Duke Design Health Fellows Program (2019-2020)

This project team is still seeking applications from graduate students. Medical students, medical fellows, MBA students and master's and doctoral students in engineering programs are especially encouraged to apply. Interested students can apply using our online application; applications will be reviewed on a rolling basis. The deadline to apply is March 31 at 5:00 p.m.


The Duke University Design Health Fellows Program is an interdisciplinary, patient-focused program that discovers pressing needs in healthcare and assembles teams from across engineering, business, medicine and other disciplines to create solutions. The program provides an immersive learning experience to undergraduate, graduate and postgraduate fellows who actively identify, validate, prioritize and solve problems that have an impact on human health.

At its foundation, the program seeks to educate students in innovation through immersion and project-based learning. It also aspires to serve as a source of identified needs and intellectual property that feeds into other design and entrepreneurship activities at Duke and beyond. The program is also a laboratory for pedagogical research innovation, contributing to the development of best practices in design education.

Project Description

This project will be implemented in three sequential phases of identification, invention and implementation.

Through a partnership with the Duke Heart Center, teams of fellows will be immersed in a clinical environment and use structured ethnography tools to collect unmet patient needs (identification phase). These needs will then be analyzed and screened using market analyses, intellectual property assessments and other tools before transitioning to concept generation.

In the second half of the program, hundreds of concepts will be generated, screened and prototyped to produce a strong product (invention phase). The team will then develop business, regulatory, reimbursement, clinical and manufacturing plans to implement the product (implementation phase).

This project will give fellows a world-class education in medical innovation, mentorship from industry experts and a polished product and business model that they can choose to take to market.

Anticipated Outputs

Clinical ethnographic data and needs assessments; product prototypes; manufacturing, business and clinical implementation plans for innovate healthcare tools and products

Student Opportunities

Ideally, this project will include 6 undergraduates and 12 graduate students with backgrounds in medicine, engineering, law and business.

At the beginning of the program, students will be divided into three design teams, each with six to seven fellows. All project participants will be expected to commit five to ten hours per week over the entire project duration.

Fellows will receive coaching from experts in medicine, entrepreneurship and engineering. Project-based coursework, guest lectures and mentor meetings will be held twice a week, once in the evening and once in the afternoon. The remainder of the work will be done at the design team’s discretion.

Fellows are not expected to enter the program with a specific need or solution in mind, and they must be willing to explore several opportunities through a structured design process. Every six to eight weeks, teams will present a deliverable to a panel of mentors both internal and external to Duke. The deliverables will culminate into a final product concept, working prototype and business plan.

Selected students will have the chance to travel to business plan and/or design competitions to showcase their work.


Fall 2019 – Spring 2020

  • Fall 2019: Begin team meetings; begin clinical work and ethnographic assessments; assess data collected for top needs and begin considering solutions
  • Spring 2020: Assess and refine product/tool concepts; begin technical review for top concepts; develop and refine business plans and product pitches; submit projects to business plan competitions; begin grant proposal development; refine and share final presentations


Independent study credit available for fall and spring semesters

To Apply

Students can apply using our online application. Applications are due by March 31 at 5:00 p.m.


Image: Courtesy of Duke Heart Center Twitter account

Courtesy of Duke Heart Center Twitter account.

Team Leaders

  • Joseph Knight, Pratt School of Engineering
  • Manesh Patel, School of Medicine-Medicine: Cardiology
  • Eric Richardson, Pratt School of Engineering-Biomedical Engineering

/yfaculty/staff Team Members

  • Ravi Bellamkonda, Pratt School of Engineering-Biomedical Engineering
  • Ashutosh Chilkoti, Pratt School of Engineering-Biomedical Engineering
  • Jon Fjeld, Fuqua School of Business
  • Kenneth Gall, Pratt School of Engineering-Mechanical Engineering & Materials Science
  • Allan Kirk, School of Medicine-Surgery
  • Eric Peterson, School of Medicine-Medicine: Cardiology