Design Engineer---Medical equipment

Hank Westra

Tell us about your work---what do you do? We make medical instruments that perform robotic heart surgery. In layman's words, we eliminate the need to the remove rib cage for open-heart surgery through the use of tiny mechanical devices. I design these instruments. What skills are needed? The first thing you need to know is CAD design software and other designing programs. Of course, you need certain experience in this specialized field. You must have design experience. What was your major? Industrial Engineering How did you get started in your career? I landed my first job through an advertisement in a newspaper. I than progressed to my current position through contacts in the industry. What experience do you need in this job? You need at least a couple of years in the medical design environment. You have to be very precise; we work with very small, complicated devices. You must also be very mechanically adept and have a solid understanding of design and mechanics. Describe your "typical" workday: My day starts around 5:30-6:00 in the morning. There is something new every day. I may design specifications of new devices, meet with other designers to brainstorm, and there is always a lot of paper work. What is the hardest aspect of your job? Unfortunately, there are just some things you can't make. The apparatus we make are so small, you run into problems trying to engineer something that is impossible to create with the current technology. What is the most rewarding aspect of your job? When you see a patient come out of the hospital after getting his heart fixed, it just gives you a big smile to know that you helped that person get well. What are your suggestions for someone considering this field? I definitely recommend this field; there is something very satisfying about being an engineer. It is good to get some practical experience though, an internship or some other avenue to get your feet wet.