful to provide an update on my progress so far.

University College Hospital Main Entrance [UCL Website]

Based at the medical physics and bioengineering department, I have been working under the supervision of a clinical scientist within a specialist field called Urodynamics. This is the diagnostic study of the bladder pressures. It can be used to identify possible lower urinary tract dysfunctions such as bladder muscle over-activity and weaknesses, which often lead to symptoms of urgency, frequency and urinary incontinence. As a result, patients presenting these symptoms are referred to UCLH to undertake various Urodynamic studies such as a Video Cystometrogram (VCMG). This particular procedure involves filling a patient with a radio-opaque dye through a catheter inserted within their bladder. During this time, the bladder muscle pressure is monitored on a CMG trace whilst x-rays are taken. The patient is then subjected to various tests to replicate incontinence behavior, such that any underlying abnormalities can be identified.


VCMG Procedure Room

VCMG Procedure Room

In this particular instance, the clinical scientist is responsible for setting up the equipment with the patient and performing the tests alongside a radiologist. Throughout the procedure, the scientist controls the equipment, monitors the CMG trace whilst communicating with both the patient and radiologist, and finally discusses the symptoms observed with the radiologist. Given that you are liaising with doctors, patients and other hospital staff, strong and effective communication skills are essential. Moreover, a sympathetic and understanding attitude must be conveyed to the patients as they are often embarrassed.

VCMG Trace showing abdominal, bladder and bladder muscle pressure variation (red, blue and pink respectively).

VCMG Trace showing the abdominal and bladder pressures

And what have I been doing? At first I spent time observing the procedures being undertaken and learning the theory. Now, I can confidently interpret the CMG trace and x-rays to make a diagnosis. In addition, I can set up the equipment under supervision. This involves attaching the correct tubing, clips, and catheters to the machine whilst complying with strict health and safety regulations; and finally priming the lines to remove the presence of air bubbles. During the procedure, I assist the patient and also observe the CMG trace and x-rays such that I am involved with the interpretation of the results between the scientist and radiologist at the end of the investigation. Alongside this, I have been working on a couple of other projects which I will update on another time.

Pressure Transducer Clips

Attaching the pressure transducer clips

I guess I had never imagined that I would be acquiring this level of knowledge from a summer placement. In fact, my initial reason for attending this placement was to find out whether a career path as a clinical scientist would appeal to me. And I must say I was not disappointed. My understanding is that a clinical scientist bridges the gap between a patient and a doctor when specialist monitoring equipment is needed. It is a role which truly merges healthcare and engineering together, and this is what I am so passionate about. I am certain that by participating in the practical elements of the job, I have developed a distinct set of skills that will hopefully interest potential employers. So my advice would be to search for summer internships early on. Just remember that most of your colleagues will leave university with a degree, but it will be those unique skills acquired along the way that will help you become more appealing within the industry.

Wearing a lead apron due to radiation exposure during a VCMG

Wearing a lead apron to prevent excessive radiation exposure during VCMG procedure

My visit to Stanmore Implants

This week, I had the opportunity to visit Stanmore Implants, a leading patient specific implants company. They design and manufacture orthopedic implants directly at their base in Stanmore. The visit was organised by the IMechE North West London division and Dr H Screen, lecturer at QM. Only a few of us were lucky enough to go. Had I not gone, I would have most certainly been envious of my colleagues who did!

A group of us from Queen Mary, Brunel University, and a couple of senior IMechE members were present. We were greeted by the chief technical Officer, Dr P Unwin. Little did I know that this individual was going to offer me the most eye opening, and useful insight into the application of what I had been learning on the Medical Engineering program to industry. We’ve all heard our lecturers tell us numerous times that they are giving us useful information, but I never truly understood the value of this until this visit.

Dr Unwin spoke about the various types of implants they design, ranging from hip to knee implants, and even those that act to replace parts of the pelvis. Ten minutes into the talk and I was nodding my head in agreement with nearly all of the information he was delivering. This was due to the familiarity of the knowledge that I had acquired from a module studied in year 1 called ‘Clinical Solutions in Medical Engineering’. He spoke in detail regarding the use of materials such as Cobalt Chrome, UHMWPE, Hydroxyapatite, Titanium and Bone Cement in implants. He went on further to talk about bone loosening, micro-motion, wear, and fibrous encapsulation; all problems which occur following implantation of a foreign object inside the human body. It seemed that he had summarized the entire content of this one module whilst referring to the implants they design. So if you’ve ever felt like the knowledge you are acquiring in lectures are only there to prepare you for exams. You could not be further from the truth!

This was the first time I realized that the Medical Engineering program had prepared me well for a job in industry.  It was apparent that Queen Mary had structured its modules in a manner that was providing its students with relevant knowledge required in industry, and by doing so they are making Queen Mary graduates very attractive. In certain cases, some industrial companies already ask for Queen Mary students specifically for internship programs. In fact, there has been a Queen Mary Graduate working at Stanmore Implants for over 3 years. It was during this visit that I truly appreciated being a medical engineering student at Queen Mary.

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