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Turning Dreams Into Reality

Monday, July 01, 2019
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Getting to Know Yasmin Carter and the Work of the Innovations Lab 

 You may have met Dr. Yasmin Carter, Director of Innovations Lab at the retreat in May, or perhaps you've walked past her in the hallways of iCELS in the past year.  

 If you haven't had the pleasure of meeting Yasmin yet, it's understandable. She is certainly kept busy with her work in the Innovations Lab. I met with her in her 3rd floor office, one whiteboard wall covered floor to ceiling with a seemingly chaotic bubble chart, a network of words haphazardly circled and connected by arrows in every direction. These are her notes on a current project. She acknowledged that this makes it much easier for her to visualize ideas than making a list could. Those who work with her call it her "beautiful mind" board. 

Yasmin is originally from New Zealand. In college, she studied Physical Anthropology, her attention primarily focused on things like bones and mummies. It wasn't until her mother had an accident that resulted in the need for a wheelchair that Yasmin's focus shifted to the treatment of the living. When she became involved in her mother's care, she noticed a troubling lack of anatomical knowledge coming from the physicians treating her. From that experience, she became invested in finding new ways to teach and pursued a Masters and PhD in Canada, which led her to a career in the U.S. as core faculty in the division of Translational Anatomy in the Radiology department here at UMMS. 

 During both her Masters and Post-doc programs Yasmin utilized 3D printing and computer technology; work she has continued and expanded on in her 3 years at UMMS. In fact, Dr. Melissa Fischer shared that Yasmin's creativity, scholarly drive, and talent were key features to her selection as the founding director of the iCELS Innovation Lab. The Innovations Lab has been in action officially since January of this year. However, the enthusiasm shouldn't begin and end there. There is a greater vision for the Innovations Lab which fits iCELS to a t, and that involves turning dreams into reality. 

 The Innovations Lab provides a makerspace for clinicians, students, faculty, and staff to test any idea that they want to see work. Yasmin describes it as a center where "creative solutions are used to make ideas come to fruition." When asked, Melissa added, "the ILab offers a truly interprofessional opportunity to bring together resources to provide engaged learning experiences that cross the continuum from low to high tech, creating hybrid experiences that blend human interaction, devices and technology.” While in its infancy, the Innovations Lab offers institutional tools such as 360° cameras, 3D printers, and wearable devices that when used in simulation make it possible for a standardized patient to wear a convincing IV line or have a simulated biopsy performed on them. Whoa! Yasmin also noted the possibility of creating other helpful tools like apps for clients if that's the right solution for their needs. From what she describes, the Innovations Lab will be an invaluable collaborative resource for the school, hospital, and outside community, all of whom Yasmin says sometimes just need a "new way of looking at and thinking about a problem." 

 Yasmin stressed to me that she doesn't view the Innovations Lab as "just another tech lab" and that she and her team of collaborators are already focused on increasing facilitation of communication training. For instance, they have been working with transgender people from the community to archive their individual experiences in each step of their medical care. Yasmin reminded me that this may not be limited to interactions with doctors and nurses, but can often include difficult experiences with numerous people in the healthcare chain, from the valet attendant parking their car to a biased pharmacist administering prescriptions. These archives may be used to develop future communication training initiatives and may utilize SPs in new roles to test impact, but it is essential that the individuals who share their stories are able to represent themselves because as Yasmin put it, "the perspectives from the community we serve are most important." There is also a potential for SPs to be used in other areas of curriculum development, such as portraying a patient receiving sensitive test results. It may be necessary to test an approach out on an SP before taking the concept out into the real world. Yasmin acknowledges that it can be easy to come up with new ideas, but begs the question for clients, "How do we test if this actually works?" 

 As of now, there are five people working with Yasmin in the Innovations Lab to test and manifest ideas, but the staff is growing, and she looks forward to being surrounded by like-minded individuals. If you're looking for Yasmin, you can find her office nestled with the others on the 3rd floor of iCELS and the Innovations Lab itself is located upstairs in the Albert Sherman building/down the hall in the ‘CAVE’. However, after speaking with Yasmin and witnessing her fervently discuss the untapped potential between collaborators and the community and her passion to teach and see those next-generation innovations come to fruition, I feel that much of it is still in her beautiful mind.