When Bryan Armitage enrolled in the University of Minnesota Medical School, his background made him stand out. As an undergraduate at Cornell University in Ithaca, New York, he earned a dual degree in chemical engineering and biology, and soon after graduation, he interned for a medical device manufacturer. Later, he spent five years working as an engineer for a company that made orthopaedic medical devices.
“When I had conversations with the doctors involved with the company as well as the machinists on the floor, I felt like I could speak multiple languages,” he says. As a medical student, he continued his involvement with medical devices, assisting a start-up company that produces knee braces.
Armitage hoped not to abandon these interests as his medical studies grew more demanding. “For me, the what of medicine isn’t as interesting as the why,” he says. “Some medical students may be content simply knowing that atherosclerotic plaques happen in arteries, for instance, but I want to know why. The answer is related to how rivers flow and other issues of fluid dynamics.”
His background and way of thinking made Armitage a perfect candidate for the University of Minnesota’s M.D./M.S. Dual Degree Program in Medicine and Biomedical Engineering, offered in cooperation with the Biomedical Engineering Department. Launched by a $1 million endowment gift from Medical School alumnus Scott Augustine, M.D., and his wife, Susan, the program lets students complete both an M.D. and M.S. in biomedical engineering in five years. Armitage completed his M.S. in fall 2008 and will earn his M.D. in May.
His biomedical engineering and medical studies have frequently illuminated one another. When he studied clinical problems with bones in medical school, he could refer to what he had learned about artificial bones as a biomedical engineer. In turn, his clinical experiences helped him understand why medical devices do or don’t work. “I could see things a little differently than my fellow medical students,” says Armitage, who hopes to go into orthopaedics after completing medical school.