Integrating Toy Design and Medicine

Suzy the Surgeon:  A cardiac surgeon action hero inspired by “Rosie the Riveter”. This action hero was designed to encourage young girls in pursuing a career in medicine.


Master of Industrial Design Thesis Abstract:

Integrating Industrial Design and Cardiac Surgery: Changing the World One Toy at a Time

Background:  There are many educational resources to teach the adult population about cardiovascular disease and living a “heart healthy” lifestyle; however, there are few resources that target the pediatric population. In fact, many of the “pediatric” educational resources are intended for the parents or guardians rather than the child.

Objectives:  To integrate toy design and cardiac surgery to build educational toys that will teach cardiac anatomy, introduce medical terminology, discuss the importance of cardiac health and encourage a cardiac healthy lifestyle for the pediatric population. The second objective is to enhance the doctor-patient relationship using innovative ideas and creativity.

Methods:  The research was divided into five mini projects and focuses primarily on the design process. After formulating the design problem and creating a list of objectives, background research on the target audience was conducted. The next step involved brainstorming ideas followed by examining the pre-existing educational resources. Prototypes of the selected toy ideas were created. Prototype testing was performed throughout the design process in the form of workshops with the target audience. Informal feedback was acquired to guide the development of the design solution.

Results:  Since once of the methods that children learn is through play, a series of toys were created to explore cardiac health. Low cost and sustainability were key factors in the design and resulted in paper-based toys. Overall, the toys were very well received, especially Doctors Against Tragedies which has grown into a multidisciplinary non-profit organization. MEDCRAFT on the other hand was not successful. It did not meet the low-cost objective and unfortunately, there was no funding to pursue it further.

Conclusions:  The design process used for each mini project resulted in unique educational resources in the form of toys. The toys were well received and the feedback from the target audience was overall very positive. Future research involves examining the level of knowledge translation through play with the created educational resources.  By introducing the importance of cardiac health at an early age, a possible long-term outcome is a decrease in the incidence of cardiac disease among the adult population.

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