Biomedical Engineering (BE) is defined as the use of the principles and techniques of engineering to solve problems in biology and medicine. It is the application of electrical, mechanical, chemical, optical, and other, engineering principles to understand modify, or control human and animal systems. This field today holds a prominent place as a means of improving medical diagnosis and treatment, as a business, and as an academic discipline. Yet 50 years ago it barely existed.
Origin of BE
Biomedical engineering originated during World War II. Biologists were needed to do work involving advances on radar technology. This work prepared them for the electronic developments in medicine in the post-war years. Doctors and biologists with an interest and understanding of engineering, along with electrical engineers with an interest in biology, became the first bioengineers. Those primarily concerned with medicine became the first biomedical engineers. Development of x-ray, electrocardiogram, electroencephalogram, cardiopulmonary bypass, imaging system, patient monitoring system, audiometers, cardiac pacemakers, physiotherapy and electrotherapy equipment, hemodialysis machines, ventilators, etc are some milestones in the biomedical engineering field till date.
Roles of BEs
To be an effective biomedical engineer, one should have knowledge of various fields such as computers and electronics, engineering science and technology, mathematics, mechanical, clerical, design, physics etc. Working in teams, either with other engineers or with research or manufacturing professionals, biomedical engineers create the specialized products that save lives and make patients safer and more comfortable. Many biomedical engineers are in research, assisting life scientists, chemists, and other scientists to develop and evaluate medical systems and products. Well-known research units include Bath Institute of Medical Engineering (BIME) and Brunel Institute for Bioengineering (BIB).
Biomedical engineers have multidimensional roles. They work in hospital trusts, medical equipment manufacturing company, or health charities. They even work as an audiological scientist, biomedical scientist, clinical research associate, electrical engineer, electronics engineer, materials engineer, medical physicist, research scientist. A sophisticated level of scientific and technical knowledge is required for biomedical engineers to bridge the gap between medicine and engineering. Job titles can vary depending on the exact nature of the work and typically depend on where you work.
Biomedical engineers evaluate the safety, efficiency, and effectiveness of biomedical equipments; install, adjust, maintain, and/or repair biomedical equipment; and advise hospital administrators on planning, acquisition, and use of medical equipment. They also advise and assist in the application of instrumentation in clinical environments; research new materials to be used for products, such as implanted artificial organs; develop models or computer simulations of human biobehavioral systems to obtain data for measuring or controlling life processes; and design and develop medical diagnostic and clinical instrumentation, equipment, and procedures, using the principles of engineering and biobehavioral sciences. Besides, they conduct research along with life scientists, chemists, and medical scientists on engineering aspects of the biological systems of humans and animals; teach biomedical engineering or disseminate knowledge about the field through writing or consulting; and design and deliver technology to assist people with disabilities.
BE and global statistics
Biomedical engineers are expected to have employment growth as high as 72 per cent, much faster than the average for all occupations. The ageing of the population and a growing focus on health issues will drive demand for better medical devices and equipment designed by biomedical engineers. Along with the demand for more sophisticated medical equipment and procedures, an increased concern for cost-effectiveness will boost demand for biomedical engineers, particularly in pharmaceutical manufacturing and related industries.
Because of the growing interest in this field, the number of degrees granted in biomedical engineering has increased greatly. Many biomedical engineers, particularly those employed in research laboratories, need a graduate degree. In 2008, engineers held about 1.6 million jobs where biomedical engineers held 16,000 jobs. Although some engineering specialties are expected to rise slowly or even decline in the coming years, biomedical engineers see growth. A 21 per cent growth is projected for biomedical engineers, with an estimated 3,000 new careers created in the industry through 2016. The demand for increasingly sophisticated medical devices is behind the predicted employment increase.
BE in Nepalese context
A bachelor’s degree is the first step for engineers because most careers in the field require the degree as an entry level requirement. College of Biomedical Engineering and Applied Science is the only college in Nepal providing this degree since 2005. Research in biomedical science doesn’t occur here so every graduate either works in hospital as a maintenance staff or works as a medical device sales officer in a medical device supplying company. But in the globalised world one can go abroad and involve themselves in research unit. Master in biomedical engineering, molecular and cellular engineering, tissue engineering, plasma engineering, intracellular physiological control mechanisms, drug regulation and drug delivery systems, rehabilitation engineering are some fields the biomedical engineers can join after graduation. Else one can always go for an MBA degree as marketing team is very necessary for the uplift of the devices. Such marketing teams are needed who help advertise the biomedical products and who themselves have sufficient knowledge on the working and construction of such products.
The need of biomedical engineers is growing in Nepal. As hospitals and clinics are mushrooming day by day, the need for biomedical engineer to install and maintain the equipment is increasing rapidly. Also with the advancement in medical field worldwide, Nepal is also bound to improve its medical industry.
Biomedical engineering has the potential to unlock a better world. By integrating engineering with medical research and education, it is possible to make innovations that will vastly improve the quality of life. This field is an emerging one in Nepal. Advancement in this field only occurs if the government of Nepal implements a policy to have at least one biomedical engineer in every hospital.
This degree is great to those who is interested in electronics, medical terminology, and biomedical instrumentation and who wants to work in hospitals, original equipment manufacturers, or independent service organizations.
Thus, it is an exciting and fast growing field and is in high demand both nationally and internationally. Doctors can’t diagnose and treat patients without biomedical devices and it’s the biomedical engineers who make such devices. So until there is mankind there is need of biomedical engineers.
(To help the students we have taken this article from The Rising Nepal, we are indebted to writer Mr. Bijayata Upadhyay)