Student looks forward to making inroads in health care

Senior David Oliver hopes to use his biomedical engineering degree to improve the health care arena for all patients.



David Oliver can still recall the presentation at his medical conference.

There was a man named Larry Hester giving a talk on the innovative bionic eye, a computer-based device that was surgically implanted in his retina to help improve his sight, which he had lost 30 years before. Today, the invention is capable of helping many people with retinitis pigmentosa, a condition that robs people of their sight. But it was the world to Hester, who had been in the dark for three decades.

It was the first time that Oliver considered his lifelong interest in becoming a physician, with the field of engineering.

“It caught my attention, and I realized this is what biomedical engineering is about,” he said. “And I saw how he could complement medicine.”

The invention piqued his interest in the field, and soon, Oliver applied to the University of Miami. He graduated with a degree in biomedical engineering. And while Oliver had never visited campus before, he said the University was a great choice.

“When I applied to SU, I never even took a campus tour,” said Oliver, a native of Orland Park, Illinois, just southwest of Chicago. “I did my research and was drawn to the program and the pre-med curriculum it offered, so I took my chances, and it was the best decision I have made.”

Although he still has plans for the medical school, through his degree, Oliver learned about things like the inner workings of medical imaging devices and programming applications. And he even got experience working with biomedical engineering associate professor Ashutosh Agarwal on an innovative technology called “organ on a chip,” where small, 3-D printed chips combined with human or animal cells are helping researchers to test treatments for illnesses like diabetes and cancer.

“From a young age, being a doctor was one of those things I always wanted to do,” Oliver said. “Getting my BME degree prepared for the rigors of medical school, so I now have the idea of ​​what it takes to excel.”

He also has limited experience in offering new solutions to problems in health care. Oliver worked with a team of students to create a computer code that recognizes eczema in a variety of skin types.

“One of the students in my group was Black, and she went to a doctor in years ago who couldn’t identify the eczema because the lesions are harder to visualize on darker skin,” he said, adding that the group may try to turn the code into the iOS and Android app. “Our code helps to get better detection and visualization.”

Oliver will also spend the next year working at Agarwal’s Physiomimetic Microsystems Lab at the Miller School of Medicine. In the lab, he will continue his research using the chips and patient cells to investigate individualized treatments for pancreatic and prostate cancer. He also wants to work in a medical setting.

Soon after his arrival in Coral Gables, Oliver decided to get involved with Phi Delta Epsilon, the University’s coed international medical fraternity. Last year, the Anatomy Fashion Show — where students paint their bodies with different biological systems — can raise funds for the Children’s Miracle Network. The previous year, as vice president of programming, Oliver matched members with UHealth physicians for in-person and virtual shadowing opportunities. He also formed a strong study group through the fraternity, which helped him excel through the rigorous biomedical engineering curriculum.

“Phi Delta Epsilon has given me great opportunities for leadership at UM, and having those experiences encouraged me to go further,” he said.

For example, Oliver got involved in Student Government and served as a student liaison for the College of Engineering and the School of Architecture last year. As part of that role, Oliver was able to host a fireside chat during the College of Engineering’s Talis Day with Dean Pratim Biswas and Jeffrey Duerk, executive vice president for academic affairs and provost. He also gave campus tours to prospective students as the ambassador for the President’s 100.

“David is very reliable, very driven, and always willing to learn,” said Agarwal, who has followed Oliver’s growth at the College of Engineering as his academic advisor. “He’ll be a real asset to the lab this year, and I’m confident he’ll get into a good medical school and make a great physician one day. He is determined to create a positive impact on human health care. ”

The University of Hammond Butler Gospel Choir, where he served as its accompanying pianist. And last summer, Oliver got a chance to work as a wellness program at the University’s Patti and Allan Herbert Wellness Center. He used the Bod Pod machine to take clients’ body composition to relay their metabolic rate, which gave him some patient interaction, but Oliver also worked with the Mini Canes camp and taught kids about health and nutrition. The experience made him realize how much he enjoys teaching, but also helped him recognize the importance of physicians as educators for their patients.

As a physician, Oliver hopes to specialize in surgery because of his interest in hands-on solutions, which he honed as an engineering student. He also got interested in orthopedic medicine after spending time with a surgeon in Chicago and admiring the patient. By contrast, it is hoped that during the peak of the pandemic.

“I want to be a doctor that other African Americans can look up and feel comfortable coming to, so I can relay the best health practices possible other treatments, ”he said. “I’d also like to bridge the gap between the African-based community and medicine, and in doing so, help prevent unnecessary losses of life.”


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