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New student fellowship endowed by Philips will be aligned with longstanding training grant in cardiovascular medicine and bioengineering

A longstanding fellowship program in UW Bioengineering is getting some new company. Philips, the international health and electronics company, is endowing a new student fellowship at the UW that will operate in concert with the department’s Bioengineering Cardiovascular Training Grant (BCTG) program, an NIH-supported project.

The Philips Fellowship will initially focus on medical imaging, which is of particular interest to the company, though in later years the fellowship could focus on other research areas. The first fellow in the program is Haining Liu, a doctoral student working in the lab of Dr. Chun Yuan, professor of Radiology and Bioengineering.

When Philips approached UW Bioengineering with their interest in funding a student fellowship, it made a lot of sense for the department to coordinate it with the existing BCTG program, said Dr. Michael Regnier, professor and vice chair of Bioengineering. The BCTG program, which is funded by the National Institute of Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering (NIBIB), supports several UW Bioengineering doctoral students for two-year periods as they do work related to cardiovascular medicine and engineering.

“By pairing this with the BCTG program, the Philips fellow will get the same resources as our other trainees,” said Regnier, director of the BCTG program. “They get the existing fellowship structure, a cohort of other students, connections to program faculty, clinical preceptorships, and an annual research symposium.”

Clinical rotations can be very valuable for bioengineering students as they provide exposure to a variety of different clinical areas, said Regnier, particularly for those students which have not worked in a clinical setting.

For Jay Gantz, as an M.D./Ph.D. student, working with experienced physicians was not as new as it is for some BCTG students. However, the clinical rotations were an important part of what made the BCTG experience so useful to him during his two years in the program.

“I was able to talk to docs as an engineering student, rather than as a medical student,” explained Gantz, who is now working in the lab of Dr. Michael Laflamme. “This is a unique situation where doctors seemed to be more willing to look at the pragmatic ‘what works and what doesn’t’ aspects of what they do rather than the medical minutiae. There were more than a few comments along the lines of ‘Why can't someone figure out an easier/better/cheaper way to do this?’ Often the discussion would continue to one or more very reasonable solutions.”

For UW Bioengineering alumnus Joe Anderson, a consultant and biomedical industry professional, the BCTG program was helpful in expanding his research horizons.

“The big thing was that it gave me freedom in what I could pursue. The program gave me freedom to explore different topic areas that I might not have as a primary investigator,” Anderson said. “There were a lot of faculty members who I could contact and work with because of the program, as well.”

Because of the existing BCTG program and support from Philips, the new Philips Fellow and other students selected for the fellowship in forthcoming years will also be able to benefit from the wide range of research and clinical opportunities available to BCTG fellows.