The Wallace H. Coulter Department of Biomedical Engineering (BME) at Georgia Tech and Emory University is fortunate to draw on the experiences and advice of the highly qualified members of the BME Advisory Board. The members of the Advisory Board have a diverse background, coming from all areas of research, industry, device design, and clinical applications. Albert K. Chin, M.D., co-founder of Pavilion Medical Innovations, is one of the current members on the Advisory Board.
Dr. Chin has been one of the most prolific innovators in medical device design for the past 30 years. After being approached by several faculty and alumni from Georgia Tech, Dr. Chin has been intimately involved with the BME department for over 10 years. Having completed his education in mechanical engineering at the undergraduate and post-graduate levels, Dr. Chin did not find satisfaction working in the aerospace industry. Fortunately, he found his calling in medicine, and subsequently completed medical school at the University of California, San Francisco and a residency in General Surgery. Dr. Chin, however, retained his passion for engineering even before becoming a physician. Prior to entering medical school, Dr. Chin describes, “I started calling physicians and asking them if they had any problems, and offered if I could design a solution for them.” Most notably, Dr. Chin worked with Dr. Thomas Fogarty, one of the leaders in medical device design, on a number of products. As such, Dr. Chin started Origin Medsystems, which eventually became Guidant Cardiac Surgery. Currently, Dr. Chin is the co-founder of Pavilion Medical Innovations, which is a medical device incubator funded by Catalyst Health Ventures. He also currently holds 174 issued U.S. patents.
Over his career, Dr. Chin has been a part of the growth in the medical device industry. Having been involved in numerous start-ups and innovations, Dr. Chin labels himself a “physician-inventor.” As a physician-inventor at a medical incubator, Dr. Chin is able to do what he loves: coming up with new ideas. “There is always more room for new medical devices and therapies, and the way you go about approaching these designs and devices must be cost-effective and simple enough so the adoption rate is high.” Accordingly, Dr. Chin has worked on developing devices spanning every subspecialty.
To develop these medical devices, Dr. Chin draws on his extensive engineering experience. Dr. Chin stressed the importance of making prototypes in device design. “I have my own machine shop”, says Dr. Chin, “and I design my own prototypes.” From Dr. Chin’s perspective, the prototypes of his designs demonstrate the proof of concept for a successful device. Dr. Chin also understands the value of learning the entire device design process and is particularly proud of Georgia Tech BME students for their effective analytical as well as communication abilities. Despite what he notes as a particularly rigorous curriculum, Dr. Chin says that at the time of graduation, BME students from Georgia Tech are industry-ready, and their experiences give them a distinct advantage towards entering the industry and for future career advancement.
As a member of the Advisory Board since near the inception of the BME Department at Georgia Tech, Dr. Chin has been a witness to the enormous success of the department and its students. With his input, the many iterations of the curriculum grew to incorporate the design and clinical experiences that are essential to the foundation of biomedical engineering. He also credits the support of the Coulter Foundation and the emphasis of translational research, or research that has the end goal of creating a product that will be used in clinical settings. Although Dr. Chin is very gratified to see the growth of the department, he also looks for the BME department to become an even greater leader in industry as well as in education. Despite the limited presence of the BME industry in the Southeast region, Dr. Chin hopes that the Georgia Tech BME students can work on expanding the industry and developing new and innovative solutions to medical problems. To current students in the BME department, Dr. Chin concludes, “Everything that is taught here at Georgia Tech is what I do in practice. Make it as simple as you can, make a prototype, and get it out for pertinent clinical situations.”