On May 20, 2011 The UC Davis Department of Biomedical Engineering inaugurated a catheter manufacturing laboratory with a first-ever workshop on catheter manufacturing taught by engineers and scientists from Medtronic, Santa Rosa. Participating faculty, graduate students and undergraduate students learned about catheter and stent technology and then observed firsthand how to make catheters using equipment donated by Medtronic Cardiovascular. The lab, believed to be the first of its kind in the nation, was made possible through an ongoing partnership between Biomedical Engineering Professor Angelique Louie and Medtronic Cardiovascular in Santa Rosa.  The plans for the catheter lab, which included acquiring and renovating a lab space to accommodate the manufacturing equipment, have been 2-3 years in the making.

Medtronic has had an ongoing relationship with BME the past 3 years through the participation of Director of Operations, Don Chigazola, a UCD alumnus, who is a guest lecturer in Dr. Louie’s senior design course series and a member of the Advisory Board. In addition, Medtronic has offered annual tours for students to its Santa Rosa facility.  In the first years of the tour, the Medtronic manufacturing operation was active in Santa Rosa. During one of these visits, Don Chigazola, Director of Operations, mentioned that manufacturing was moving to Ireland, and that surplus or older equipment may be available for donation to educational institutions. Don offered to arrange an equipment donation to BME, which was received with great enthusiasm by the department.

Don worked through the process for making a donation to the University, and about a year or so later, Prof. Louie drove over to Medtronic with a van to pick up the equipment. The instruments donated by Medtronic represent a complete catheter assembly line with all equipment for manufacturing and testing catheters, including laser welding systems, catheter flaring, microscopes, dissection scopes, leak tester, UV curing, precision glue dispenser, lamps (for scope), fittings for the connectors, tubing, heat shrink, glue, luer locks, balloons, and other supplies. Medtronic employees spent many hours over multiple visits to set up and test the equipment and returned to provide instruction for the May 20 workshop.  Sean Salmon, Vice President & General Manager of Medtronic’s Coronary Business Unit said, “We are pleased that UC Davis is able to utilize the equipment to enhance their biomedical engineering program.”

Catheter manufacturing will be added to the senior design machining and CAD training lab that accompanies the design courses. The students will make catheters to deploy cardiac stents. The department plans to eventually integrate catheter manufacturing into the undergraduate program as a stand-alone workshop or course. For now, the catheters that the students make will be kept as samples for display to future classes.

Prof. Louie says, “The entire donation was made possible through Don’s efforts and his support and dedication to the department. He has been a tireless cheerleader and supporter for UC Davis, including helping to connect us with the internship and employment folks at Medtronic, and championing the placement of our students in positions.”

As an example of Don’s commitment to enhancing career opportunities for UC Davis students, he put Prof. Louie in touch with contacts that helped her create the “Day with Medtronic,” which brought the medical device industry to campus to tell students about what the company does and inform them of job and internship opportunities. About 50 students attended that first event, which has now been turned over the campus Internship and Career Center to organize so that it is available to more students.

“Until that event, a medical device company of Medtronic’s caliber had not come to UC Davis in many years.  We had fallen off the map for these types of companies,” Prof. Louie explains.

Don is also teaching a wildly popular one-unit manufacturing course, offered for the first time this quarter, and has an appointment as a visiting lecturer, which the BME department hopes can expand in the future.  Prof. Louie says that “the students really enjoy this firsthand industry knowledge.”

Department Chair Kyriacos Athanasiou states, “This interaction with Medtronic is emblematic of our collective efforts at UC Davis to engage industry as much as possible. The direct beneficiaries are our students who will now have a unique opportunity to learn in a fully functional catheter manufacturing laboratory, provided by the industry leader.  We are grateful to Don Chigazola and his colleagues at Medtronic for trusting the Biomedical Engineering department with this donation.”

The Department of Biomedical Engineering is excited about this type of industry interaction and looks forward to continuing collaboration with Medtronic to enrich the undergraduate experience.

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