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Engineering students build device for Idaho medical student with disability on path to becoming a doctor

Engineering students built a device that allows her to perform CPR compressions and become certified
Published: Jan. 8, 2021 at 1:24 PM MST
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MOSCOW, Idaho (KMVT/KSVT) — A medical student in Idaho who is disabled has been given the opportunity to continue her education and dream of becoming a doctor, thanks to a group of engineering students at the University of Idaho.

In 2006, Meagan Boll, of the western Idaho city of Cambridge, fell from a balcony and broke the third, fourth and fifth vertebra in her back. “But luckily the spinal cord injury was between the fifth and sixth vertebrae,” Boll said.

She said the experience inspired her to become a neurologist, so she can help others like herself.

“I would think, I would hope that someone sees me and sees that we have a connection of some sort, that we are going through something together,” Boll said.

Boll, who is 33 years old, is currently a second-year medical student and is enrolled in the WWAMI medical program at the University of Idaho. The injury which impaired her arms and legs is preventing her from becoming certified in CPR, which she needs to become a doctor.

“I am not able to utilize my tricep muscle, which is really important for straightening out your arm,” Boll said. “I also have no control of my finger movements.”

She said when the school set her up with CPR dummies she was unable to get full compression, so WWAMI medical director Jeff Seegmiller reached out to the engineering students at the college.

“Meagan just came up with an idea that I thought would be worthwhile for the senior design students,” Seegmiller said. “I have worked with the engineering program here at the University of Idaho, and we try to find real-world problems for the senior design project that the students can do.”

The students went to work in trying to create a device for Boll that will allow her to perform CPR compressions independently. She said the students went through several prototypes. The first design was made out of wood, and it actually gave her a splinter, but they finally created one that works.

“It was a very victorious moment being able to get my first compressions,” Boll said.

The device attaches to Boll’s wheelchair, and she can simply drive into it. The device has a lever attached to it that Boll can pull up and down on, and when she does there is weight at the end that drops on the person’s chest. When Boll pulls the lever back and forth, the weight drops up and down and delivers compressions.

However, she jokingly said she has to get in better shape to operate the device because performing CPR for two minutes is exhausting. “So I can build up enough stamina to pass the CPR test,” Boll said with a smile.

She said she also has a bluetooth stethoscope and a portable ultrasound wand in case she has to do an in-depth medical exam. Boll said she is looking forward to taking her medical board exams later this year and getting certified in CPR. From there she said she will prepare for more than 40 weeks of required clinical clerkships in fields such as family medicine, internal medicine and surgery.

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