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In due course: How an experimental intro class shaped UMSI students’ paths

A photo of five students reflected in a mirror in the Clinical Simulation Center at U-M, with the text "In due course"

Monday, 05/13/2024

In their first semester, master’s students at the University of Michigan School of Information were assigned a hands-on challenge with real stakes. They were tasked with revolutionizing the way surgeons are trained. 

The course, SI 582: Introduction to Interaction Design, is meant to offer a primer in designing technologies that are user-facing — this is the “interaction” piece in the course title. But Vadim Besprozvany and Elena Godin, both lecturers in information, were thinking about a different kind of interaction: between students and industry. 

“We believe that exposing our students to industry-relevant experiences and providing them with access to expert mentorship is crucial,” Besprozvany says. 

Assistant Professor Vitaly Popov talks with students in SI 582 Interaction Design at the University of Michigan Medical School Clinical Simulation Lab
Vitaliy Popov speaks with SI 582 students at the U-M Clinical Simulation Center.

In the fall of 2022, he and Godin launched an experimental collaboration with the U-M Clinical Simulation Center, which provides immersive instruction to students and health care professionals at Michigan Medicine. The director of learning sciences and technology at the CSC, Vitaliy Popov, proposed a set of real-world medical education challenges for students of SI 582.

“It was the first or second day of class,” recalls Rosalie Morrissey, a recent graduate of the Master of Science in Information program. “[Popov] was like, ‘Here are the problems I want you to solve this semester.’”

Morrissey taught high school science before starting graduate school at UMSI in the fall of 2022. She had no background in the medical field, and she was newly pivoting into the field of user experience research and design. This was, it bears repeating, an intro class.

“This was an overwhelming project,” she freely admits. Looking back two years later, with a degree in hand, she says this first project was one of the most meaningful parts of her UMSI journey.

“It was such a tangible experience,” she says. “It not only showed the process from start to finish but also showcased the diverse fields that UX can be applied to. Every project I've touched since then, I'm like, ‘Oh, I can do it like this,’ or ‘This is what I think is best,’ and I have a solid background to pull from.”

A photo of five students standing in a light-filled operating room. Two of them wear "University of Michigan" sweatshirts.
From left, students Rhea Mirani, Qianzi Stella Li, Rhea Acharya, Rosalie Morrissey and Anantika Sethi pose in an emergency room lab at the U-M Clinical Simulation Center.

Morrissey worked with team members Rhea Acharya, Qianzi Stella Li and Rhea Mirani to improve learning outcomes for surgical residents by strengthening their communication with attending surgeons during postoperative debriefing.

“One of the biggest problems we found was that the attending and the resident were focusing on different parts of the surgery,” Mirani says. “So, the way a skilled surgeon handles things is going to be much different than somebody who's just starting out. That was resulting in miscommunication.” 

The team wanted to create a streamlined solution that could easily be integrated into existing processes. Together, they designed inforMED, a digital system that allows residents and attendings to access cases, schedule meetings, monitor skill progression, and give and receive actionable feedback. 

“We discovered that attendings are very unsure about how to give feedback. They want to be nice, but they also want to create good surgeons,” Morrissey notes. “On the resident side, they're very stressed out. And they can perceive the way they're getting feedback as demeaning. So, how can we build a support system so that both parties are accomplishing their own goals of creating good surgeons and becoming good surgeons, while also feeling respected?”

Mirani recalls spending long hours as a group discussing this central problem — breaking down the nuances of each potential solution, reviewing existing literature, and cold-emailing a combined total of more than 80 residents and attendings to try and secure interviews. 

A photo of five students standing in a darkened operating room.
Two teams worked simultaneously on different designs to improve postoperative debriefing.

Meanwhile, another team was hard at work on a different solution to the same challenge. This was part of the course’s structure.

“Parallel development is an approach to the design problem that involves creating multiple designs concurrently and offering solution alternatives,” Godin explains. In SI 582, two teams of students were assigned to each medical education challenge. 

MSI students Anantika Sethi, Alex Yang, Tiana Huang and Akshay Paliwal, for their solution, saw an opportunity to more effectively utilize video recordings of surgeries during postoperative debriefing. 

Their desktop application, Re-Video, is an integrated system that empowers residents to schedule a review session with an attending by selecting the video of a surgery they would like to discuss. Attendings can offer timestamped feedback on the video using a notes feature that corresponds to video bookmarks, so residents can rewatch — and learn from — moments of importance. 

“We felt like there was a lack of standardization in the training process,” Sethi says. Instead of a uniform debriefing protocol for residents after surgeries, attendings were free to implement their own feedback processes, which varied widely. 

Her team’s solution builds upon existing technology. “Our goal was, basically, how do we simplify the process further rather than overcomplicate it?” Sethi says. By anchoring the training process in video evidence and facilitating easier scheduling with busy attendings, Re-Video enables residents to improve their surgical technique. 

SI 582 prototypes

An image of a prototype of Re-Video, which shows the bookmarking feature that allows attendings to add notes
A prototype of Re-Video, an integrated system that enables residents to review surgeries, seek feedback, and improve their technique using surgery video recordings as evidence.
A photo of the infoMED landing page, which gives users options to search for a case, access "my meetings," "track resident progress," etc.
A prototype of infoMED, a digital system that prioritizes a non-toxic learning environment. It allows residents and attendings to access cases, schedule meetings, monitor skill progression, and give and receive actionable feedback.

Sethi, who graduated from UMSI this month, says the project ended up shaping her career path. 

“This was the first project where I actually worked, in depth, on a medical-based solution,” she says. Now, she intends to be a UX designer in the medical industry. “I feel really fortunate to have gotten a chance to work with Michigan Medicine as a first-year student. This project to date is one that stands out in my portfolio due to the kind of complexity and cutting-edge challenge we were able to work on.”

Both teams set out to improve learning outcomes for surgical residents, but in the process they taught themselves what it means to be UX designers who are versed in more than aesthetics. They learned to adapt to the norms and demands of a different industry — with Popov offering support throughout the semester as an industry expert — and center the needs of users. 

Godin and Besprozvany, who have now offered the collaboration with the CSC two times, hope to transform the experience into a mastery course. 

“Elena and Vadim have made a very big impact on our careers at UMSI,” Morrissey says. “But beyond that, it was one of the most collaborative and supportive groups I’ve been in. We had so much mutual respect for each other. We were able to talk about hard topics, and we knew that we wanted to see each other succeed.” 

Abigail McFee, marketing and communications writer

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