Alumnus Spotlight: Jack Brouillette
In Fall, 2016, Jack Brouillette moved from Littleton, Colorado to enroll in Loyola’s Engineering program. He wished to attend a Jesuit University and learn about medical devices within Biomedical Engineering courses. As per Loyola’s General Engineering curriculum, Jack began taking six Biomedical Engineering specialization courses during his sixth semester at Loyola. Over three semesters, he took the following courses:
|ENGR 341||Medical Device Systems|
|ENGR 341L||Medical Device Laboratory|
|ENGR 342||Medical Device Software Development I|
|ENGR 343||Medical Device Software Development II|
|ENGR 381||Biomedical Engineering Capstone Design I|
|ENGR 391||Biomedical Engineering Capstone Design II|
In particular, the two capstone courses included weekly lectures on topics related to FDA Design Control and on the creation of Design Control documents that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) requires in its submissions for clearance/approval to market medical devices legally in the U.S. Over two semesters of senior year, Jack and classmates Lilianne Pukhrambam and Michael Boldt solved a problem posed by Baxter Corporation for their capstone project. The last two months of their capstone work were conducted online. Their successful solution, a Device Awareness and Identification System, was later incorporated into a Baxter product.
Finding a job a few months after the worldwide economy collapsed due to COVID-19 was challenging, but Jack began working as a V&V (Verification and Validation) Engineer at Medtronic in November, 2020. As Jack recalled, “My first week at Medtronic, the documents I was filling out for these test methods/protocols/requirements were nearly identical to your [Loyola’s] documents. And when I realized that this is exactly what I learned in college, I felt like I was a step ahead of everyone else that started with me. Medtronic and [my current employer] Med-El are both very impressed by how quickly I’ve been able to get up to speed, and I credit a lot of that to my undergraduate education and the preparation that you provided throughout your program.”
Jack worked at Medtronic until he moved to cochlear implant manufacturer Med-El in August, 2021. Med-El had originally offered Jack his current position of Surgical Applications Engineer in 2020, but the position was put on hold for COVID-19. He credits Dr. Gail Baura’s textbook, which she uses to teach ENGR 341, with helping him at Med-El. “I show it to my colleagues, and they say, ‘This is so cool that you learned about Med-El in depth [through the cochlear implant chapter] before you were even here.’ The book definitely highlighted all those factors that go into medical device development, where the ideas came from and how they went from an idea to an actual device, and all the work that has to be put in. Also the system diagrams are very crucial to my understanding of medical devices.”
A major portion of Jack’s job is support for research cases on objective measures such as auditory nerve testing and electrocochleograms. He is also the topic expert in the U.S. for OTOPLAN, a new surgical planning software system that was recently cleared for use by the Food and Drug Administration. Once a patient’s CT scan is uploaded, a surgeon can, for the first time, visualize the cochlear duct length and how a chosen length of cochlear implant electrode will align. It is known that the “naturalness” of sound, especially musical sound, is achieved by matching pitch to electrode array position. Deep electrode insertion to the apical region of the cochlea is required for a cochlear implant to produce reliable low-frequency pitches, but the range of cochlear length in patients varies by 40%. Jack is meeting with Chairs of Neuro-Otology departments around the U.S. to introduce them to the software. The common reaction he receives from surgeons is, “This is exactly what the industry needs. I don’t know why it took so long to come up with this.” With future iterations of the software, Med-El will be moving towards anatomy-based fitting.
Asked what advice he would give a senior in high school, Jack replied, “If you want to go to a program that really cares about you and focuses on you, then pick Loyola because of the small class sizes. The details that have gone into the preparation of the program from your freshman year all the way to senior year really translate to actual industry. If you fall behind, you won’t just get left out. You [the faculty] really care about your students, and you want them to succeed.”