Biomedical Engineering for Global Health

Course Syllabus


GLHT 201: Bioengineering & World Health


Course Description:

This course provides an overview of contemporary technological advances to improve human health. We will consider four questions throughout the semester:


1. What are the problems in healthcare today?

2. Who pays to solve problems in healthcare?

3. How can we use science and technology to solve healthcare problems?

4. Once developed, how do new healthcare technologies move from the lab to the bedside? 

Roadmap for BME 301



We will compare and contrast answers to these questions throughout the developed and developing worlds. We will also consider legal and ethical issues associated with developing new medical technologies. During the semester, we will use case studies to examine a number of diseases and healthcare technologies. Students will complete a semester project to design a new technology to meet a global health need.


NOTE: This course satisfies the Group 3 Distribution Requirement



Prerequisites:                                                 Meeting Time and Location:

None                                                                T/TH 9:25-10:40 AM, Location BRC 282


Course instructor:

Yvette Mirabal, MPH                 BRC Room 174D                                                        Office Hours: T/TH 10:45-11:45, or by appointment     


Teaching Assistant:

Garrett Spiegel                   


Method of Instruction:

The course will consist of lectures and in-class activities. Daily reading assignments will complement material covered in class.   



The textbook Biomedical Engineering for Global Health can be previewed and purchased at


Method of Evaluation:

Three in-class exams will be given and will focus on the readings and material covered in lecture.  Homework is assigned every few weeks and is due at the beginning of the following class. A comprehensive final exam will cover all material presented throughout the semester.




            Attendance/Class participation                  5%

            Homework (5% each)                            30%

            Class exams (15% each)                        45%

            Final Exam                                             20%

            Total                                                    100%


If you believe that a mistake has been made in grading your homework or exam, you have ONE WEEK to request a regrade in writing. After one week has passed I will not consider any requests to regrade your work.


Attendance/Class participation: A sign-up sheet will be distributed during class. Class participation will be evaluated at the end of the semester.


Homework: Homework assignments are due at the beginning of class on the day specified on the course calendar. Assignments must be submitted in hardcopy form at the front podium. Any assignment turned in after 9:25am will be considered late. Late assignments will have a 50% maximum grade and will only be accepted one week after the assigned due date. Homework should be your own, but general methods of working problems may be discussed with others.


Exams: Three one-hour exams will be given in class throughout the semester, as well as a comprehensive final exam during final exam week as scheduled by the registrar’s office.


Honor System Policy: As with all endeavors at Rice, you are expected to adhere to the Honor Code and follow the guidelines given in the Blue Book. Exams are given under the honor system. Students are encouraged to work together collaboratively on the projects, but each student is expected to contribute an equal share to the final project. Students are encouraged to bring any concerns involving academic integrity to the attention of the instructor. More information can be found at


Disabilities: If you have a documented disability that requires accommodation, please let me know so that we can confidentially discuss your needs. You will also need to register with the Disability Support Services Office in the Ley Student Center.


Course Objectives:
At the conclusion of the course, you will be able to:

  1. Discuss the major human health problems in the world today
    1. Describe the function of the World Health Organization.
    2. Define and calculate incidence, morbidity, and mortality.
    3. Contrast health problems in the developing and developed worlds.
    4. Describe the pathophysiology of the three leading causes of death in the developing and developed worlds.
    5. Describe the Grand Challenges in Global Health which can have the greatest impact on health in developing nations.
  2. Discuss who pays for health care in the world today.
    1. Contrast the multi-payer US system with the single payer Canadian system.
    2. Contrast the availability of healthcare in the developed and developing worlds.
    3. Describe how health care expenditures have changed over time.
    4. Describe the major contributors to health care costs.
    5. Describe the efforts to reform Medicare funded health care in Oregon.
  3. Discuss the process of medical technology development
    1. Describe the scientific method.
    2. Describe the engineering design method.
    3. Contrast the scientific method and the engineering design method.
    4. Describe the steps of technology assessment.
    5. Critically analyze a cost/benefit analysis for a new medical technology from the point of view of:
      1. Patient
      2. Payer
      3. Society
  4. Describe the engineering development and assessment of technologies to address the following clinical needs:
    1. Prevention of infectious diseases
      1. Disease causing microorganisms
      2. Immunity
      3. How do vaccines work?
      4. Pathophysiology of HIV infection
      5. HIV Vaccine Development
        1. Gene therapy for prevention of HIV infection
        2. Clinical trials of HIV vaccines
        3. Costs of HIV vaccines
        4. Cost-effectiveness of HIV vaccines
    2. Early detection of cancer
      1. Pre-cancer and cancer transformation
      2. Detection of morphologic changes
        1. Pap smear - world impact, sensitivity and specificity
        2. New optical technologies for cancer imaging - sample size calculation
      3. Molecular biology of cancer
      4. Detection of molecular changes - serum biomarkers of cancer
        1. PSA - patient outcomes
        2. CA125 - patient outcomes
      5. Gene chips for molecular characterization of cancer
    3. Treatment of heart disease
      1. The circulatory system
      2. Atherosclerosis
      3. MI
      4. Treatments for atherosclerosis
        1. CABG - Patient outcomes
        2. PTCA - Additive costs
        3. Laser Angioplasty - Moving target problem
      5. Heart failure
      6. Treatment for heart failure
        1. Transplant
        2. Total artificial heart
        3. LVAD
  5. Describe how clinical trials are designed, conducted and evaluated.
    1. Types of research involving humans
    2. What is a clinical trial?
      1. What is a sample size?
      2. Calculate a sample size
      3. Quantitative methods to describe clinical trials
  6. Ethics of clinical research
    1. Recognize some of the ethical violations in research that influenced the development of ethical principles and legal requirements currently governing research with human subjects.
    2. Understand the ethical guidelines for the conduct of research involving humans
    3. What is informed consent?
    4. Who can give informed consent?
  7. Describe how medical technologies are managed.
    1. Describe how health care research is funded.
    2. Describe the role of the FDA in approving new drugs and medical devices.
    3. Describe the factors which affect the diffusion of a new medical technology.
    4. Contrast the diffusion of vitamin C to treat scurvy, laparoscopic cholecystectomy and MRI.
  8. Apply these principles to critically analyze a new medical technology in current development.

Rice University | Department of Bioengineering
Funded by a grant from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute