Category: surgical design

Defense and mini-symposium

The 10th of July will be a full day! I’m please to announce that I will defend my PhD thesis entitled Mind the Gap: Designing Sustainable Healthcare for Humanitarian Aid (see teaser in Tab above), and organize a great mini-symposium.

What is global health? How can design contribute to an equitable healthcare access worldwide? What are the products, processes and services can designers improve?

This mini-symposium aims to address these and more challenges regarding the emerging fields of Humanitarian and medical design, with the contribution of two international medical doctors and the two leading pioneers of medical design from TU delft.

Innovation at Médecins Sans Frontières

I was last Thursday at the MSF Scientific Days in London. MSF organized for some years a day dedicated to in-house research that advances knowledge on frontline practices. This year, the research presented and exhibited included topics such as Cholera, HIV, maternal health and Ebola.

What brought me to London was not so much the medical research as it was the 1st time a second day was organized in name of in-house innovation.
The presentations were mostly related to digital data and mobile technologies. Included were mapping technologies, community-based healthcare delivery models and unmanned aerial vehicles (aka drones). All of these presentations raised very diverse technical and philosophical questions. And it was clear that that was the result of a multidisciplinary and multi-section attendance. There were medical doctors but also logistitians, engineers, epidemiologists and more.

You have 1 million euros: how would you use it to foster a culture of innovation in MSF?
This was the title of a discussion panel that included people from MSF, ICRC, the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Lausanne and the Refugee Studies Centre in Oxford. All the panelists presented a short list of issues they propose as essential to create a culture of innovation.
The most mentioned included internal communication, engagement in partnerships with external actors, project commitment and agile management, focus on beneficiaries and on strategic opportunities. I personally liked two: creation of innovation metrics and of incentives. For MSF it is important to adhere to a healthy form of competition, sharing resources, ideas and partners for the greater good.

Open questions
The environment was sometimes rather tense. It is clear that there are many unsolved internal discussions but above all that this day opened many questions that remain to be answered. The reference to collaboration within MSF, with the private sector or local ministries of health is still spoken at a very abstract level. Another tension point is related to the position of MSF action in the spectrum of emergencies to development. Especially because several innovative approaches imply looking at prevention and at very local initiatives. Issues like IP, costs of technology development, regulation were still left unaddressed.

There are so many opportunities to improve field work and I’m happy to see that MSF stands open to them. After such a successful day I look forward for more next year!

Photograph by Andreas Larsson

Syrian refugees in Jordan

This is an excellent documentary (Portuguese subtitles only, sorry) about the conditions of life in a recent refugee camp. Raw evidence of the lack of freedom, safety or privacy, (green) space, (public) light, water, sanitation…Some challenges of supporting the population with healthcare are also shown. Newly built facilities provide care for pregnant women and wounded children who cannot be cared for in Syria since many facilities and supply chains have been destroyed.

Can you imagine that half of the population in this camp are children? A camp, built under the expectation of the arrival of more people…
How does the dramatic and downgrading change in these people’s lives affect them and the future of their children?

This reality must radically and urgently change. If conflict- and climate-driven displacement are but to increase, this is a global matter requiring global thinking. Solar lamps donated by Ikea allowed people to manage better at night. But the fact – amongst others – that women are still rape targets (by simply going out in the night to the toilet) and highly educated adults have no jobs, needs to be addressed.

That requires a more radical, systemic and emphatic mindset to aid.


The École Polytechnique Féderale de Lausanne (Switzerland) and a whole lot of partners have launched a project related with diagnostic imaging in low-resource settings. It’s called Global DiagnostiX and it involves the development and deployment of an x-ray device.

The project has a strong emphasis on the concept of ‘appropriate technology’ (a bit old fashioned) but has other unique points that make it very interesting and innovative, namely consideration for the whole life-cycle of the device, “to make sure that the imaging system is adapted to each step of this cycle and to the different people who will use it.”

In the website there is some information about ongoing research, sponsoring and activities.

How designers make better healthcare

Let’s start here…

These amazing fruit and vegetable images are made using hightech medical imaging. I came across them at Inside Insides website when looking for more about yet another very interesting project called Transparent Radiology.

Transparent Radiology is a project from Leiden Medical University funded by NWO (Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research) to research about how design can improve doctor-patient communication. They are developing a whole new way of informing – and involving – patients during treatment and care. Exploring ways to explain radiology diagnostics using other nature wonders (than the human body) is just one way of doing it!

They will present their work at the Innovation for Health 2015 on February 5 in Amsterdam. I’ll be there!