$2.6 million grant to help develop first online certificate programs for clinical engineering

Clinical engineers can help fill a crucial role in today's heath care industry by providing the technical expertise needed to manage the health care technology, such as X-rays, CT scans and MRIs, that clinicians use to help make life-saving decisions for their patients. Yet, many of these important positions across the United States remain unfilled, especially in rural communities, due to a shortage of qualified applicants.

Now, through the Alliance for Precision Health, researchers at the University of Missouri are partnering with Siemens Healthineers to address that workforce need. With a recent $2.6 million grant from the Missouri Department of Higher Education and Workforce Development (MDHEWD), the two organizations will develop and implement one of the first online certificate programs in the U.S. for clinical engineering.

At places like medical imaging companies, hospitals and clinics, clinical engineers assist with various tasks from optimization to troubleshooting or fixing the equipment, said Heather Hunt, an associate professor of engineering and eLearning strategic initiatives fellow with Missouri Online, who co-leads the grant.

A lot of this equipment is very large, expensive and incredibly complicated. So having someone readily available, and potentially in-house, who has the dedicated knowledge and understanding of how this equipment works and how to optimize its use for any particular medical scenario is really important in helping clinicians to deliver quality health care to their patients."

Heather Hunt, associate professor of engineering

Nanci Wozniak, vice president, education services at Siemens Healthineers, said the grant will help increase the number of trained and qualified clinical engineers in the workforce not only for the state of Missouri, but also beyond.

"Clinical engineering is a critical element of health care technology management and is responsible for the application, implementation and servicing of medical technology to optimize health care delivery," Wozniak said. "Siemens Healthineers is excited to participate in this co-development with MU Health Care and the MU College of Engineering as part of our 10-year alliance, providing access to our latest technology, continually updating the curriculum as well as providing mentoring and recruitment opportunities to clinical engineering students."

One of the program's goals is to offer both traditional and non-traditional students the opportunity to enroll, regardless of where they are, said Steve Devlin, associate dean for economic development and industrial engagement at the College of Engineering, who also co-leads the grant. That includes current and future MU students, military veterans, community college graduates and professionals seeking continuing education opportunities.

"We want to enable as many people as possible to develop skills that are in high demand right now in the industry," Devlin said. "That means allowing students to earn the certificate from their hometowns and to continue to live and work in their communities once they complete the program."

Noah Manring, dean of the College of Engineering, said this is an exciting opportunity to help both students and working professionals gain the skills they need to be competitive in the workplace.

"As engineers, we're on the front lines of studying emerging technologies, so it's important to provide students with an opportunity to work with complex systems such as leading-edge medical imaging," Manring said. "We're excited to be a part of this collaboration to equip students with these specialized clinical skills and meet them where they are."

The program is scheduled to be offered through Missouri Online, a partnership between all four UM System institutions, beginning in fall 2022.

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