An Approach to Integrating Health Disparities within Undergraduate Biomedical Engineering Education

Ann Biomed Eng. 2017 Nov;45(11):2703-2715. doi: 10.1007/s10439-017-1903-8. Epub 2017 Aug 28.


Health disparities are preventable differences in the incidence, prevalence and burden of disease among communities targeted by gender, geographic location, ethnicity and/or socio-economic status. While biomedical research has identified partial origin(s) of divergent burden and impact of disease, the innovation needed to eradicate health disparities in the United States requires unique engagement from biomedical engineers. Increasing awareness of the prevalence and consequences of health disparities is particularly attractive to today's undergraduates, who have undauntedly challenged paradigms believed to foster inequality. Here, the Department of Biomedical Engineering at The City College of New York (CCNY) has leveraged its historical mission of access-and-excellence to integrate the study of health disparities into undergraduate BME curricula. This article describes our novel approach in a multiyear study that: (i) Integrated health disparities modules at all levels of the required undergraduate BME curriculum; (ii) Developed opportunities to include impacts of health disparities into undergraduate BME research projects and mentored High School summer STEM training; and (iii) Established health disparities-based challenges as BME capstone design and/or independent entrepreneurship projects. Results illustrate the rising awareness of health disparities among the youngest BMEs-to-be, as well as abundant undergraduate desire to integrate health disparities within BME education and training.

Keywords: Capstone design; Curricular modules; Entrepreneurship; High school mentoring; Minority Serving Institution (MSI); Undergraduate research.

MeSH terms

  • Biomedical Engineering / education*
  • Healthcare Disparities*
  • Humans
  • Mentors
  • Schools
  • Students