Skip to main content Skip to secondary navigation
students in scrubs in a hospital room gathered around a dummy on a bed for a demonstration by a doctor

Needs Finding in Healthcare

Main content start


Are you on an engineering pathway, but trying to decide if opportunities in healthcare might be of interest to you? Or, are you committed to a career in healthcare, but eager to explore how to incorporate technology innovation into your plans? In either case, Needs Finding in Healthcare is the Sophomore College for you!

Many courses offered during the regular academic year provide students with the opportunity to understand healthcare problems and invent new technologies to address them. But none give undergraduates the chance to observe the delivery of healthcare in the real world and identify important unmet needs for themselves…until now! 

Needs Finding in Healthcare is a Sophomore College course offered by Professor Paul Yock and the Stanford Biodesign team. We’re looking for students who are passionate about innovation and interested in how technology can be applied to help make healthcare better for patients everywhere. Over approximately three weeks, you’ll spend time:

  • Learning the fundamentals of the biodesign innovation process for health technology innovation
  • Performing first-hand observations of care delivery in the Stanford’s hospital and clinics to identify compelling unmet needs
  • Conducting background research and interacting with physicians and patients to understand and prioritize those needs
  • Brainstorming and building early-stage prototypes to enhance your understanding of the unmet need and critical requirements for solving it

In addition, you’ll meet experienced innovators from the health technology field and explore different career pathways in this dynamic space. Join us if you want to make a difference at the intersection of medicine and engineering!

Important Logistics

Over the summer, students will need to work with Stanford Biodesign to gain medical clearance to perform observations in the Stanford Hospital and Clinics. This will involve completing required paperwork, submitting vaccination records and getting new vaccines if necessary, and making a trip to the School of Medicine badging office. Complete instructions and important deadlines will be provided upon acceptance into the program. There will also be a few hours of additional reading/pre-work.

COVID Caveats

If it’s not possible for this to be an in-person SoCo, this course likely will be cancelled since the hands-on elements are the heart of the course. Another risk is that we may not be granted access to the hospital and clinics if the COVID situation unexpectedly worsens. In this case, we would also have to re-evaluate whether to offer the SoCo this year. However, we’re hopeful that everything will work out for a great overall student experience!

Meet the Instructors

Paul Yock

The Martha Meier Weiland Professor in the School of Medicine, Professor of Bioengineering and, by courtesy, of Mechanical Engineering

Paul Yock

I’m a cardiologist and a gizmologist here at Stanford and founder/director of the Byers Center for Biodesign. In college, I studied philosophy and went on to get a master’s degree – but eventually decided that medicine was my thing. Along the way, I started trying to invent new medical devices and have had the deep satisfaction of seeing a couple of these have widespread impact—with tens of millions of patients treated so far. Early in my career, I had great mentors who taught me that the key to medical technology innovation is to dig deep to understand the clinical need in all its dimensions. That is the main point of this program: we will introduce you to the process of doing needs characterization, based on informed observation in the clinical context and asking the right questions of the key stakeholders. Outside of Stanford I’m a sailing enthusiast (expert would be an exaggeration!).

David Camarillo

Associate Professor of Bioengineering

David Camarillo

My love of engineering was sparked at 8 years old when I saw the most beautiful cherry red 1968 Mustang Fastback in my hometown of Santa Cruz. My first car was a 1967 of the same model, but it was a $2,000 wreck that I rebuilt in auto shop. I don’t know if the prior owner survived the crash that he or she must have been in, but I do know that the automobile is the world’s most deadly technology…I can’t believe my parents let me drive that car! To  have a positive impact on health, I moved from aerospace engineering to bioengineering and medical devices. I have worked at Intuitive Surgical (maker of the Da Vinci surgical robot) and other companies, taking apart, instrumenting, and programming robots. I also study brain trauma, so perhaps someday I’ll return to making robot safer cars. In my lab, we are currently working to understand the basic mechanisms of brain trauma using instrumented mouthguards, computational models, and neuroimaging to develop diagnostic and preventative technologies for concussion.

Lyn Denend

Academic Prog Prof Mgr, School of Medicine - MDRP'S - Biodesign Program

Lyn Denend

I stumbled into the health technology innovation field, but now am passionate about how technology can be used to improve health and healthcare for people everywhere. After completing an MBA, I worked as a management consultant focusing on strategy and organizational change management projects for large companies. Eventually, to get off the road, I took a job at the Stanford GSB developing case studies and multimedia teaching materials in collaboration with faculty. That’s how I met the Stanford Biodesign team, who needed teaching materials for their fellowship and classes. Over the next few years, the class notes we developed grew into a textbook and video series that are now used around the world in both university and corporate programs. Now, I’m the director for academic programs at Stanford Biodesign, where I develop curriculum and teach undergraduate and graduate students who want to make a difference through health technology. Personally, I enjoy yoga, walking my dog, and spending time with people who are interesting, hardworking, and fun!