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Students team up for first-ever Med AppJam

Donald Bren School of Information & Computer Sciences Dean Hal Stern, far left, and School of Medicine Dean Dr. Ralph Clayman, far right, share a victorious moment with the Med AppJam team that won the $1,000 first prize for its Life Buoy app. Credit: Eva Lempert.

Donald Bren School of Information & Computer Sciences Dean Hal Stern, far left, and School of Medicine Dean Dr. Ralph Clayman, far right, share a victorious moment with the Med AppJam team that won the $1,000 first prize for its Life Buoy app. Credit: Eva Lempert.

 

Nov. 19, 2012 — Medical and computer science students rarely mingle in the same conference room, much less the same part of campus, but as the intersection between technology and healthcare continues to widen, events like Med AppJam at UC Irvine this past week show that the two groups have quite a bit in common.

Thanks to the generosity and vision of the Kay Family Foundation, UC Irvine School of Medicine and Donald Bren School of Information & Computer Sciences, students teamed up in the first-ever "app jam" designed to create Apple-based applications with healthcare utility.

The foundation donated funds to support the jam and establish a collaborative state of the art lab filled with Macbook Airs, interactive TV screens and iPads that enabled 19 teams of five to six students signed up to hammer out caffeine-fueled ideas over a frenzied week of collaboration. Their efforts generated apps that can remind users to take their meds, help patients better explain the basis of their pain to their physicians, and efficiently track patient medical histories, just to name a few.

In a student center conference room on Nov. 19, the teams presented their products to judges from the UCI faculty and high-tech companies (including Apple), with the top three teams receiving $1,000, $500 and $250 respectively as prizes.

The team that created Life Buoy — comprising Bren School students Matthew Chan, Bryan Lam, Drake Tetreault and Lita Patel, and MD/MBA students Peggy Bui and Joe Hanson — took home the top prize for their app that creates a network in which patients and physicians can quickly connect through their smart phones and tablets.

The Life Buoy app — designed to be particularly helpful during disaster situations, such as Hurricane Sandy — is far from a finished product, Hanson admits, but he says investors have been approaching the team, possibly to support their efforts.

"As a team, we were all able to funnel our ideas into one direction," adds Bui. "It’s still a work in progress, but we’re excited about what we can accomplish with Life Buoy."

Collaboration between students in the two schools seemed inevitable. The Bren School’s ICS Student Council regularly sponsors AppJam competitions — the previous one involved UC Irvine undergraduates coaching Orange County middle-school kids to create educational apps for K-6 students.

Med AppJam was inspired by the UC Irvine School of Medicine’s iMedEd initiative, which is the basis of the nation’s first medical education program to completely adopt the iPad format for classroom and clinical skills training. Many UC Irvine medical students have embraced the iMedEd esthetic, learning how to program and regularly reviewing medical education apps and technology on their iMedEd blog.

"This is where medicine is heading," says Dr. Ralph Clayman, dean of the UCI School of Medicine. "Mobile medicine — using smart phones and iPads to access healthcare. And with Med AppJam we see the powerful association between computer science and medical students at UC Irvine to create new and effective ways for people to connect."

— Tom Vasich, UC Irvine School of Medicine

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