Engineering Wildcat Back on His Feet With Mentor’s Help

Sept. 27, 2019


Photo of Ian Jackson & Dr Daniel Latt in exam room with skeletal foot model
Biomedical engineer regains footing after severe crash with new outlook on the medical industry


Project Title: Wireless Body Temperature Sensor for Implantable Ports


Sponsor: BD

Team 18047 Members:
Allison Edwards, biomedical engineering
Marc Gefrides, electrical and computer engineering
Ian Jackson, biomedical engineering
Alexys Manring, biomedical engineering
Josh Pace, biomedical engineering and electrical and computer engineering
Matthew Slobodianuk, biomedical engineering

Biomedical engineering honors student Ian Jackson was planning to go to medical school after graduation. For two years, he had been shadowing Dr. Daniel Latt, an orthopedic surgeon at Banner Health and associate professor of orthopaedic surgery and biomedical engineering at the University of Arizona.

His senior capstone project, sponsored by BD, formerly C.R. Bard, was a wireless sensor designed to monitor the body temperature of cancer patients, such as those undergoing chemotherapy, and alert them of abnormal rises in temperature via a smartphone app.

“The reason most of us choose BME is we’re really interested in helping people,” Jackson said.

He certainly didn’t expect to spend his senior year experiencing what it was like to need such help. But in October 2018, while he was riding his motorcycle home from a design team meeting, a car ran a stop sign and plowed into him, dragging him 40 feet down the road. His left leg was trapped under the vehicle before a group of nearby students lifted the car off him.

Paramedics rushed Jackson over to Banner – University Medical Center Tucson and into a 10-hour surgery, where they stabilized his fractured vertebrae; broken femur, tibia and fibula; and multiple broken bones and torn-off skin on his left foot.

When he woke up, doctors were discussing a foot amputation.

The Help of a Mentor

Jackson’s mind went to his mentor: One of Latt’s specialties is operating on patients with Charcot arthropathy, a complication of diabetes that can weaken the bones in the foot. Jackson had watched people come from all over the country to have Latt fix situations other doctors said were impossible. Latt took a look at Jackson’s X-rays and said he thought his foot could be salvaged.

Thanks to the efforts of Latt and other doctors from Banner Health, Jackson is fully on both feet today. He’s walking normally and relearning how to run and squat.

“Our goal was to get him a foot that was square to the ground that he could walk on,” Latt said. “I expected it to be very stiff, and likely somewhat painful. So this is pretty amazing.”

To Excel and Empathize

Jackson returned to class and team meetings within a few weeks, although in a wheelchair for the first few months.

“Without this team, I wouldn’t have made it through senior design,” he said. “They really pulled through for me and helped me get back on my feet – literally.”

Jackson’s senior project and his time in the hospital made him rethink his original plan to go to medical school in favor of finding ways to improve the patient experience. While he was in the hospital, he used several of BD’s products, such as their catheters, giving him a firsthand look at how biomedical devices impact patients’ lives. In the year since his accident, he’s created designs for a more comfortable catheter and a bed that can identify pressure points on patients to prevent ulcers.

His new career plan is to build a design laboratory where he can bring his inventions to life. He’s also considering partnering with schools to provide hands-on engineering experience for K-12 students. After all, his engineering education played a part in getting him to where he is today.

“If I wasn’t a biomedical engineering major, I don’t think I would have even considered that I might be able to change the industry to be patient-focused,” he said.

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