August 11, 2017

Jessa Miller: Inventing better results

Paths of Excellence give med students opportunity to solve real-world issues

Jessa and her colleague, Neal Al-Attar, presenting a poster on Shark Tank, a novel innovation program for medical students, at the AAMC's Lead Serve Lead Conference.

M3 Jessa is officially an inventor and a founder of one of several student-run Made at Michigan ventures highlighted by Innovate Blue, the heart of the University of Michigan’s entrepreneurial ecosystem.

Through her work in the Innovation & Entrepreneurship Path of Excellence and with support from Fast Forward Medical Innovation, Jessa developed her idea into the External Dual-Lumen Cuff, a medical device that improves kidney stone treatments by decreasing operation times and hospital readmission rates for residual stones.

Here she answers nine questions about how she became an innovator while training to be a physician:

How did you learn about the Innovation & Entrepreneurship Path of Excellence?

I learned about this Path during the beginning of my M1 year. The Innovation & Entrepreneurship Path was created the year before I got to medical school, so while I was a bit hesitant to be in one of the first cohorts of students to go through it, I was also excited to get involved and to help pave the road for students after me.

How did the External Dual-Lumen Cuff become your Path Capstone project?

During my M1 year, I met with Dr. Cohen (the Innovation & Entrepreneurship Path director), and he suggested I meet with Dr. Roberts, an endourologist here at U of M. After just one meeting with Dr. Roberts, I knew I wanted him to be my Path mentor—he was very interested in medical innovation and seemed more than willing to help me brainstorm ideas for my capstone project, which ultimately ended up being the External Dual-Lumen Cuff.

How did you come up with the idea for this device?

After meeting with Dr. Roberts in his lab, I went to shadow him in the OR to see how ureteroscopy, a technique used to treat kidney stones, is performed. During the procedure, I noticed that when the laser was being used to fragment kidney stones, the stones often bounced away from the laser, forcing the urologist to go searching for them in the renal calyces. This seemed surprisingly inefficient to me, and in talking to Dr. Roberts about this afterwards, he confirmed that “stone retropulsion” is a very common and time-consuming problem in the OR. This was the basis for the External Dual-Lumen Cuff—a device that allows the simultaneous use of a basket to stabilize stones and a laser to fragment stones during ureteroscopy.

How did you balance your curricular activities while working on this project?

The majority of the time I spent on this project was during the summer between my M1 and M2 year, however I did still work on this project as an M2 and a little bit during my M3 year. The most important tip I have for working on extracurricular projects while still focusing on schoolwork is staying organized and prioritizing activities that are most important to you.

How did you get connected with Fast Forward Medical Innovation?

The Innovation & Entrepreneurship Path of Excellence encourages students to attend FFMI seminars, so I had some exposure just through the Path itself. I also participated in FFMI’s Early Tech Development Course (now called “fastPACE”) in the fall of 2016.

How does this project relate to your career goals?

I hope to pursue a career in academic medicine, most likely in a procedural specialty. This project has taught me an immense amount about innovation as it pertains to medical devices, and I’ve learned many of the skills needed to turn an idea into a tangible product.

What are the next steps for this project? Do you expect to stay involved beyond med school?

Since I’m currently in my third year of medical school, it’s hard to find much time to dedicate to the project right now. However, we’ve just added a preclinical student to the team, who has been helping out with the experiments this summer!

What have you found most valuable in this experience?

For me, the most valuable part of this entire experience was finding a mentor, Dr. Roberts, who was enthusiastic, experienced in the innovation space, and who encouraged me to think outside the box.

What would you say future med students who are considering Michigan Med?

Deciding to come to Michigan Medical School was hands down the best decision I’ve made in terms of my career development and personal growth. All of the faculty and students here have their own passions and interests, and it’s inspiring to see the immense talent and creativity present at this institution.