The Biomedical Engineering Depatment of International University
In the following we will present the history of the Department, its vision, missions, aspirations and strategic plan for development.
Biomedical Engineering (BME) is an emerging interdisciplinary field that involves the application of state-of-the-art technology to the creation of methodologies and devices for human welfare and for a better understanding of human biological processes. It includes the study of Medical Instrumentation, Bioinformatics, Biomechanics, Tissue Engineering and Regenerative Medicine, and Biotechnology. In Vietnam, the Biotechnology is well developed as a separate field. However, other subfields in BME are not developed. IU has put efforts to complete this void. The BME activities at IU therefore do not include those in biotechnology which are assumed by the School of Biotechnology of the University.
The BME Department was established by IU on March 16, 2009 and the Bachelor of Engineering in Biomedical Engineering (BE BME) program was accredited by VNU-HCM in August 2009. This was an extraordinary effort and coordination between the leaderships of VNU-HCM and IU to make the events happened in an expedite manner. The Department is therefore the first in the country that offers the accredited degree of BE BME and Master of Engineering in Biomedical Engineering (MS BME) using English in teaching and research, and devoting to the development of several BME subfields.
The Department promotes the close relationship between Education, Research and Entrepreneurship. Hence, besides the vocation to educate the new workforce for the country, the effort to perform scientific research to bring the country to the next level, we strive to generate mutual benefit among the players of the BME field. It is translated into the efforts to develop the collaborations with other universities, as well as with private sectors including hospitals and companies. The ultimate goal is to have a mechanism that allows the transfer of technology and the exchange between the engineers, physicians and corporate leaders to be automatic and a routine.
The motto of the Department is: High Quality, Sustainability and Usefulness which becomes the directives in its activities. The main reason why we chose this motto is that we found the Vietnamese are very talented and determined. However, due to many opportunities for growing, often they chose the quick-fix approach. As a consequence, the outcomes have as many drawbacks as merits. Precisely, the formers create hurdles that prevent the progress from growing further and faster. It is therefore necessary and possible to raise the bar, develop higher expectations, be self-demanding and make high quality works. Moreover, the drawbacks generate useless remnant that requires the future generations to clean it up before they can move ahead or puts them in a difficult dilemma between remove it or keep it. It is therefore necessary to make sustainable works to avoid restarting from zero all the time. The BME vocation is to assist life. Our vocation is to serve our country and people. Therefore we strive to be useful.
The BME Department at IU offers the degree of Master of Engineering and Bachelor of Engineering in BME with all courses taught in English.
The BME undergraduate program was accredited by VNU-HCM in 2009 with the Education and Training Code of 52.42.02.04. In April 2010, the ministry of Education and Training (MOET) accredited this undergraduate degree and assigned the code of 52.52.02.12. The Master’s degree was accredited by MOET in Feb. 2012 with the code 62.52.02.12.
Following the practice of IU, the BME Department offers 2 types of programs:
(1) IU program: Students in this program receive entire education at IU. Students earn the degrees awarded by IU once completed the program.
(2) Twinning program: Students in this Program spend the first two years of study at IU. After that, they will be transferred to the partner universities to spend the last two years of study and eventually receive the BS BME degree at the partner universities. Courses which students take at IU and the partner universities are determined in an agreement decided by both IU and the partner universities.
Since the BME Department attaches special importance to the preparation of proficient biomedical engineers and scientists for Vietnam, the BME students are encouraged to take the IU program. For this reason, the BME only builds the twinning programs with two partner universities in the US. The Agreements with University of Catholic University of America and Rutgers University were signed in 2013.
- Vision of the BME Department
The vision of the Biomedical Engineering Department is to promote integrative research, education and entrepreneurship at the forefront of biomedical science and engineering while maintaining the following characteristics in our activities: high quality, sustainability and usefulness. The interaction between these elements is indicated in the following figure.
Figure 1: Interactions between the 3 main components of the BME Department.
The mission of the Biomedical Engineering Department is to:
- Educate engineers committed to the innovative and ethical application of science and technology in addressing the most pressing societal needs.
- Develop synergy between traditional engineering, life sciences and medicine, and nurture twenty-first century leadership qualities, perspectives, and skills in our students, faculty, and alumni.
- Develop and disseminate transformational new knowledge and technologies that further the well-being and sustainability of society.
- Provide national leadership in enhancing the role and visibility of the engineering profession in the education of our youth and the development and implementation of public policy.
The Department aspirations were developed based on the Vietnamese roots and Western approaches to address the urgent needs of the country to prepare new generations of graduates capable of working at the interface of Health Science, Engineering and Technology. The infrastructure and operating system of the Department were built to stimulate students to perform well beyond the academic requirements, give faculty members excellent working conditions to investigate issues that exist only in Vietnam and offer outside people opportunities for collaborations. The Department aims to establish the reputation for excellence and attract renowned educators and researchers, especially among the Vietnamese diasporas.
- Strategic plan
Since BME is a new field and is not yet generally known in Vietnam, for the society to accept it, it must address the urgent needs of the country. Furthermore, although it is important to give immediate impacts for the country, it is also critical to develop activities that can propel the country to the rank of topnotch contributors in the field to join the trend of globalization.
Due to the lack of the specific workforce in the BME field, it is necessary to choose an activity that can mobilize the local human resources that can be re-trained. Once reaching the critical mass, we can build up our reputation. Having the reputation, we may be able to attract higher quality workforce and develop the state of the art activities to sustain our growth and to excel. However, the government ought to initiate “Reverse Brain Drain” movement to make the return of the Vietnamese diasporas effortless and continuous, and make the country become appealing to international scholars.
To excel in educating biomedical engineers, a strong research-oriented department is critical, where faculty are actively involved in cutting-edge, externally-funded research programs. The focus on research guarantees dynamic and up-to-date curricula, and provides an environment where students can look up to the role models and have high expectation.
In a country, a scientific field can only steadily grow if it has a related industry going in tandem. Similarly, an industry can only sustainably grow if it has support from the corresponding academic partners. Because Vietnam is a late comer in the field, it is important to develop appealing topics that are unique in the world, proper to the country and appropriate for developing countries. Furthermore, it is critical to develop start-up manufacturing companies; each of them concentrates on one product and is able to sustain itself. Together they will establish a foundation, and then the bests will grow into multi-product and multinational companies.
The country is quite rich in resources and has great workforce potential. The willingness of reaching the high quality, the quest of performing sustainable activities and the channeling to the useful targets will help the country escape from the wastefulness, enemy number one for its growth.
The development of those concepts must go through at least 3 stages. The first stage (about 5 years) consists of establishing an institution devoted to the development and execution of activities that respond to the needs of the country and at the same time pave the way to engage in the state-of-the-art technology. Its evaluation will be done by a local mechanism. The second stage (about 2 years) consists of revisiting and enhancing its quality. Its evaluation will be done by a regional mechanism. The third stage consists of the full speed development and multiple its model to other institution of the country. Hence, the operation will begin by establishing a department which will grow into a school and finally a center of excellent (COE). Furthermore, connections with outside world will be established with the interactions with medical schools hospitals and companies, and the services to educate instructors for technical schools and high schools (see Figure 2 below).
Figure 2: Road map for the development of BME activities and interactions of BME institutions to outside world.
From these concepts, the BME Department focuses on developing strong links between Education, Research and Entrepreneurship. In the following we will present the development of each of them, how to implement the developed ideas and how to realize to reach the proposed goals.
In Education, the backbone of the Department is the undergraduate degree program in BME. The aim of this program is that its graduates will be proactive and able to:
- Pursue higher education in successfully competing in the prestigious scholarships to enter in the higher education world class programs abroad, or
- Become outstanding engineers capable of operating and maintaining advanced equipment in hospitals and healthcare establishments, and capable of exploring new possibilities of using those equipment as research tools to work hand in hand with medical doctors in the medical and scientific research projects, or
- Become progressive high school or technical school science teachers to disseminate the concepts of emerging science and technology, or
- Become great entrepreneurs capable of transforming ideas into commercialized viable product, managing healthcare establishments, and establishing startup companies.
Hence, we developed an undergraduate curriculum that is an appropriate blend between basic and applied sciences and between fundamental knowledge and hands-on practice. The curriculum is designed based on the Vietnamese traditional background, current needs of the society, our long term vision and the guideline of ABET. By consequence, it will not only response to the real and urgent needs of Vietnam in the healthcare but also aim to pursue the long term life sciences research trench in the global scientific world. Therefore, it will reflect the current real world and be flexible to be adjusted along with the progress of the society. The core of this curriculum is based on 3 concepts: Practical Mindset, Mentoring Team and Surrogate Department.
According to the Practical Mindset concept, students begin in the early stage of the education program with hands-on method to get familiar with real-world issues. They learn the principle of a piece of medical equipment, practice the reverse engineering to explore the correlation between the theoretical design and the real construction, and give an oral and poster presentation. With this approach, students learn by themselves to ask questions, look for possible solutions and develop self-motivation. They can freely get accessed to the laboratory to practice on their own.
In the Mentoring Team concept, each year, new students will be nurtured by a faculty advisor. They will be divided randomly into small groups assisted by a peer advisor who is an upper level student. This process allows them to rapidly integrate into the BME community. During four years of study students will learn about team dynamics, communication (oral and written) skills in parallel with scientific and engineering depth by participating in the organizations of social events and scientific seminars and conferences. Importantly, as the students progress into the later part of the program, they become mentors to the new students joining their respective teams grouping on their own interests. This process will provide additional educational experiences for this aspect of team dynamics, as well as providing the self-sustaining features to the process.
In the Surrogate Department concept we collaborate with top-notch BME programs of international universities to solicit their mentorship in teaching advanced courses. We invite selected faculty to teach regularly using videoconferencing and Skype facilities to have a real time interactive communication between the Vietnamese students and those faculty. The Vietnamese faculty tutor and administer homework, quiz and exams to the Vietnamese students according to the instructions of those faculty. This way we improve the level of both Vietnamese faculty and students, and bring the teaching and learning to the world class level.
We encourage faculty to devote to the excellent teaching and advising students, and embrace new teaching methods, materials; and to disseminate new scientific discoveries. The success in Education is measured by the number of students get admitted to reputed higher education universities or programs abroad, the number of outstanding Clinical Engineers and entrepreneurs, and the approval of the program by AUN and ABET.
As mentioned above, the BME Department concentrates on the Education at the Undergraduate level. In the developed countries often the BME educational program started at the graduate level. It cannot do so in Vietnam, due to the lack of resources, tradition, and competitiveness. Also, in the developed countries such as the U.S., because of the state of advancement of their research, they need outstanding students capable of carrying high level research and are therefore ready to financially cover the education of these students at the Ph.D. level (in assuming the formation of these students through the Mater’s level). By contrast, very few U.S. universities give financial aids to foreign undergraduate students. In addition, the Vietnamese MOET plans to send 20,000 students abroad during the next 10 years to study at the Ph.D. level. Hence, our strategy is to well prepare Vietnamese students so that they can enter topnotch foreign graduate programs, and to create appropriate infrastructures and appealing working conditions to attract graduates to come back. We will also develop educational infrastructure and operations to stimulate the students to learn beyond the requirements.
The success of the undergraduate degree program will help the Department to build up its graduate programs (Master and Ph.D.), continuing education program and eventually help to establish the Center of Excellence in the Health Science, Engineering and Technology, necessary to unify all resources for one target. The Graduate program is built primarily on the good matching research interest between an individual student and the Department faculty. The course requirements then will be built around it to help students acquire basic and specific knowledge useful for his/her research. The Continuing Education program will be established for individuals who have strong background and working experience in other fields but want to re-direct their interests in BME. Furthermore, other education programs related to health such as public health, nursing will be developed.
In Research, our goal is twofold: develop a Cyber-Medical System (CMS) and investigate topics that exist only in Vietnam. CMS is a selective specialty of Cyber-Physical System. It includes all information technologies such as cloud computing, internet, computational surgery, robotics, telemedicine blends into devices such as smart phones, robots, point-of-care devices, lab-on-a-chip to link healthcare providers and remote patients. Currently Vietnam is in a unique position to bond between developed and developing countries. As an emerging country it is embarking on new progress of developed countries yet it understands the limits of developing countries. Hence, it can apply the new technologies in the devoid of means environment. With the return of peace and the acquired progress Vietnam starts discovering many things that are unique in the world. Therefore many things can be discovered and investigated. These discoveries will contribute to the world heritage, attract researchers to the country and make them into country’s signatures. We recruit faculty who are passionate with research and desire to explore those topics. We provide adequate laboratory to satisfy their needs and provide logistics to help them to be successful in their research, and in the transfer of knowledge and enthusiasm to students. We encourage the faculty to be the leader in one field and at the same time to participate to the other fields of his/her colleagues. One of the ways to start a new research topic is as follows. We begin by exploring an idea or a phenomenon then we develop a research tool to investigate its physiological aspects and/or clinical aspects. The obtained results will allow us to get new ideas or discover other phenomena to be investigated. As such, we establish a far-reaching research loop. As a fall-out, if a research tool is useful for the public we can continue to develop it into a commercially viable end user product and put them on the market (see Figure 3 below).
Figure 3. Strategic model of conducting research and entrepreneurship in the BME Department.
The success in Research of the Department will be measured by the number of publications, the number of external grants obtained, the number of citations in science indexes of its publications, the number of devices put on the market and the number of students the faculty get involved. We also believe that hands-on experiences are primordial to help students acquire useful skills and coherent knowledge. To this end, our policy of open access lab gives students opportunities to go the labs at any time to test new ideas and try their initiatives at their own pace.
In Entrepreneurship, the Department strives to develop new medical devices from new research discoveries and specific for third world countries, identify the needs in the market to feed new research ideas to other faculty and promote startup companies and/or incubators. In Vietnam putting a product into the market is quite difficult due to the complicated administrative rules. Therefore a local mechanism must be established and comprise the technology group which develops the product, the policy group which assumes that all rules are satisfactory and the business group which puts the product into the market. It is therefore important to investigate appropriate entrepreneurial model. We promote entrepreneurial leadership aspect in the Department since most of new directions, innovations and concepts are being developed by small companies created by academic scientists and engineers, or by new ventures within biomedical engineering departments. We, therefore, strive to establish synergistic relationships with industry for technology transfer, student internships, and university/industry joint research or technology development projects. We recruit faculty who have strong experience in related industry such as inventors, investors, managers, and entrepreneurs who devote their time and enthusiasm to train the new generation professionals. The success of the Entrepreneurship will be measured by the quality of students pursuing their career in private sector and the number of start-up companies that our faculty and students establish or participate.
Thanks to the tradition and appropriate environment, a faculty member in advanced country such as the U.S., is capable of assuming in parallel the tasks in education, research and entrepreneurship. Even so, many of them neglect the teaching responsibility, and create discontentment among students and administrators. This model is not appropriate for Vietnam. In our concept, we want to best use the specific skills of a faculty member either in Education or Research or Entrepreneurship. We reward them equally for their contributions and initiatives in carrying well their duties in their own skills. Their contribution in other fields of expertise is encouraged and is a plus. We recruit incumbent faculty who desire to adapt the new concept and think out of the box, and recruit new faculty who have strong research experience and high expectations. The faculty of the Department will belong to one of the following 3 Teams: Education Team, Research Team and Entrepreneurship Team. Each Team will have its own missions and action plans that include short and long term goals. The leadership of each Team will be elected by the Team members or assigned by the Chairman. Each faculty member will have 2 teaching or research assistants who are graduate students and paid by the Department for the first two years. They are encouraged to obtain external grants to complement to this initial effort. The interaction among the Teams is the key for the success of the departmental activities. The responsibilities and evaluation criteria of each faculty are specific but not exclusive and are described below:
Faculty of Education
- Develop curriculum, teaching materials, and new teaching method such as video-conferencing, Open Course Ware;
- Provide trainings to high school teachers in biomedical engineering field;
- Select students; organize selection entry exams;
- Coordinate with research faculty to introduce new materials;
- Help solve the problems students may encounter and prevent them from happening;
- Find the cooperation and link with international universities;
- Find local and international professors;
- Attract local and foreign students;
- Get AUN and ABET approvals of the degree;
- Organize educational competitions;
- Develop Biomedical Engineering dictionary in Vietnamese.
Instructors will be evaluated based on below criteria:
- Evaluation made by students (course evaluation sheet),
- Number of teaching and newly developed courses:
- Number of graduated students get admitted to BME graduate programs in top universities in the world
- Number of international faculty members and Vietnamese Americans contributing to the program.
Faculty of Research:
- Get students involved in scientific research;
- Develop research activities at the international level;
- Organize and arrange the research lab;
- Teach at least one course per year;
- Connect with local and international research centers.
Instructors will be evaluated based on below criteria:
- Number of publications in famous peer-reviewed journals;
- Grant money gained from projects;
- Evaluation made by students (course evaluation sheet),
- Number of graduated students who got admitted to famous universities in the world
- Evaluation made by students.
Faculty of Entrepreneurship
- Work closely with the Research faculty to bring their ideas into products that are commercially viable;
- Work with outside people in particular industries to market the products created by faculty of other units; and find fundable topics and projects that can be carried out by the Research faculty;
- Work closely with Education faculty to introduce new courses, seminars related to Entrepreneurship;
- Organize and run Entrepreneurship shops or outsource the works which concentrate on the production of prototypes;
- Organize the incubators and encourage the students to create startup companies;
- Establish industrial standards, management training;
- Attract investors;
- Teach at least one course per year.
Instructors will be evaluated based on below criteria:
- Evaluation made by students (course evaluation sheet),
- Number of students who have created startup companies or hold important management positions in the hospital or BME corporations;
- Produce items under the international standards, high quality in science, technology and training, establish a new company;
- Profits bring to the Department;
- Number of visiting professors and scholars participate in the Team
Under this model, first-year students will be advised by the Education Team. After the first year, student will decide whether s/he pursues his/her career to be educator, researcher or entrepreneur. In such a case, students will be placed under the care of the corresponding Mentoring Team. Students however will be able to change their career goals and switch from one Team to the other.
A key aspect of Biomedical Engineering is its interdisciplinary nature. The BME Department complements its full time faculty with adjunct faculty members from outside such as schools of Medicine and Pharmacy, schools of Dental Medicine, HCM city University of Technology and HCM city University of Natural Science to contribute to our research and/or teaching programs. They will teach anatomy, physiology and pathology to our faculty and students, and reveal their needs of new biomedical devices and novel measurement methods of vital signals. These will trigger critical thinking and initiatives for new research and application topics from our students and faculty. Our adjunct faculty members will also include those from schools of Pedagogy who will chaperon our students who desire to direct their career in education, and individuals from industry who want to devote their time to teach our student in management, creativity and leadership.
Regarding the key activity for the Department, Biomedical Instrumentation is chosen because it addresses the urgent needs of the country and it’s possible to recruit people who are competent in Electrical Engineering, Mechanical Engineering and Computer Engineering to work in this field. As a late comer, the Department adopts the Design and Applications of medical devices for homecare which link with telemedicine instead of the development of heavy equipment like MRI, CT-Scanner or X-ray. These homecare devices can be mastered technically by engineers in the aforementioned fields and are within reach of small or medium investors. In the next step, the activities in this field can be extended according to the following roadmap:
- Continue the development of point-of-care devices using micro-nanotechnology, precision engineering, cloud computing and photonics to develop biosensors, haptic sensors, lab-on-a-chip;
- Develop the fields that can embed in the Medical Instrumentation such as medical signal and image processing, neural network and machine learning to process obtained data;
- Educate new family doctors who master medical technology and instrumentation;
- Integrate the above components into a Cyber Medical System, to treat patients on-site i.e., bring the hospital to patient’s home instead of bringing the patient to the hospital, and into a healthcare social network (similar to Facebook) to facilitate medical communications for patient-to-patient, patient-to-doctor and doctor-to-doctor.