June 14, 2018

A new innovative engineering medicine track at Texas A&M will train future "physicianeers."

Engineering Medicine (EnMed), Texas A&M University’s innovative engineering medicine track in partnership with Houston Methodist Hospital, received its first scholarship endowment to jumpstart the program.

The Spletter Memorial Scholarship, given by Rick and Kathy Spletter ’79, is an endowed scholarship with a preference for an EnMed student who served, or made a commitment to serve, in the United States military.

The Spletter family has a keen interest in combining their family’s engineering experiences—Kathy Spletter graduated from Texas A&M with a degree in chemical engineering, as did their older son, Christopher ’14. Their daughter, Nicole ’15, graduated with a biological and agricultural engineering degree, and their youngest son, Andrew ’21, is a current engineering student.

“I was excited to hear about EnMed as an accredited program that would concretize the blending of engineering creativity and problem solving with a medical education,” Kathy Spletter said. “We know that quality health care is one of the most critical components of a quality life, and our current health care system needs creative solutions to reduce costs and improve care.”

Revolutionizing the Field of Health Care

The new degree program is the brainchild of Dr. Carrie L. Byington, vice chancellor for health services at The Texas A&M University System, senior vice president of the Texas A&M Health Science Center and dean of the College of Medicine, and Dr. M. Katherine Banks, vice chancellor and dean of engineering.

EnMed will train a new type of physician engineer (‘physicianeers’) who will be a practicing physician and a trained engineer. It is expected to be the largest engineering-based medical degree program in the nation, and is the only program that allows graduates to receive both a medical degree and a master’s in engineering in four years. The goal is to produce graduates who are well-equipped to invent transformative technology in the health care field. Emphasis will be on innovation, entrepreneurship and research, and each student will be required to invent a device or application before graduation.

EnMed will produce students who are practicing physicians and trained engineers.

“Texas A&M has one of the finest engineering schools in the nation and the ability to partner health sciences with engineering gives us an opportunity to dramatically advance health through innovation,” said Byington.

The hope is that by combining medical knowledge with engineering technical prowess, new technologies will arise—technologies, for example, that can connect physicians and patients remotely without losing the same quality of care as in-person treatment; technologies to help those in the military to be safer, to have fewer injuries, to recover from injuries more completely, and to give them better quality of life; and most importantly, innovative new tools for diagnosis and treatment.

The proposed curriculum received accreditation from the Liaison Committee on Medical Education to begin recruiting the inaugural class of students, set to matriculate in July 2019. It is a case-based format with integration of both medicine and engineering content to develop and improve students’ clinical reasoning and problem-solving skills through real-world examples.

“We believe that this unique program, created and run by outstanding Texas A&M faculty, will be a leading force in successful outcomes,” Spletter said. “We feel honored to be a small part of its birth.”

The colleges of engineering and medicine hope to raise $50 million to support students and faculty in the EnMed program. Endowed opportunities begin at $100,000.