January 17, 2013

2 Min Read
University of Michigan Offering First Course on Medical Device Security

 The University of Michigan (UMich; Ann Arbor, MI) is now about a week into its course offering – Medical Device Security – the first college-level course of its kind to tackle the subject matter. Taught by professor Kevin Fu, whose research background extends into medical devices, healthcare, and computer science, the course is designed to give students concepts and skills they will need to create safer and more trustworthy software-based medical devices.

For Fu the demand for the course was demonstrated not just in major news headlines covering medical device security, but in the overall tone of the industry. “Manufacturers and regulators bemoan the difficulties of hiring medical device engineers with backgrounds in computer security. Such graduates are hard to find, but I intend to change that.”


Prof. Kevin Fu

He says though it is often discussed, medical device security doesn't become an action item. “There's a lot of talk, a lot of handwringing, but I saw very few constructive things going forward,” Fu says. “My intent isn't to make this an exclusive course. Ultimately, I'd like to see other universities and manufacturers teaching their own version in-house.”


The course is divided into major sections covering computer and systems engineering, human factors, and regulatory policy. “It's a computer security course, but security in isolation doesn't have a whole lot of meaning so I teach in the context of the other properties that are common to the medical device manufacturing space like safety, effectiveness, and dependability,” Fu says. The course also features a heavy emphasis on writing (prose not computer code) with students presenting essays that make factual, technical arguments on various device security issues. The goal is to produce engineers who can clearly convey their ideas to management.


Still early into the semester, Fu says it's too early to say whether the course will become a regular offering. “I'm optimistic it will be offered regularly. But this is an experiment to see how things go. Every class has ended late because the discussion, not from me but from the students, just keeps going. So I'm optimistic because the students are very engaged and inquisitive about these kinds of problems.”


With device manufacturers already expressing interest in the course and corresponding materials (some have even offered to send guest speakers to the class), Fu has ongoing plans to replicate the course for universities and manufacturers. This May he'll be replicating a version of the course in Ann Arbor for the manufacturing community. Those interested are also able to view the course syllabus and download a coursepack.


-Chris Wiltz is the Associate Editor of MD+DI

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