USF graduate optimizes medicine through engineering

Alicia Billington’s work offers  healing solutions for patients living with limited mobility

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By Katy Hennig, USF News

TAMPA, Fla. (June 24, 2014) – By calculating movement and combining two different fields of research, Alicia Billington, M.D., is changing the way health care professionals diagnose and treat pressure sores—a common medical problem that affects millions of people each year.

“I think that a lot of the processes that we do in medicine can be optimized through engineering,” says Billington.

Billington is the first USF student to graduate with a dual M.D./Ph.D. degree in engineering, combining the two related but disparate disciplines of medicine and engineering. She is poised to become a leader for the next generation of physician scientists.

“It’s not easy,” says Dr. Peter Fabri, the academic adviser who co-designed Billington’s dual discipline research track along with William Lee, III. He describes the path as an integral connection between medicine and innovation, adding, “the shared skills and talents enrich medicine.”

Incorporating problem-solving skills from her background in biomedical engineering, Billington has invented a new method for analyzing how people move, which she is hoping one day could prevent pressure sores. The sores, commonly called bedsores, are injuries to the skin and underlying tissue that can result from pressure on the skin and muscles. They can occur in nursing home patients, who may lie in bed or remain seated for long periods of time and they may also plague patients of all ages who experience limited mobility, such as veterans in wheelchairs.

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