While serving his surgergical residency at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Devin Coon, 30, also earned a master's degree in biomedical engineering.
And he helped to develop an award-winning system to detect postoperative complications of surgery that connects blood vessels.
While pursuing his degree, the Brookline native learned that patients who undergo surgeries involving the connection of blood vessels, as in amputations, heart attacks or other situations, sometimes develop blood clots at the points of juncture.
At Johns Hopkins, biomedical engineering graduate students can vie for honors in the annual Biomedical, Engineering Innovations, Design and Entrepreneurship Awards competition. First held in 2004, the competition is judged by a panel of academic and industry representatives to determine prize winners from some of the nation's top biomedical engineering departments.
Starting in September 2012, Dr. Coon and fellow grad students Adam Lightman and David Narrow worked on a project to enable nurses to perform routine monitoring of patients' vascular health at the bedside, immediately following surgery. Titled EchoSure, the system uses an implant and an ultrasound software package that measure the patient's blood flow.
"The ultrasound software is able to use the marker, which dissolves in about a month, as a homing beacon and lets a nurse monitor the movement and volume of blood flow inside the vessels over a certain period of time," Dr. Coon said. "Previous ultrasound programs could detect a complete shutdown of blood flow, but the EchoSure system detects partial slowdowns, which allows physicians to find a potential problem much sooner."
Dr. Coon said the project was more than a full-time job for the team and that a major challenge was that the team didn't have much time to test the system. They did, however, manage to get the required testing done in trials with large animals.
The team's competition package included an 18-page manuscript, a five-page appendix and two videos. Research costs for the project totaled $20,000, $10,000 of which came from the univer-sity as seed money. The team raised the remainder of the funds, including money they won in several business plan competitions.
On June 19, the National Collegiate Inventors and Innovators Alliance announced the winners of this year's competition at the 15th annual Medical Design Excellence Awards ceremony at the MD&M East Medical Device Trade Show and Convention in Philadelphia.
"Before we got to the convention, all our team knew was that we were among the top three of the 40 teams that entered," Dr. Coon said. "When they announced the third- and second-place prize winners and we weren't mentioned, we knew we'd come in first."
For their efforts, Dr. Coon's team was awarded $10,000, all of which is going back into the project. The team's plan is to start a bio-medical company.
Dr. Coon said getting the first-prize award was a great honor and that he was personally enriched by the project.
He will be a surgical resident at John Hopkins for three more years. After that, he said, he'd like to stay in academic surgery.
"I like research a bit too much to leave it," he said.
To see a video of how the EchoSure system works, go to www.youtube.com/user/EchoSure.
David Zuchowski, freelance writer: firstname.lastname@example.org.