Mike O'Rear, BMET instructor at Chattahoochee Technical College's North Metro Campus, and about six of his students are working to help transform a bus into a mobile medical clinic that will be shipped to Ghana, Africa. The project, operated in conjunction with Emory University and the organizations MedShare and the Kibasibi Foundation, involves the CTC students installing medical equipment on the bus to check for hypertension and diabetes -- two leading causes of death in the African nation.
"[The clinic] is going to have three exam rooms in there with [diabetic and hypertension] equipment, and we hope to get an ultrasound," O'Rear said. "This sort of a fairly new concept, having a mobile clinic."
O'Rear also is the vice president of the Georgia Biomedical Instrumentation Society, which he said donates to MedShare -- a national organization that redistributes medical equipment.
"[The Georgia Biomedical Instrumentation Society] helps to get donated medical equipment from different hospitals across the state of Georgia," O'Rear said, "... and MedShare ships [donated medical equipment] to Third World countries."
O'Rear said he has been involved with MedShare for about 10 years, traveling to Ghana in 2008 to check on the functionality of donated equipment and to train technicians on maintenance of the equipment.
"Once [the clinic] gets [to Ghana], I may have to take a couple of students over to train the people how to maintain the equipment," O'Rear said, "and that would be a good learning experience for students."
The project is expected to incorporate the use of "telemedicine" by transferring medical information from one location to another through electronic communications.
"We hope to have a GPS [at the clinic] so the medical people in Ghana can get the vital signs and other data from the patients and then uplink it to a satellite and send it to Emory and the doctors at Emory can help with the diagnosis."
He said the project incorporates many of the elements students in the program will be dealing with as BMET as a career.
"This will be like an internship," O'Rear said. "They actually install and test the equipment; it's just a real-world experience."
Students in the Biomedical Engineering Technology program learn installation, maintenance, management and repair of biomedical equipment and instrumentation in various medical settings.
"[Biomedical Engineering Technology] is a very unique program to Georgia," said Rebecca Long, public relations specialist for Chattahoochee Technical College, "and [the North Metro Campus] is the only campus where [Chattahoochee Technical College] hosts the program."
Charles Cowan of Cartersville is enrolled in the BMET program and carries the title of project manager.
He said at this point in the project -- about three weeks -- the group of students have been working to remove and reconfigure seating on the bus as well as build cabinets and storage space.
"I'm a massage therapist, so I like helping people," Cowan said. "This seemed like a good project because high blood pressure and diabetes is rampant throughout Africa because their diet has changed so much, and so this was sort of an opportunity to give back and it was some hands-on experience."