10 Replies - 1613 Views - Last Post: 14 October 2008 - 01:42 AM

#1 LowWaterMark  Icon User is offline

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Walking the Path (vs Knowing the Path)

Post icon  Posted 30 August 2008 - 01:57 AM

I'm an MD (physician) teaching myself programming and web development to help get myself into the medical device industry. Unfortunately an MD is no longer enough. The medical device industry includes the companies that design and make stents, pacemakers and stuff like that (Medtronic, for example).

For starters, I've been studying first order logic and intro Web development as well as C and C++. I'm using Internet tutorials as well as the following:

"Introduction to Logic" by Harry J. Gensler
"How to Design Programs" by Felleisen, Krishnamurthi, et. al.
"Learning Web Design" by Jennifer Niederst Robbins
"The Principles of Beautiful Web Design" by Jason Beaird
"Absolute Beginner's Guide to C" by Greg Perry
"Accelerated C++" by Koenig and Moo
"The C++ Programming Language" by Bjarne Stroustrup

Don't fret, I'm very used to studying on parallel tracts. I'm giving myself eighteen months of full time self-directed study before reentering the market. My question to y'all is this:

What other skills and languages should I be considering?

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Replies To: Walking the Path (vs Knowing the Path)

#2 RodConnors  Icon User is offline

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Re: Walking the Path (vs Knowing the Path)

Posted 30 August 2008 - 06:16 AM

It all depends on what you want to use programming/web development for in the medical devices industry. I would think that what you are doing is ok if you want to get involved in back office or support services but not for something like R&D. I can get more info for you if you'd like. My cousin is a production manager for one of these companies in the UK.
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#3 Nova Dragoon  Icon User is offline

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Re: Walking the Path (vs Knowing the Path)

Posted 30 August 2008 - 08:10 AM

You need to have a very high mastery of zero defect practices. There have been many documented cases of people in your situation programming for medical devices, in which they had bugs in their software that was killing people.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Therac-25
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#4 KYA  Icon User is offline

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Re: Walking the Path (vs Knowing the Path)

Posted 30 August 2008 - 09:05 AM

I agree this is different then some software where there is room for error. It adds a kind of excitement to the job, no?
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#5 Nykc  Icon User is offline

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Re: Walking the Path (vs Knowing the Path)

Posted 30 August 2008 - 09:21 AM

The good news is that in a few months if done in windows you can always issue a patch. :)
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#6 carltech  Icon User is offline

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Re: Walking the Path (vs Knowing the Path)

Posted 18 September 2008 - 02:40 AM

I know when i go to the hospital i like to not die, especially if i'd wrote the program that that killed me.

This post has been edited by carltech: 18 September 2008 - 02:40 AM

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#7 LowWaterMark  Icon User is offline

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Re: Walking the Path (vs Knowing the Path)

Posted 18 September 2008 - 10:17 PM

Quote

You need to have a very high mastery of zero defect practices.
It is of great interest to me how all the responses to my question were tentative and politely discouraging. I guess that it does not go without saying that "zero defect practices" is something I live with and live by every day. The mantra of not making a mistake comes from my marrow.

Regarding medical devices, one reason that problems exist is that there is a disconnect between the R&D MDs that conceive of the devices, the engineers who draw up the plans and the computer scientists who design and hammer out the code. This is a longstanding issue in the industry.

I can't help but wonder what the hell happened to my profession to make it so untrusted. Not that it doesn't deserve it. Just for kicks, pretend that I treat every patient with a zero error premise and that it matters gravely to me. Not everyone doctor does (of course), but I do. Just accept that premise and put a one in the truth table.

Assuming this to be true, let me try and get this dialogue back on track in a productive fashion and ask the same question. Without returning to University (which is not a practical option), what suggestions would you offer? Please don't say, "quit".
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#8 RedSonja  Icon User is offline

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Re: Walking the Path (vs Knowing the Path)

Posted 14 October 2008 - 12:25 AM

I don't think they were being discouraging, maybe more disbelieving.

Writing serious software is not something you learn quickly or easily. Like studying medicine, maybe. I write safety critical software - this means, if I get it wrong, people die. This is not the area for beginners or amateurs. I am a first aider and no-one would expect me to do heart surgery.

By all means do a software course. Do it somewhere serious and get a certificate. If you try to learn software as a hobby, then I wish you a lot of fun with it. If you want to do it professionally then you have to go back to college. Sorry.

On the other hand, if you have studied medicine, you will find IT easier and a lot more fun. Certainly the company is never boring.

>What other skills and languages should I be considering?
First get some rock-solid programming experience under your belt. Then get into the safety critical stuff. Most of this is in the military or in space; I have no experience with medical stuff, presumably there is a huge field out there waiting for you. if you do not want to get into the programming itself, a lot of our effort is spent on quality and test, there are a lot of jobs here.

This post has been edited by RedSonja: 14 October 2008 - 12:31 AM

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#9 LowWaterMark  Icon User is offline

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Re: Walking the Path (vs Knowing the Path)

Posted 14 October 2008 - 12:51 AM

RedSonja,

Thanks for your reply. It was quite helpful. You caught me with insomnia at 3am EST so hopefully you are still on line.

I didn't mean to insinuate that I alone could take my idea, my "invention" from ideology to production. I understand that the business is much to complex for that. My deal is that I've seen too many great ideas from medical professionals lost because they didn't have the knowledge to see it through or even follow it. I've seen a lot of intellectual patents bartered off and mutate into something quite different. At best they sold it off to a "Medtronics" type of company who then did whatever they needed to to make something profitable. The end result is often far from the original conception.

I want to be able to exert some (not all) control over the R&D to keep the device in line with the purpose I have in mind. I'm not delusional - I know I don't have time in this life to become an expert programmer. I may lack the skills, who knows? But I do find software design fascinating and it dovetails with my interests in medicine.

Also, I just love to learn.

I suppose, I want to do as much as I can within reason. I wish I could go back to school, but that's just not a practical option.
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#10 RedSonja  Icon User is offline

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Re: Walking the Path (vs Knowing the Path)

Posted 14 October 2008 - 01:08 AM

I wonder. I have a pal who is a professor in Physics - some Uni with a weird name - Urbana-Champaign - and he has a company helping scientists convert ideas into products. Maybe your local Uni does something similar. Find a few profs and ask.
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#11 LowWaterMark  Icon User is offline

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Re: Walking the Path (vs Knowing the Path)

Posted 14 October 2008 - 01:42 AM

Yea, your pal's at a division of U. of Illinois. Good thought. Thanks for the idea.
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