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The guest was Shankar Krishnan


Welcome to Engineering Leaders’ mini-series in the lead up to the very first World Engineering Day for Sustainable Development 2020. This mini-series is being supported by the World Federation of Engineering Organisations.

My name is Melanie and my co-host and our podcast’s resident engineer is Dominic.

Today’s episode is on the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goal number 3, Good health and well-being


Our guest is based in the USA and is a full professor at Wentworth Institute of Technology in Boston, where he is the founding director of the biomedical engineering department.

He is an academic, but has a wealth of consultancy experience. He’s worked in the medical device industry as well as actually designing and building hospitals

He is the President for the international Federation for Medical and Biological Engineering

Our guest today, speaking to us on UNSDG3, good health and well-being, is Dr Shankar Krishnan


Shankar grew up where engineering was a difficult discipline to get into but were considered special people in society.

He didn’t grow up with role models, but was good at maths and science and when he commenced his engineering study he fell in love with electrical engineering. However, as time passed his family was suffering from kidney diseases and there was just not much medical equipment available….

    Guest 0:33

So, I thought I should do my highest studies aimed towards solving something on medical devices which would eventually help people, you know in places where they do not have advanced medical devices. Also in creating devices which would help solve some problems with relation to medicine. So that is why I moved from Electrical.

    Mel De Gioia 1:01

Okay. Alright, so that’s an excellent reason to move across to biomedical actually, that personal experience. Now today’s episode is about UN SDG Number 3, Good Health and Well Being. What can you tell our audience about this particular goal?

    Guest 1:20

So the United Nations Sustainable Development Goal 3, which is


SDG 3 is to ensure healthy lives and to promote well being at all ages.

So, engineers have a special role in ensuring healthy life when it comes to all ages




as a biomedical engineer, I believe you know, there are significant activities which can be aimed at contributing to achieving the goals.


So as an example, you know, there was a target set in 2015 to reduce one third of premature mortality from non communicable diseases through prevention, treatment and promote mental health and well being by the year 2030. This was a target set. And I think if you look at statistics, you know, these are all coming along, you know, maybe not necessarily at the expected rate, but it is getting better. So, as a biomedical engineer what we do, we ensure healthy lives through getting involved in various layers of medicine. For example, get involved in diagnosis, in therapy, in treatment planning, in assessment in rehabilitation and wellness. And is not only this, we also try to understand, you know, what’s happening inside the body. I mean, there’s more of a long term thing but these others are really tangible things which can result in some devices to help in diagnosis and treatment. But we also work on things which are to understand how our cells communicating with each other, why there is mutation and things of the sort. So that gets more into the biological arena, which has longer term effort required. So my focus more and then many biomedical engineers are focusing on the aspect of we say diagnosis and treatment. That this one can have a direct impact immediately on the sick and diseased persons.


You said earlier that you got into Biomedical because of the kidney issues with your family. Was that also your inspiration in aligning your work to this UN SDG goal or were there other factors…?.


Yeah, that was… That’s a very good question that was also the inspiration, you know. Of course, you know, when you are young you want to be an engineer solve problems, make lots of money and be respected in society, but we know


when you apply engineering to medicine, then this is solving problems and improving actually the care and also the quality of life.


So this has a greater societal impact. So this is what I also mean, right from my inner days because of my upbringing, always feeling to help other people. So you know, one way to go to medicine engineering was what I thought was best for me. And so this belief of trying to help other people, applying something that I was good at inspired me to select the field of biomedical engineering. Which, you know, aligns also with the goal of the UN Sustainable Development Goals 3.

    Mel De Gioia 5:10

So it’s all very intertwined there. So how are you as an engineer contributing? Can you give us an example of how your work can help the goal towards good health and well being?

    Guest 5:22

It’s a little bit of a broad spectrum of activity although in many cases I didn’t seek it. It seemed like it just came, it fell in place. So I started working in academia then in research and development. And I got offered to go work for medical device industry and then I was applying what I learned. The core principles and the aim is still the same. One you work in university then I work for a medical device company in Miami working on making automated blood cell analyzers and chemistry analyzers. So this was all related to biochemical analysis. But that was in a medical device industry. Then I went to work in hospitals and design a hospital and how all the biomedical devices can be integrated in a very modern hospital. So this was really a multi billion dollar project in the Middle East and I was proud, to have been honoured to have been selected to work in this. We make some design of hospitals and we worked in actual management of installation as well as operation. That kind of work, the complexity of diseases that are handled and where technology is needed. It’s not you know, there can be a lot of things done by procedures, physicians, nurses, all healthcare personnel and medicine. My area is not into the pharmacology drugs you know, I normally joke saying we don’t do drugs, but we do medical devices, we do tools and techniques and various systems. So, since you asked me in my own life, you know, I have been very much interested in the international activities have been with the International Federation for Medical and Biological Engineering. So, this has like 60 different societies in different countries. And we have started doing work with interested countries and participating, young and ambitious biomedical leaders in Africa. So, the types of solutions that various colleagues of mine in the world biomedical engineers working under research centres, or universities or companies are to also meet what is the region specific solution. Because what may be best in New York may not be the best in some part of Indonesia or some part of Chile or Mexico or so. So, there are different solutions, you know. I’m also from India, so there are different so heterogeneous and


the solutions required are different for different people also depends on the resources.

So, Resource-dependent, region-specific solutions are required to be successful.


One cannot copy the best one that is available in best hospital and then say that we are going to do this across the world. It is not going to be successful. You know what may be great in Melbourne or Sydney may not be the best again in Thailand. So,


we need to come up with interesting solutions which are sustainable


I’ve been fortunate enough to work in different segments of the biomedical engineering and interact with international people and that’s, you know, my greatest gain I would believe. You know, having close collaboration with a multitude of people with completely different circumstances, resources, availabilities, situations and problems.

    Mel De Gioia 9:14

I find it so interesting that in your line of work that you’re actually building hospitals, but to tie in what you were saying, the hospital that you would build is different depending on location. So that’s a really key takeaway.

    Dom 9:29

Are there any particular goals that you’re looking to achieve in 2020 for this UN SDG?

    Guest 9:34

I have many interesting goals, I don’t know if I can accomplish them. So my first activity, you know where my income is, I do educate students who would be working in these areas in the future. That’s one, but in the other activity will be, we have regional conferences in which I take part and we disseminate the knowledge about the modern techniques which are used to achieve the development goals, particularly 3 in terms of healthy life and promote well being. Okay. And then we have some student competitions. So my goal or target this year is to continue educating, participate and give lectures in different regions of the world. And also to work towards developing something, I’m more interested in cardiovascular diseases. And you may be hearing this term a lot artificial intelligence and machine learning. So my, you know, in the available time, I’d like to look and see, are we able to get some signals from these wearables that we can indeed, predict attack. It is not so simple. But there are also people monitoring so many parameters and trying to correlate them and see if we can do some prediction because the human body is so complex, it’s so difficult to predict exactly what’s happening. However, with this so called Big Data and we have so much information. We do some analytics and it is possible to come up with this. So I intend doing a little bit of work in this and maybe publishing some paper and giving some lectures. That’s my goal for this year.

    Mel De Gioia 11:16

Yeah, that would that would be worthy goal.

    Guest 11:19

I think that the dissemination of information is so important as well. It’s just something that, you know, in order for us as a society to grow, it’s not about keeping information to yourself, it’s about sharing it so that new ideas can come in and can continue to evolve. And it’s a wonderful thing, realising that getting that information out there.


I think that’s where the technology is playing a big role. See in the past, you know, some patient went to the doctor and he gave some prescription and he or she just took didn’t ask question. Now patients are knowledgeable and technology is available, you know, for them to even get information and the new way of getting better outcomes is patient engagement, engage the patients. So this helps. And then this new field of health informatics, and what I may call digital medicine, is actually revolutionising the healthcare delivery system. While the initial costs may be, you know, somewhat higher for the leaders to write cheques. However, long term goals are really good and they are achievable.

    Mel De Gioia 12:36

Thank you for joining us today.

    Dom 12:37

Thank you so much.

    Guest 12:38

Thanks to Dom and thanks to Mel, you know, have a wonderful day.

    Mel De Gioia 12:43

And thank you for tuning into Engineering Leaders as we prepare you for the first World Engineering Day on Sustainable Development, which is going to be held every fourth of March. We hope you’re enjoying our mini series which is brought to you with the support of the World Federation of Engineering Organisations. The best way for you to show your support for our show, is to tell people, either in person or write a review. Just spread the word. Seriously, it is that easy. We look forward to you and your friends joining us next time when we bring you another episode with one of our engineering champions.

Transcribed by

Dr Shankar Krishnan is based in the USA and is a full professor at WIT in Boston, where he is the founding director of the biomedical engineering department.

Shankar is an academic, but has much consultancy experience. He’s worked for a medical device company in Miami and then gone on to actually design and build hospitals.

He is the President for the International Federation for Medical and Biological Engineering.

Our guest today, speaking to us on UNSDG3, good health and well-being is Dr Shankar Krishnan.