Educating medical and engineering students, orthopaedic residents, and postdoctoral clinical and research fellows is an important part of the mission of the Department of Biomechanics. The goal is to provide students and trainees with knowledge and analytical skills in basic concepts governing the biomechanics of the musculoskeletal system. Emphasis is on the mechanical consequences of trauma and musculoskeletal diseases and the mechanical influences that must be considered in deciding upon an appropriate treatment.
Education and training is provided through staff participation in teaching at clinical and research conferences, in discussions of trainees’ proposed research protocols in weekly Departmental research meetings, in review of the scientific literature in monthly journal clubs, in teaching in the Hospital’s Annual Orthopaedic Basic Science Review Course, and, most importantly, through integration of trainees into ongoing research projects or individualized projects as part of fulfilling residency, fellowship, and advanced degree requirements.
Biomechanics staff also participate in classroom teaching and serve as graduate student advisors as part of their faculty commitments in the Physiology, Biophysics, and Systems Biology Program of the Weill Cornell Graduate School of Medical Sciences and as visiting lecturers in the Sibley School of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering and the Department of Biomedical Engineering at Cornell in Ithaca. Senior Departmental staff hold primary or adjunct faculty appointments in these programs and departments.
The Immersion Experience
The gap between an engineering school and a medical school can be both physical and ideological. The Sibley School of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering, the Biomedical Engineering Department at Cornell, and HSS face a physical gap that is daunting -- a separation of over 200 miles. Nonetheless, researchers from the two institutions have been working together successfully for over 30 years. To strengthen a parallel educational program for students, an Immersion Term has been developed to expose Cornell biomechanics and biomedical engineering students to research and medical practice in the rich clinical and biomedical research environment of the Hospital.
The Immersion Term includes orientation of students to the hospital environment including training in laboratory safety and responsible conduct in research. Coursework is also. For example, a course in Mechanics of Soft Tissues designed specifically for Immersion Term students has been offered with 18 contact hours between faculty and students. Didactic lectures are integrated with online material and operating room visits so students can experience firsthand the clinical application of the concepts that they are learning. Independent study is also included in the Immersion Term. Students are given a retrieved orthopaedic implant (such as a hip prosthesis) at the start of the term. Each implant had failed while in service in a patient. Students then meet with biomechanics staff and orthopaedic surgeons to discuss their analysis of the failed implants. Students review radiographs and medical records, use laboratory techniques to perform physical analyses of the implants, and perform analytical engineering failure analyses, all in an effort to build a complete picture of the case. Students also attend clinical conferences, accompany physicians on surgical rounds, and observe in the operating room.
The immersion term has been expanded within the Biomedical Engineering Department at Cornell as well. Details can be found at the department’s web site (http://www.bme.cornell.edu/bme/academics/graduate/ms/index.cfm).