Emma graduated with a master's degree in Health Sciences. After sending an open application letter, she was hired as a QA/RA Engineer at Demcon and has been working there for five years now. "I always found the link between technology and health very interesting. That's why an element of technology or an interface with technology was a 'must' for me in a job," says Emma.
Can you explain what a QA/RA Engineer deals with?
Emma: "The subjects vary from an eye surgery machine to a mouth mask machine. My part in this varies from project to project. What always comes back is the 'spider-in-the-web' (being the important link) role that you see in Health Sciences. My task is often to find the preconditions that a product has to meet and then to communicate this clearly to all stakeholders and translate it within a project. Therefore, it's great if you understand the language of the engineers, the care providers (doctors, nurses, etc.) and the policy around them.”
Many health care innovation companies have tried to contribute to products that could be used against COVID-19. Demcon has also introduced a respirator to the market at this crucial time. What was your contribution to the development of this device?
"Through one of Demcon's subsidiaries, Demcon macawi respiratory systems, we have been active in the ventilation market for a number of years. Up until this year, we were focused on the (further) development and production of the module at the heart of the machine. This is used in different types of respiratory equipment on the market. Due to the unique knowledge we have of this type of equipment, we have now started a process to be able to deliver a total system. We were able to do this because our development partners were able to respond just as quickly as we were. Within a very short period of time, we first gained access to the Dutch market by means of an accelerated process. Soon after that we also obtained the usual CE certification on the device, which now is attracting international attention. It is very cool to be able to contribute to a social problem!“
"My colleagues in the QA/RA department have worked around the clock to ensure proper coordination with all parties necessary for the approval of the device, such as the Ministry of Health, Welfare and Sport and the Notified Body, in order to get the device through certification. Those who were not directly involved in the development helped in production. Together with the other colleagues, we checked the new systems every morning. It is quite extraordinary when you consider that I have approved the module that is the heart of the machine for quite a number of devices!" Emma explains.
More information about the Demcon respirator: https://www.demcon.nl/showcase/beademingssysteem-demcair/
I think it would be exciting to be able to market a life-saving article in COVID19 time, to which many employees at Demcon contributed. But what makes your job so exciting in 'normal times'?
Emma: "The diversity! As I said, projects range from eye surgery machines to mouth mask machines. The great thing is to keep looking at the rules that apply to a product and make a really useful contribution to its development. One of the nicest things are the risk sessions: 'what could go wrong?', this is always a time when you hear the craziest risks pass by. The trick is to filter them back to 'what could happen? And how do we make sure that this can't happen?'. “
You started at UT as a bachelor's student of Creative Technology, but very soon you switched to Health Sciences. Why did you decide to make that switch?
"I always thought health was an interesting topic, but with two parents in health care, I also knew that I wouldn't be happy as a doctor. In addition, I've always had a fascination with technology and how to use it. That's why I chose the bachelor's programme in Creative Technology. But after a year I really missed the health aspect and the improvement of health problems through the use of technology. Health Sciences was a very logical choice at the time!” Emma says.
After obtaining your bachelor's degree in Health Sciences, you decided on the Health Science master's programme as well. Why did you choose the track Personalised Monitoring and Coaching within this master's programme?
Emma: "I chose the Personalised Monitoring and Coaching track because, for me, this was where the link between technology and health was strongest. How can we use technology to provide people with mobility problems, for example, with the care they need, without the need for a weekly taxi ride with all the hassles? Or how can you teach children with diabetes how to deal with their illness in a fun way?”
"One of the nicest subjects I found was 'monitoring and persuasive coaching'. During this course, we went deeper into what people need and how to get them involved in your innovation. Among other things, we worked on this - for the first time- with the CeHRes Roadmap, a tool used within eHealth development, implementation and evaluation. It was nice to see how a question from a target group could be answered with technology if you set it up properly.”
Did the Health Science study prepare you well for a job in business?
"When I studied Health Sciences there was no internship opportunity, I regret that. There is a very important lesson in that. Participating in a working environment and being given responsibilities is an important part of preparing for later. What's great about the programme is that it is very broad. I found this difficult towards the end of my studies, because it was unclear where I was going to work. But it is precisely this broad basis that is enormously valuable. Because you have gained experience in several different areas and disciplines, you can be deployed on a very broad basis. As well as this, I often find Health Science students and alumni to be very communicatively strong people who, in fact, automatically look at a problem from various perspectives, precisely from that breadth. Those kinds of skills are enormously valuable for future employers," Emma explains.
Were you active in addition to your studies?
Emma laughs: "Absolutely! I can't stand sitting still and I like to stay busy. I could regularly be found at the gym, but I was also active at the Sirius study association in, among other things, the drinks committee, excursion committee and the poster committee. I was also a member of an independent dispute. I think that these sorts of development are perhaps just as important as the scientific development you go through during your studies.“