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Health Science Intensive Student Lends a Hand Designing 3D Prosthetics

Richard Beckett-Ansa in front of JHU sign.JPG

Richard Beckett-Ansa has made prosthetic hands for a cake maker, a child in Haiti, a pharmacy student and an 11-year-old boy who likes playing video games.

Beckett-Ansa is 21.

The Baltimore native is pursuing a master’s in biotechnology at the Johns Hopkins University Montgomery County Campus, where he is enrolled in the Health Science Intensive concentration. The HSI program, he said, will give him top-notch guidance as he applies to medical school and will propel him toward his goal of pursuing sports medicine.

“Through the HSI program, I can further my knowledge of the human body,” Beckett-Ansa said. “As a physician, I want to work a lot with sports medicine, especially Special Olympics.” Medical school, he said, will be his next step, but he wanted help navigating the maze of the admissions process.

Beckett-Ansa is an example of a student in the Post-Baccalaureate Health Science Intensive program at Johns Hopkins University who is committed to pursuing a career in medicine but wants some additional support.

HSI offers one-on-one advising through the medical school application process and tips on how students can highlight their strengths. Students receive counseling on how to select medical schools; application review; personal statement review; and interview preparation.

Beckett-Ansa graduated from Duke University in May. He started in the pre-med program there but switched to biomedical engineering because he “wanted to explore ways to help the human body and collaborate with people. BME was the perfect intersection.” One summer, he interned with the BME department at the University of Virginia. His supervisor encouraged him to explore 3D printing and to reach out to a program called e-NABLE.

E-NABLE uses 3D printers to make prosthetic hands and gives them to people in need for free.

Beckett-Ansa was captivated. “I instantly fell in love with them.”

He started a branch at Duke, where he and his classmates made prosthetics with specialized attachments. For example, the cake maker needed an attachment that would allow her to spin the bottom of a cake, another that would allow her to use a rolling pin and yet another that would enable her to open an industrial refrigerator. The pharmacy student needed a specialized attachment to administer injections and pinch skin to take blood samples. The 11-year-old boy wanted to be able to play video games and ride his bike. The child in Haiti is receiving a prosthetic that matches his skin tone.

Prosthetics made on 3D printers usually cost under $100 to make, compared with thousands of dollars to fabricate traditional prosthetic devices.

Beckett-Ansa is contemplating launching an e-NABLE program at JHU. In the meantime, he is busy taking classes in the HSI program, including biochemistry, cell biology and molecular biology. He, like his classmates, will take four science electives throughout the 12-month program, as well as three non-science courses. The idea behind the program is to give students the opportunity to enroll in rigorous courses in the life sciences to prove their aptitude to study medicine. The hope is that after completing HSI, students will be more attractive medical school candidates.

Beckett-Ansa wants to focus on noninvasive aspects of sports medicine, such as physical rehabilitation and research, including prosthetics. The biotechnology courses he is taking in the HSI program are giving him a good foundation, he said.

The biotechnology courses “challenge your way of thinking,” Beckett-Ansa said. They really force you to think in a biotechnological way and challenge your understanding of what you know.”

CATEGORY: Academics