Medical simulator team wins federal grant

Medical simulator team wins federal grant: $850,000 from Army will develop diagnostic tool to mimic touch advertisement
by Steve Tarter
Originally Appeared in the Peoria Journal Star, February 2009

Peoria researchers have received an $850,000 federal grant to develop a medical training simulator.

The announcement was made at a news conference Wednesday at the Peoria NEXT Innovation Center, 801 W. Main St., where a contingent of Bradley University professors, led by John Engdahl, are working on a simulator to help make medical diagnoses. The grant was provided by the U.S. Army.

“We look to create a system that can record and reproduce a haptic (the use of touch) experience. The idea is to use the human hand as a probe,” said Engdahl, adding that the simulator could accelerate training in the diagnosis of internal bleeding.

“By simulating tests using the sense of touch and feel, we can help the medical community develop a means to teach and duplicate a wide-range of exam experiences and pathological conditions,” he said.

Such a system has numerous medical applications but would be extremely useful for the military, said Engdahl.

Dr. Andy Chiou, a faculty member at the University of Illinois College of Medicine at Peoria and Engdahl’s partner in Peoria Robotics, the firm set up to develop the simulator, cited his own experience to acknowledge the device’s benefits.

“As a lieutenant colonel in the U.S. Air Force, I served on several surgical teams. This (simulator) could save lives on the battlefield,” he said. “It may take several more years to produce the (simulator) realism that we hope to. We’d like to become a spinoff company and serve as the poster child of Peoria NEXT.”

Two employees currently work on the project at the Peoria Robotics lab with a third to be hired soon, said Engdahl.

U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., and Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood, Peoria’s former congressman, were credited by Bradley President Joanne Glasser for helping secure funding for the project, while LaHood’s successor, Rep. Aaron Schock, R-Peoria, pointed to what the research meant to the Peoria community.

“This will create jobs — new jobs — right here in central Illinois. Ways to reduce costs on health care are getting a lot of attention now. Research is one of the ways. That’s why programs such as this are so important,” said Schock.

Other Bradley faculty members involved in the simulator project include Julie Reyer, Arnold Patton, Robert Podlasek and Dean Kim.

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