When David Kimmey was a sophomore in high school, his older sister was diagnosed with osteosarcoma, a form of bone cancer. Fortunate that he and his family lived near Children’s Hospital Colorado, Kimmey’s sister received limb-saving therapy. Doctors removed her tibia and knee and inserted a titanium tibia and prosthetic knee joint – an internal prosthetic that allowed Kimmey’s sister to keep her leg.
Prosthetic innovation in Ecuador
In other parts of the world, Kimmey has since learned, treatment for osteosarcoma is usually amputation. In May, Kimmey participated in a program called Prosthetic Innovation in Ecuador. He was one of 24 CSU students who visited Quito, Ecuador to work with Range of Motion Project (ROMP) volunteers, to learn how to build and fit prosthetics for patients.
“One of the kids being treated in Ecuador had the same form of cancer as my sister,” said Kimmey. “I want to help give people like him opportunities to get back on their feet, literally.”
Kimmey is studying biomedical engineering, and participating in the Prosthetic Innovation in Ecuador program is one of the ways he’s applying his education to real-world medical problems. He hopes to return next year, but in the meantime his efforts to help people are happening in Minnesota, with the neuromodulation unit at Medtronic.
Internship with Medtronic
Neuromodulation is when different nerves in the body are stimulated to illicit a desired response. For example, stimulating certain parts of the brain can help eliminate chronic pain, uncontrolled bladder function, and in some cases, it is being used to treat Parkinson’s disease. Medtronic creates devices that are geared toward alleviating these types of issues. Kimmey is working with the simulation team prepping computer models of these devices for testing.
“Our team needs to figure out how well these devices are going to work, so we run mechanical stress tests and electrical tests, among others,” said Kimmey. “It can reduce how many clinical tests have to be run later, which are expensive and time consuming.”
With two practical experiences under his belt, Kimmey looks forward to applying coursework to future internships and completing his degree. Through both personal and academic lenses, he’s learned the value of understanding the “why” before developing a solution.
“I think a lot of procedures and medical devices have been developed without an understanding of why they work,” said Kimmey. “Computer simulations can help us learn what’s actually going on so we can make better devices in the future.”