The MIT-Brazil program works with students from all disciplines to coordinate tailored internships, short-term research projects, and science education opportunities throughout Brazil. The program’s mission is two-fold: 1) to connect MIT students and faculty with industry, research, and teaching partners in Brazil to develop innovative solutions to shared challenges and 2) to promote open dialogue within the MIT and Boston/Cambridge communities on critical issues in Brazil.
The Medtronic (previously Covidien) Research and Development (R&D) team based in São Paulo has partnered with the MIT-Brazil program since 2014 to create comprehensive internships for select students interested in the medical devices industry. Medtronic’s dedication to not just introducing interns to its technologies but also providing practical experience within the contexts of public healthcare and socioeconomic realities in Brazil embodies MIT’s “mind and hand” approach to education.
For the four students who have interned with Medtronic, the experience has underscored that forging strong engineer-doctor-vendor relationships is critical to improving local healthcare. “Medtronic taught me what goes into the development and launch of a medical device: technical viability, clinical need, and market opportunity,” said Electrical Engineering and Computer Science senior Erica Santana. “I participated in projects requiring these factors to be aligned, which helped me visualize how to achieve the desired results.” The students also have seen value in their cultural contributions to the group, which collaborates with other teams in Medtronic’s global R&D network.
For the company, the students’ ability to apply their skills while adapting to the local environment has been key to the partnership’s success and has exceeded expectations. “Kenneth [Vieira] was very important in helping us finalize our lung and colorectal cancer reports and bio-absorbable materials study,” said Almir Ferrer, R&D Manager of Medtronic’s Minimally Invasive Therapies Group. “Kenneth’s two reports enabled us to present our results at Medtronic’s Science & Technology Conference in Minneapolis in October ." The Group will also present its results at the Science & Technology Conference in India in December 2017.
Medtronic’s first two MIT interns graduated and both continued to build upon their experiences, one as a medical student at Harvard and the other as an engineer with a medical devices company in California. Ferrer has no doubt that the other interns still at MIT will become brilliant engineers whether working in academia or in R&D. He and the MIT-Brazil program look forward to continuing to collaborate and to strengthening the relationship between Medtronic and the MIT community.
Quotes from Medtronic's MIT-Brazil interns:
Ricardo De Armas, Mechanical Engineering ’15 and MD candidate at Harvard Medical School (2014 intern): “[The internship] gave me the confidence to work in an international setting and use a language that I am not particularly comfortable with. I also learned a lot about the medical device industry and what it takes to build a product from concept to shelf…these are skills I will surely use in my future career.”
Diana Rosales, Mechanical Engineering ’15 and Design Engineer at Cor Medical Ventures (2015 intern): “I was very grateful for the opportunity to travel and work in Brazil. I learned more about the medical device industry and decided I want to continue my career in the field. Living in São Paulo was a great opportunity for me to push myself out of my comfort zone, learn a new language, and experience a new culture.”
Erica Santana, Electrical Engineering and Computer Science ’18 (2016 intern): “My experience with Medtronic helped me realize the importance of understanding the social contexts my projects. Discussing the value that technical work can have outside the lab was an enriching experience.”
Kenneth Vieira, Chemical-Biological Engineering ’20 (2017 intern): “I learned first-hand how the doctor-engineer relationship is important for any R&D team in this field working together to solve problems and promote health. Seeing the impact engineers can have on healthcare was very enlightening for me. I have a lot to explore during the rest of my time at MIT, but this experience has shown me a path I am excited to explore further.”