Contributing to the Digital Health Revolution

March 12, 2014

A note from Carol Murray, MSS, MLSP, CIRP@CHOP training manager: Today we are pleased to welcome a guest blog post from Darshan Donthi, a sophomore Engineering student at Drexel University, who shares his insights about his time as a Drexel co-op student at our Center.

Simply put, life is about the experience. This is especially relevant in the professional workplace, where it’s vital to try something new when the opportunity arises. As a sophomore in Biomedical Engineering at Drexel University, I knew I wanted to pursue development and design of medical devices, but I wasn’t exactly sure about which specific path to take. Thanks to my experience as a Drexel co-op student at The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia’s Center for Injury Research and Prevention (CIRP@CHOP), my eyes have been opened to a rapidly growing area of research and development -- Digital Health.

Since September 2013, I have worked on the Digital Health Initiative team at CIRP@CHOP, researching the role of evidence in digital and mobile health. As a member of this team, I spent most of my time organizing an environmental scan of the digital health industry. This effort required an intensive literature review of mobile applications, which included both scholarly sources such as the University of Pennsylvania’s Biomedical Library, as well as social media and health news sites to keep up with new advancements across digital health. I learned a lot about different research and public policies around digital health and the many processes involved in order to achieve a meaningful contribution to health research.

My experience at CHOP@CIRP was enhanced because of the different groups and co-op students I met along the way, such as the Engineering and Outreach teams, who helped provide me with a well-rounded perspective of their individual thrusts and how their work intertwines with that of digital health.

Although I don’t plan on going into research in the future, I really enjoyed working alongside the Digital Health Initiative team because I felt like I actually contributed to the success of the group as a whole. Dr. Linda FleisherVenk Kandadai, and Katie Halkyard, members of the Digital Health Initiative, often said that our initiative could be likened to a start-up environment, where innovative research and evaluation will help lead to more positive health outcomes in the future. I was excited to contribute to this digital health revolution.

I also had the great opportunity to work under Dr. Helen Loeb and the Teen Driver Safety team, with whom I analyzed data from our teen driving simulator. It was always fun to do my own test drives, and I was even able to create and design a demo drive of my own using scene creator software. Because I had very minimal prior experience, I faced many challenges in computer programming. Thankfully Dr. Loeb insisted that I problem-solve on my own. This teaching method certainly had a significant impact on my programming skills. The opportunity to learn MATLAB and JavaScript basics provided me with programming experience to build upon as I advance in my Engineering career.

My CIRP@CHOP experience has shown me that there are doors to be opened anywhere if you are willing to consider multiple options.