Healthcare and Design MSc
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MSc Healthcare and Design - Design Dash module
Our MSc Healthcare and Design students take part in a Design Dash, a rapid design process to solve a real-world healthcare challenge. We spoke to two students, Aoife McGrath and Jasmine Banerjee, about the process. Read more on our blog.
Healthcare and Design alumni profiles
Stiliyana Minkovska is an alumnus of our Healthcare and Design MSc programme, and is now a full-time founder of Matrix, a 21st century replacement for the speculum that is digitally enabled and designed for patient comfort and self-use in a clinical setting.
Prior to this Stiliyana was a Service Designer at Acacium Group, and previously worked as an architect. In 2023, Matrix won the top prize in WE Innovate, Imperial’s competition for women-led startups.
“Matrix was born as part of my Master’s in Healthcare & Design with Imperial College London and the Royal College of Art (RCA). As part of the Master’s, I created a design methodology for applying systems and design thinking as a problem-solving lens in maternity. After a series of research and design exercises, I created Matrix.
"I received some micro grants then joined the WE Innovate programme in January 2023. WE Innovate was an incredible experience, which brought me closer to such phenomenal pool of expertise and knowledge. I couldn’t believe I went on to become becoming the First Prize winner!”
Read more about Stiliyana’s career, MSc and experiences.
How did you find your way to your current role?
“Matrix was born as part of my Master’s in Healthcare & Design with Imperial College London and the Royal College of Art (RCA). I was an RCA alumni as I graduated with MA Architecture in 2016 and whilst on the programme I unexpectedly fell pregnant and graduated with my 6-month-old daughter. The experience of pregnancy and childbirth whilst completing a master’s degree changed me not only as a person becoming a mother, but also as a designer.
After I graduated with an MA Architecture in 2016, I went onto qualifying as an architect at the UCL whilst working in an architectural practice.
In 2019 I joined the Design Museum to become a Designer in Residence. During the time as a resident, I had the time and space away from my regular, full-time employment to focus on the passion and drive that never separated from me from the outset – pregnancy, childbirth, and postpartum recovery.
I designed, created and donated pieces to St Thomas’ hospital where my daughters were born, after which I felt a desperate urge to give more to the spaces where we make and break our births. Therefore, I left my role as an architect and joined the Master’s in Healthcare & Design.
As part of the Master’s, I created a design methodology for applying systems and design thinking as a problem-solving lens in maternity. I worked closely with experts across obstetrics, gynaecology, midwifery, and with MRI scientists, doulas, and birth activists. During my interview with Miss Jayne Terry, OBGYN consultant at St Mary’s, she said that ‘re-designing the speculum would be a game-changer’ – so after a series of research and design exercises, I created Matrix. I received some micro grants from Imperial such as the Discovery Fund with the ELab and Hackstarter which helped me create low fidelity porotypes.
Until September 2022, Matrix lived as a chapter in my thesis, when I joined the FemTech Lab accelerator, which resulted in £10k equity-free grant prior to me joining the WE Innovate programme in January 2023.
WE Innovate was an incredible experience, which brought me closer to such phenomenal pool of expertise and knowledge. I couldn’t believe I went into Phase 2, let alone Phase 3 and becoming the First Prize winner, it’s bonkers!
This warm experience continues through the Imperial Venture Mentoring Service (IVMS) and me going to the Bio Japan conference to represent the ELab.
I received an InnovateUK grant for Transforming Healthcare Technologies, which I am currently ‘exhausting’ together with the WE Innovate £15k prize. By the end of September 2023 Matrix will have its first fully functioning demonstrator, which we will use towards securing funding and acquiring customers.”
How did the healthcare and design MSc impact your career?
“I finished the MSc in healthcare and design with distinction in July 2022; this was the highest recognition I ever received for my work and dedication in the reproductive health and care sector as a passionate designer. It meant the world to me.
The support and encouragement I received from Imperial was beyond immense. I got to visit the maternity wards at three London hospitals, and was introduced to experts who generously shared their time and experience with me. The MSc made me think as both an empathetic designer, but as an entrepreneur too. I realised, thanks to Imperial, that ideas do indeed mean business.
The Master’s made me! It gave me confidence, concreted my passion and made me the change-making founder I aspired to always be.
WE Innovate took place after I finished the Master’s programme, but at the finals, of the five finalists three were graduates from the exact same cohort (2020-2022) of the MSc Healthcare and Design.”
What specific experience has been most valuable in your career so far?
“Taking a risk and going out of my comfort zone is a recipe for success. I left my full-time comfortable employment with decent salary to dive deep in an ocean of uncertainties. The same happened before the MSc in Healthcare & Design – I left full-time employment (I was made redundant whilst pregnant) to commence a new, life-defining path, which the master’s opened up for me. I try to read the signs that the universe sends to me and sometimes the timing couldn’t be more perfect.
I had both my children whilst doing my Master’s studies. The first one was born in the middle of my MA Architecture and the second one was born half way through the MSc in Healthcare and Design. These experiences made me and established my passion for dedicating more of my and my passion to the most profound experiences – the ones of pregnancy and childbirth.”
Words of wisdom
“Follow your heart. This is such a cliché, but I always did this, and it always seems to have served me correctly. I could never be unfaithful to my feelings and more so to my intuition. The only certainty in life is uncertainty and I am coming more and more to this realisation.”
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Dr Saw Nwe studied the Healthcare and Design MSc programme, and now works as a consultant at Public Digital, supporting the health sector in helping large organisations with digital transformation. Saw is trained as a doctor and worked in a mental health hospital while doing the Master's, before founding a startup.
"As part of my MSc dissertation, I researched how women were accessing mental health support during pregnancy and after birth. I applied design and systems thinking to understand the problem and design solutions in a human-centred approach - with people closest to the problem (mothers and clinicians). This led to early formations of Aloe Health, a clinical platform to detect and raise awareness of mental health problems in parents.
"During the business and entrepreneurship module in MSc, I realised I could take this idea further to develop a business. After a pre-accelerator, I joined WE Innovate. It gave me even more opportunities to meet new people, learn and gain confidence. I realised what I learnt in the MSc can be applied to anything, not just for health. It can be applied to business when developing a business model and testing assumptions.
“I currently work with health organisations like the NHS in helping them change how their day to day operations, processes, culture and how teams work with one another to deliver better experiences and outcomes for staff and patients using digital. My background in clinical and design massively helps with this.”
Read more about Saw's career, MSc and experiences
Read more about Saw's career, MSc and experiences.
How did you find your way to your current role?
"In my current role, I usually work in a team of people from different backgrounds, like product management, delivery specialists, and service designers. This enriches our approach and impact. I support projects from research and discovery to design and delivery. This means I read a lot of documents, conduct interviews and site visits to understand the context, then analyse the data to co-design recommendations with people in the organisations. My background in clinical and design massively helps with this work.
"I am trained as a doctor, I finished my junior doctor foundation training in the NHS in the summer of 2020. I took a break from training to do a part-time Healthcare and Design Master’s at Imperial which changed the course of my career.
"The MSc brought together healthcare professionals like doctors, nurses, pharmacists and professionals in the creative and design industries to learn from one another and solve complex healthcare challenges. It was like science meets design. The rigidity of health and academia combined with creativity and empathy. I loved it so much, it was liberating! It was the first time I worked with architects, product designers, software developers, and hearing their perspectives of how they might go about designing an A&E department for example, was really fascinating for me. I loved the process of doing research, synthesising and designing solutions with people from different disciplines.
"As part of my MSc dissertation, I researched with NHS Trusts into how women were accessing mental health support during pregnancy and after birth. I applied design and systems thinking to research and design solutions in a human-centred approach - with people closest to the problem (mothers and clinicians).
"I started this because of my mum and throughout the project I realised how big the problem was, in terms of impact on the individual mother, the family unit, impact on the health system and cost implications. So I became really passionate about the problem. We ended up designing a clinical digital platform to detect problems in mothers early, and give the support they need, which was an early formation of my business idea Aloe Health.
"This for me was an introduction of digital health technologies, the power they have in radically changing how we deliver care balanced with the need to be evidence based for safety and effectiveness. I also experienced the rapid rate the technologies were being innovated in the health space.
"It made me realise I wanted to be a part of digital health innovations and in helping organisations use innovations in a safe way, and that I could combine my clinical and design backgrounds. While working on the start-up, I worked as a design researcher at the Royal College of Art on a UKRI funded research project on Social Prescribing, which helped me hone the skills I learnt during the MSc in Healthcare and Design. So when I saw Public Digital’s work with NHS Race and Health Observatory on sickle cell, I decided to apply for them."
Why did you choose to pursue the MSc Healthcare and Design?
"In my second year as a junior doctor, I saw just how much the health system impacted the experiences of patients and staff, including me. I became interested in who was making decisions and why, I wanted to know their processes of getting to these decisions.
"I became interested in thinking about systems, what are the inputs and outputs, the interdependencies, and how we could make it sustainable. For example increasing preventative measures, promoting the well-being of society, and detecting problems early rather than intervening at crisis points. I felt that we could do this by improving the experiences of the people using the system, so patients and staff.
"I also wanted to do something creative and was curious about what design meant for healthcare, and wanted to take a break from medical training, so I decided to apply."
How has the MSc contributed to your unique skillset?
"The MSc in Healthcare and Design at Imperial and the Royal College of Art (RCA) gave me the opportunity to meet people from other professions in the UK and around the world, and we were tied together by our interest in health. It taught me the value of having people with different backgrounds and perspectives in a team working together and solving problems.
"It introduced me to a world of design: from designing services and experiences to physical products to designing systems and policies. It introduced me to tools and frameworks we can use to research, design and test solutions for healthcare challenges, such as Design Thinking, the Double Diamond approach, and Systems thinking to name a few.
"For me, I learnt that it wasn’t necessarily about the solution (the artefact you produce) but rather it was about how you might go about understanding who you are designing for, what their realities and challenges are, and how you might engage with people who are closest to the problem to “design” together. This helped me develop my core value when designing - to design with empathy, and to be needs first.
"Being a doctor has a lot of parallels. For example, the ways we take clinical history from a patient, our observation skills and formulating a plan with the patient and their families share similarities to design and user research. So the MSc helped me fill up my toolbox and taught me different ways of thinking and doing things."
How did the Healthcare and Design MSc support you to be recognised in WE Innovate?
"Doing the MSc itself was a career changing opportunity for me. It gave me the confidence and the tools that I needed to design with empathy. It allowed me to develop my skills in my project on mothers' mental health which I became very passionate about. The “Health Business Toolkit” module during the MSc introduced me to business and organisational design. I realised I could take the output of my project further to explore the entrepreneurial world. After doing a pre-accelerator, I joined WE Innovate in January 2023. It gave me even more opportunities to learn, meet new people and gain confidence.
"I realised what I learnt in the MSc can be applied to anything, not just for health. It can be applied to business and developing a business model that is desirable, feasible and viable. Not just how you might research users' needs but how to test your markets, testing and validating assumptions, and iterating based on feedback which is not a linear process."
Words of wisdom?
"I can share my learnings and reflections based on my own experiences. It was really scary for me to decide to transition from clinical work to non-clinical work. I went through a lot of uncertainties.
"What helped me anchor my decisions was to be clear on my values and to practise them. I learnt that the moment my internal values and my external actions don’t match, it gives me great unhappiness. So I actively took actions to change that."