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ECS Professor Helps Med Tech Breakthroughs

Posted On : May 12th, 2011

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Professor Warren SmithWarren Drew Smith’s 38-year career at Sacramento State has been remarkable in several respects.

The professor of electrical and electronic engineering is a recognized leader in the field of biomedical engineering. His achievements during the last three decades include working with anesthesiologists to improve methods of monitoring the level of a patient’s anesthesia. His Prediction Probability measure of the performance of anesthesia monitors has been adopted as a worldwide standard.

Smith and his students also developed a fanny pack that can track the movements of children with cerebral palsy. It was designed to provide data for treatment that would enable them to move about and play. That special project was financed by the Shriners Hospital for three years. Shriners, which has a patent, is seeking a licensing agreement that will cite Sac State as an intellectual property partner and could provide revenue for the University.

Several more innovative projects were featured at the recent Med Tech Showcase hosted by Sac State. Nearly 50 businesses, colleges, health-care providers and government agencies got a glimpse of what technological marvels may be in store for the medical profession.

One is a cell phone microscope that will allow diabetic and cancer patients to monitor their blood count without going to a doctor’s office or hospital. The project employs a 1-millimeter lens, with microscopic power, that can be attached to a cell phone camera. Software is being developed by one of Smith’s students so that the cell phone can process a distortion-free image. That in turn would permit a patient to examine a blood drop on a slide.

No less promising is a wheelchair monitoring device that alerts the patient to shift positions to prevent sores. President Alexander Gonzalez, who welcomed the Med Tech attendees, was so impressed with The Pressure Relief Compliance Monitor and the PRCM Sensor Module Design Project that he suggested their broader use for bedridden patients.

Smith is no less intrigued with a micropower impulse radar system to measure intracranial hematomas. The hand-held device would be especially useful at football games to gauge potentially dangerous concussive injuries. The year-old study is the most recent of Sac State’s 40-plus collaborative studies with UC Davis Medical Center.

Then there is the Ergonomic Physical Therapy Device that provides a hand-held tool that not only allows therapists to reduce the risk of injuries to themselves while massaging patients, but displays the force levels being applied.

“This alliance has been great for our students,” Smith says, “many of whom want to serve health care.” He notes that the Med Tech keynote speaker -- Douglas Busch, senior vice president and chief operations officer of Care Innovations, an Intel-General Electric joint venture -- was so impressed with these collaborative efforts that he wants to have more meetings with Sac State faculty and students.

“I was also asked by other Med Tech companies to recommend students for available job openings,” he adds with justifiable pride.

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