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Rayza De Souza
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5 minutes with Medical Science student Rayza De Souza

23 September 2019
Taking healthcare solutions to New York
Rayza De Souza shares how her health design project at Westmead led her all the way to the Biodesign Challenge in New York.

Earlier this year, Rayza De Souza, a third year Bachelor of Science (Medical Science) student, explored the creative side of health at the Westmead campus in a multidisciplinary project unit (DECO3551 - Design Computing General Elective A) with the School of Architecture, Design and Planning.

In June, Rayza and her project team from the unit presented their innovative STI testing kit at the international Biodesign Challenge in New York. We caught up with Rayza to chat about how a Bachelor of Science (Medical Science) at the University of Sydney led her to solve a real-world healthcare problem.

What interested you about this project unit at Westmead?

As a Medical Science student, I was attracted to this unit because it was so different from other electives and assessments. It was an opportunity to use my own knowledge and skills in a more practical way. Funnily enough, even though all my fellow Medical Science students in our project team are also neuroscience majors, we didn’t do anything related to neuroscience!

The best thing about this project was getting to work with people from other areas and being able to solve real problems together.

What was your team’s project and solution?

Our goal was to increase the accessibility of STI diagnosis in order to reduce the prevalence of STIs. We wanted to create a convenient solution that would also reduce the stigma associated with STIs and encourage people to engage with the healthcare system. There are two types of tests currently available: lab tests, which are highly accurate but slow, and rapid tests which are more convenient but unreliable. We wanted to solve these issues by creating a rapid and reliable test that also tests for multiple STIs.

Our group create a prototype device called ‘Strawberry’, a multi STI testing kit you can do at home and at your own convenience.

We spoke to experts at the Westmead campus and beyond, conducted focus groups and met with students from different backgrounds.

What was it like working in an interdisciplinary project team?

It was amazing. I learned a lot from the design students on my project team and it was a good way to see how other people are using design in a medical context. I definitely think this unit is going to make me more employable – the skills I learned are really helpful for the area I want to work in.

I think designers are integral to solving medicine’s problems in the future. If we collaborate across disciplines, there is so much more we will be able to solve using everyone’s perspectives. Our project was really simple, but if we didn’t have the design students to look at the problem in a different way, we wouldn’t have created this solution.

What was your experience attending the 2019 Biodesign Challenge?

I had an amazing time at the Biodesign Challenge and felt extremely humbled to have competed at such an event. My favourite aspect of the challenge was not only being able to present our idea to esteemed experts in science and design, but also being able to interact with them at the exhibition afterwards. We had such a great reception from judges, industry and other students that it completely blew us away. This is what really made it such an incredible experience and one I'm sure we will never forget. It also didn't hurt that we were able to do this in New York of all places - and exhibited at the renowned Parsons School of Design.

What is it like studying at Westmead?

I want to be a doctor so it was really nice to study at a hospital! Being at the Westmead Precinct gave our project a real-world edge – I felt like I was solving a problem affecting real people. 

Studying at Westmead also meant we had access to clinicians and professionals working in the field who shared their own experiences with us. It was really valuable to speak to people who are there every day and know what real problems are. They gave us great input into what works and what doesn’t.

What's next?

I plan to undertake studies in Medicine in 2021. This project unit has opened up so many opportunities for me that I didn’t expect. Next year I plan to do Honours in Biodesign at Westmead.