This is an archived course. A more recent version may be available at


Course Meeting Times

First half of semester

  • Lectures: 2 sessions / week, 1 hour / session
  • Labs: 1 session / week, 2 hours / session

Spring break

  • Field trip to Nicaragua

Second half of semester

  • Occasional lectures and local field trips during class time
  • Project work: meeting times determined by teams

Course Goals

  • Learn about the distinctive medical challenges of the developing world
  • Learn to identify medical improvisations in the field
  • Learn hands-on prototyping and medical device design skills
  • Learn how to address safety, regulatory, and ethical challenges in device design

Course Structure

The semester is divided into two halves. The first half of the semester will focus on a survey of global health challenges and accelerated training on 5 different medical device categories:

  1. Drug delivery
  2. Vital Signs Monitoring
  3. Instrumentation
  4. Diagnostics
  5. Lab-on-a-chip technologies
  6. Mobile medical informatics

Each device category will be taught during a 2-hour lab on Fridays in addition to a lab design assignment that will be turned in by the following Friday.

In between the first half and second half of the semester, during Spring Break, a number of students will travel to Nicaragua to learn, observe, and report on specific public health challenges that can be addressed by medical technology. Upon returning from Nicaragua, students will form teams that will embark on a device design project aided by mentors and course instructors.

The second half of the semester will focus on project design development. It leverage your lessons from device design in the first half of the semester with the field experience of the Nicaraguan trip, to produce a sustainable device design. A final design poster session and initial prototypes will be displayed at the MIT Musuem at the conclusion of the semester.

Innovations in International Health

D-Lab Health is the MIT-based educational component for International Innovations in Health (IIH). D-Lab Health student projects enjoy the support of IIH partner organizations around the world. The lead geographic site for D-Lab Health 2009 is the IIH Managua H-Lab. It is comprised of a cluster of health care institutions in Managua, Nicaragua.

This video is from D-Lab on and is not provided under our Creative Commons license


D-Lab Health projects that show promise may be picked up for continued nurturing by IIH for continuing development with the students. In the event that a former D-Lab Health student opts to not continue the project, IIH has a continuity plan in place to ensure the success of the technology.

Course Text

Amazon logo Hilts, Philip J. Rx for Survival: Why We Must Rise to the Global Health Challenge. New York, NY: Penguin, 2007 (reprint). ISBN: 9780143037989.

This book with be supplemented by individual papers and other resources, listed on the Lectures and Readings page.


Class participation and attendance 20%
Homework assignments 15%
Lab notebooks and assignments 25%
Presentations and design reviews 25%
Final design/prototype 15%


Instructors key

[JGM] = Jose Gomez-Marquez
[AS] = Amit Srivastava
[BT] = Brian Tracey

Part 1: survey of global health challenges and medical device categories
1 Global health overview [JGM]  
2 Drug delivery overview    
3 Infectious disease [AS] Homework 2 due
4 Lab 1: drug delivery   Lab notebook due
5 Non-communicable diseases [JGM]  
6 Vital signs monitoring Guest lecture by Dr. Gari Clifford Lab 1 homework due
7 Lab 2: vital signs   Lab notebook due
8 Convergence of devices: advances in telemedicine and vital signs [JGM]  
9 Vaccines [AS]  
10 Lab 3: medical instruments: surgery and infection control  

Lab 2 homework due

Lab notebook due

11 Neglected tropical diseases [JGM]  
12 User and setting-driven innovations to advance global healthcare Guest lecture by Aya Caldwell, CIMIT  
13 Lab 4: diagnostics: paper diagnostics and HIV testing   Lab notebook due
14 Prototyping of medical devices [JGM]  
15 Neglected tropical diseases [JGM]  
16 Lab 5: microfluidics   Lab notebook due
17 Disabilities in the developing world Guest lecture  
18 Imaging [BT]  
19 Visit Shriners Hospitals for Children, Boston MA   Lab notebook due
Spring break: Nicaragua trip
Part 2: project design and development
Some lectures and group trips continue, but the emphasis shifts to project team work
20 Lecture on FDA approvals    
Forming project teams    
21 Field trip: visits to MIT laser cutter and 3-D printing labs    
Project brainstorming    
22 Field trip: visit Mass General Hospital operating room    
Project work    
23 Lecture on intellectual property Guest lecture by Anne Swift  
Project work    
24 Role-playing simulation games    
Project work    
25 Project work   Saturday poster session and prototype display at MIT Museum
26 Finish projects