Cal Poly biomedical engineers innovate new medical devices through new summer course

Cal Poly clinical immersion course introduces biomedical engineering students to the innovation process

SAN LUIS OBISPO Cal Poly’s newest clinical immersion course offers biomedical engineering students an opportunity to identify needs within the healthcare industry, then invent and prototype medical devices to address those needs.

The 10-week course consisted of two parts: a clinical immersion and traditional classroom learning. Students spent the first five weeks of the course shadowing medical professionals at Sierra Vista Regional Medical Center, part of Tenet Health Central Coast, familiarizing themselves with hospital operations and identifying potential pain points for clinicians. The second half of the course was spent in the classroom developing prototypes and learning about the processes behind bringing a medical device to market.

Students developed devices to track and quantify blood-loss during childbirth, reduce the time it takes to suture during a procedure used to connect vessels to one another known as vascular anastomosis, increase the efficiency of ECG readings and assist with patient positioning for lumbar punctures.

The clinical immersion course was created by Cal Poly biomedical engineering professors Chris Heylman, Michael Whit and Ben Hawkins. It was developed in cooperation with the Cal Poly Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship (CIE) as well as healthcare service provider Tenet Healthcare.

“Our relationship with Cal Poly is a natural fit that allows us to develop tools, techniques and technologies that will benefit the healthcare industry in the future,” said Tenet Health Central Coast CEO Mark Lisa.

The clinical immersion course was offered primarily to incoming juniors so that students could continue to develop their prototypes as senior projects, then work with the CIE to bring their innovations to market.

“We’re working towards having more resources focused on med-tech innovation, and this course creates potential future companies that could feed into the CIE,” said Assistant Professor of Innovation and Entrepreneurship Tom Katona. “It’s also an example of how the CIE was able to help faculty on campus do something that would have been harder to do had we not existed.”


About the Cal Poly Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship:

The CIE opens a world of entrepreneurial opportunity to Cal Poly students, faculty and community members and promotes entrepreneurial activity and dialogue across the university and throughout San Luis Obispo County. For more information, visit

About Tenet Health Central Coast

Tenet Health Central Coast is an integrated healthcare system consisting of two acute care hospitals and several affiliated entities, including primary and specialty care, outpatient imaging and laboratories across the Central Coast. The hospitals are Sierra Vista Regional Medical Center, the county’s only designated trauma center, in San Luis Obispo, Calif., and Twin Cities Community Hospital in Templeton, Calif. Among their numerous recognitions for quality and compassion, both are internationally recognized Baby-Friendly birth facilities and both have earned the “LGBTQ Healthcare Equality Leader” designation from the Human Rights Campaign Foundation. Tenet Health Central Coast serves many diverse communities throughout the Central Coast, enabling all that come through its doors have access to quality, coordinated care and advanced specialty services at convenient locations. To learn more about Tenet Health Central Coast, please visit

Contact: Stephanie Zombek