Reflections from Barr-Spach Scholarship recipients

Park and Morris

By Brittany Vekstein

Christine Park and Miranda Morris are recent recipients of the Barr-Spach Medicine and Engineering scholarship. The scholarship—administered through Duke MEDx—supports the recipients as they complete master’s degrees from Duke's Pratt School of Engineering. This competitive scholarship provides support toward tuition and fees, and is awarded annually to third-year Duke medical students who have been accepted into the MD-MEng dual degree program.

Park and Morris are part of the first cohort to pursue Duke's Artificial Intelligence for Product Innovation Master’s of Engineering (AIPI) as medical students. We caught up with them to find out how the program is going and what they have learned so far.

You are the first medical students to pursue the AI for Product Innovation for your Master’s in Engineering degree. What type of foundational work or skills prepared you for this training?

Park: As a chemistry major coming into medical school, I didn’t have extensive background in engineering or coding. But I did do some biomedical engineering research in undergrad that allowed me to see the translational aspect of engineering and medicine. Then in medical school, I was exposed to a lot more coding again through research, which helped me prepare for the technical aspects of the AIPI program. 

Morris: Prior to medical school, I received my bachelors’ degrees in studio art and health policy alongside the pre-med track and had no prior experience in engineering. In medical school, I became interested in surgical innovation research using 3D printing technology and machine learning and wanted to develop a deeper technical understanding of the topics. I essentially built up my skillset from scratch, beginning with the python bootcamp at the start of the program. While I faced a steep learning curve, I am grateful that the program had faith in both my capacity and motivation to learn the new skills. My experience in medical school has certainly prepared me for significant learning curves, but this was an exciting new type of challenge.

What internship or project will you be starting this summer? 

Park: I have several ongoing projects that I have been working on before the AIPI program that I will continue throughout the summer.