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MSU Program Links Packaging Pros, Medical Workers

In an emergency room, precious seconds save lives. They are seconds that cannot be wasted, especially on getting a medical device to work properly or finding out that the packaging on a life-saving device has changed.

"When it comes to designing medical devices and packaging, there's a lot involved," said Laura Bix, associate professor in Michigan State University's School of Packaging.

Bix and her colleagues in the school and the MSU colleges of Human Medicine, Nursing and Osteopathic Medicine have teamed up with Oliver-Tolas Healthcare Packaging, a Grand Rapids producer of sterile-grade medical device packaging, to host the nation's first "Healthcare Packaging Immersion Experience" for medical device professionals and health care practitioners.

The event, running Oct. 7 and Oct. 8, teams up MSU's Learning and Assessment Center, the School of Packaging and Oliver-Tolas. It is held at the LAC on the sixth floor of East Fee Hall.

This year's event will serve as a pilot, with 15 packaging and health care professionals from across the nation. It is designed to allow senior-level medical device packaging professionals to experience the contextual performance of medical packaging in the operating room and emergency department.

Participants also will discuss packaging challenges and possible solutions with nurses and doctors.

"Our goal is to provide a bridge between the people designing and manufacturing the devices and packaging and the real world," said Bix, whose work is also supported by the Michigan Agricultural Experiment Station. "It's important to know how what you, as a packaging engineer, produce impacts outcomes in the emergency or operating rooms."

Mary Kay Smith, acting director of the Learning Assessment Center and coordinator of simulation operations, said having participants experience a simulated surgery and an emergency trauma event can be extremely important.

"Packaging engineers and manufacturers are, generally speaking, not physicians or technicians in either the emergency or the operating rooms," Smith said. "Simulations provide an opportunity to evaluate how devices work -- and don't -- in a safe environment. Ultimately, this can lead to better quality patient care."

Assessing medical devices and packaging in simulated situations is ideal, said Jane Severin, director of technology at Oliver-Tolas.

"As a producer of packaging used by medical device manufacturers, it's critical that we know the sterile packaged device works every time," she said. "That's why a partnership with Michigan State University is important. We are able to combine the strength of our corporate packaging expertise with top-notch researchers at MSU's School of Packaging and excellent facilities such as the LAC to provide solutions to issues facing the medical packaging industry."

MSU is the only university in the world to bring together faculty members from colleges of Human Medicine, Nursing, Osteopathic Medicine, Veterinary Medicine and a School of Packaging, so it is logical that institution host an event like this.

"We want to know how all the different elements come together to create a situation that is optimal or not in order to work together to, literally, save lives," Bix said.

(c) 2010, WWJ Newsradio 950. All rights reserved.

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