UC Irvine Medical and Computer Science Students Team Up for First-Ever Med AppJam

By Tom Vasich

Medical and computer science students rarely mingle in the same conference room, much less the same part of campus, but as the intersection between technology and healthcare continues to widen, Med AppJam at University of California, Irvine (UCI) shows that the two groups have quite a bit in common.

UCI School of Medicine and Donald Bren School of Information & Computer Sciences students teamed up in the first-ever “app jam” designed to create Apple-based applications with health care utility. Nineteen teams of five to six students signed up to hammer out caffeine-fueled ideas over a frenzied week of collaboration, blogging all the way. Their efforts generated apps that can remind users to take their meds, help patients better explain the basis of their pain to their physicians, and efficiently track patient medical histories, just to name a few.

In a student center conference room on November 19, the teams presented their products to judges from the UCI faculty and high-tech companies including Apple, with the top three teams receiving $1000, $500, and $250 respectively as prizes.

The Life Buoy app winning team (photo credit: Eva Lempert).
The Life Buoy app winning team (photo credit: Eva Lempert).

The team that created Life Buoy — Bren School students Matthew Chan, Bryan Lam, Drake Tetreault, Lita Patel, and MD/MBA students Peggy Bui and Joe Hanson — took home the top prize for their app that creates a network in which patients and physicians can quickly connect through their smart phones and tablets.

The Life Buoy app — designed to be particularly helpful during disaster situations, like Hurricane Sandy — is far from finished, Hanson admits, but he says investors have been approaching the team, possibly to support their efforts to completion.

“As a team, we were all able to funnel our ideas into one direction,” Bui said. “It’s still a work in progress, but we’re excited about what we can accomplish with Life Buoy.”

Collaboration between students in the two schools seemed inevitable. The Bren School’s ICS Student Council regularly sponsors AppJam competitions. Med AppJam was inspired by the UCI School of Medicine’s iMedEd initiative, which is the basis of the nation’s first medical education program to completely adopt the iPad format for classroom and clinical skills training. Many UCI medical students have embraced the iMedEd esthetic, learning how to program and regularly reviewing medical education apps and technology on their iMedEd blog.

“This is where medicine is heading – towards mobile medicine, using smart phones and iPads to access healthcare,” Dr. Ralph Clayman, dean of the UCI School of Medicine said. “With Med AppJam, we see the powerful association between computer science and medical students at UCI to create new and effective ways for people to connect.”

—Tom Vasich is associate director of communications at UC Irvine. He can be reached at tmvasich@uci.edu.