“To Space and Beyond!” – MDI 2019 Grad, Class Speaker Shares His Program Experience & Ambitions

Earlier in August, we celebrated the graduation of our M.S. in Medical Device Innovation (MDI) class of 2019 cohort. As part of our tradition of celebrating the cohort, the students select a student speaker to give a speech about that cohort’s MDI experience. This year, that student was Tien Dat Nguyen. As a fresh graduate, Tien Dat shares his personal experience in MDI in this Q-&-A blog.

Where are you from?
I was born in Vietnam and raised in a small village called An Nhat. My family and I immigrated to the United States when I was 11 years old without knowing any English, and I have lived in Minnesota ever since. It’s hard to say “where I’m from,” though, because I had so many study abroad experiences as an undergrad — Japan, South Korea, France and Italy — so I considered those all my third, fourth, fifth homes.

Undergrad school/degree and why you chose it / how you’ve been using it:
I earned a B.S. in Mechanical Engineering from the University of St. Thomas. I’ve always loved building, designing, and coming up with new ways to create. In high school, I even made a replica of the fighter jet F-22 out of cardboard and pulled a few all-nighters out of the sheer joy of creating it!

Where do you work? What’s your title and what do you do in your role:
I work at Kanniegesser ETECH as a senior production/continuation engineer. I help teams with issuing products for manufacturing, but also spend much of my time innovating because my biggest responsibility is improving company products. I have to consider how to improve customer satisfaction, explore unmet needs, and find creative ways to meet those needs. In addition, as an engineer and expert in 3D modeling software SolidWorks, I act as the subject-matter expert on this tool for my peers and enjoy the process of passing on knowledge and skills.

What led you to TLI? How did you discover us, why was this important to you?
I stumbled upon the MDI program through Facebook ads. Somewhat ironically, I stopped using Facebook after that to focus on MDI!

Why did you choose your specific TLI program?
I always wanted to do something special with my life. I believe that with the help of MDI, I can pursue my future goals. I aspire to bring better medical care to less fortunate people across the world, and I especially want to focus on ethnic minorities in Vietnam. Vietnam’s healthcare system is better than in the past, but it still lacks many of the standards we have here in the U.S.

What did you get out of your TLI education? How has TLI helped your career? What do you feel is the result of your education?
I really feel that I got the most out of MDI that it could offer me. It was an absolutely worthwhile investment. I owe a lot of this to the help I got from the faculty outside the classroom. For instance, MDI program director Dr. Dan Mooradian connected me to The Economic Development Fellows (EDF) Consulting Program, where I was part of a group of U of M students that consulted with an international company about unmet needs to determine market opportunities in healthcare. In addition, I became a research associate for the company of another faculty member, Dr. Lars Oddsson. I worked on the company’s ongoing clinical trial, focusing on treating peripheral neuropathy using a wearable device.

What are your next steps as an alumnus? What are some of your short-term and long-term goals?
My short-term goal is to prove my capabilities and vision of saving lives and improving quality of life through the use of medical devices to some of the top companies in the medical device industry, many of which are here in Minnesota. A couple of my long-term goals include improving the state of healthcare in my home nation of Vietnam through use and access of medical devices, as well as making my current home of Minnesota a leader not only in medtech but medical devices specifically for outer space.

Were you inspired by classmates or professors? How so?
I was inspired by all of my cohorts and professors. The professors love what they do, and they want the students to succeed and even surpass them. Since I came into the program without a medical device background, my peers also helped me a lot by explaining how devices work.

What about TLI surprised you?
The talent and commitment from the instructors really exceeded my expectations. They all have incredible industry experience. Each of them offers unique knowledge from the industry that I don’t think other master’s programs can match.

Where do you see the industry going in the future? What skills do you think will be important and how has your degree helped?
Given that many space programs and companies are putting in resources for outer space travel, I believe that a huge portion of the medical device market will start to address the needs of this endeavor. For instance, there is a medical therapy known as extracorporeal oxygenation membrane (ECMO), to treat people whose heart and lungs suddenly stop working due to conditions such as cardiogenic shock or ARDS. It currently takes a team of about nine people to perform ECMO, and costs about half a million dollars. Given the unique medical needs and conditions that can affect astronauts, what if they need ECMO? I’m interested in exploring ways to make that procedure doable by smaller teams and by making them more cost effective (in fact, this specific issue was my capstone topic!) — “The use of Extracorporeal Membrane Oxygenation (ECMO) in Patients with Cardiogenic Shock: A Commercial Assessment of Opportunities for Business in This Sector.”

Whatever your field of interest, it’s critical to always be in a mindset of innovation to succeed in the medical device industry—or any other industry for that matter. MDI has helped me learn to think differently. It has molded me into a better leader and a more dependable team member.

What message do you want to send to potential TLI students and the next generation of leaders?
Give it all your best. Keep trying and keep trying. Don’t let failure set you back.

Would you recommend TLI to others? To what kind of professionals and why?
Absolutely. To any kind of professionals. In some cases, an innovative medical device may come from the least people that you expect with unconventional backgrounds.

Students in the M.S. in Medical Device Innovation (MDI) degree program study medical technology innovation management, take medical industry-specific electives and more. Attend an information session to find out how the Master of Science in Medical Device Innovation can give you the experience you need to advance your career.