Prof. Dr. Karsten Seidl
Hans-Jürgen Schmitz, Martin Wolczyk / Adobe Firefly (Composing)
2024-01-01 VDE dialog

The ultimate service to humanity

Biomedical technology: where medicine meets engineering. The specialist society VDE DGBMT and its chair, Prof. Karsten Seidl, help make sure this interaction goes smoothly.

What is the DGBMT?

The DGBMT is the German Society for Biomedical Engineering within VDE. It’s Europe’s largest scientific and technical society in the field of biomedicine. What makes it special is the highly interdisciplinary structure it has at the intersection of life science and the science of technology. We have medicine and biology on the one side, and engineering and physical science on the other. Plus, we have clinical practitioners and companies on board.

When was the DGBMT founded, and why?

The DGBMT was founded in 1961 when a group of scientists got together to drive what was still a young scientific field and simply talk to each other about their work. After Germany’s reunification, they merged with an association from the former East Germany. We became part of VDE in 2001, which makes us the youngest of its societies.

What topics does the DGBMT cover? And what exactly is biomedical technology?

Medical technology has always been about applying technology to help patients. The “bio” in biomedical technology expands this to all biology, or life science. For outsiders, biomedical technology might sound a bit dated; buzzwords like “e-health” or “digital health” seem more modern these days. But these are really subtopics of biomedical technology.

Video interview with Prof. Dr. Karsten Seidl

2023-12-18 Video

“As a volunteer community with an international organization like VDE at our side, we’re right where we need to be.”

Watch video

Give us a picture of what your society’s work is like.

The DGBMT is organized into expert committees that regularly meet and discuss relevant topics like magnetic methods in medicine, biosignals, neuroprosthetics and smart implants. In other words, we look at various physical mechanisms, as well as topics related to systems and data. We also cover ethical aspects of medical technology and society. While these expert groups used to be fixed entities, I expect that we’ll work on even more of a project basis in the future and also try to reach scientists outside the world of VDE with a call for experts.

What are the most important topics of the future for you?

Digitalization is the main area on our mind at the moment. That includes topics like integration, interoperability, the Internet of Things and artificial intelligence. In the DGBMT, we look at the application and integration of digital technologies in authorized medical products. Another trend alongside digitalization is the biologization of medical technology; in other words, the interaction with living material, such as the 3D printing of cells.

What particular achievements can the DGBMT look back on?

The DGBMT always manages to make its contribution and drive progress. Ambient assisted living comes to mind, for example, which is about enabling elderly people and those with a disability to live at home with the help of digital technologies. The DGBMT has certainly made a significant contribution here.

Are you succeeding in getting your voice heard by policymakers?

Another special thing about the DGBMT is that we have three places we can reach out to: the health ministry, the research ministry and the economic ministry. It’s always been a challenge to get them all on the same page, but it’s been particularly difficult in recent times; things really have changed. We still have good contacts, but continue to see that it’s not getting any easier – for example, when our volunteer community is expected to give near-instant feedback on new legislative proposals.

How serious is the shortage of skilled labor for you?

It’s affecting us right across the board, from healthcare to academia to the corporate sector. The struggle is everywhere. When a hospital hardly has enough staff to provide day-to-day care, for example, its medics naturally have less time to get involved in academic projects.

How can we motivate young people to study technical subjects in general, and medical technology in particular?

The only way to attract more young people is to tell them from a very early stage about what we actually do. The younger generation especially is thinking more about how they can do something meaningful. And that’s exactly what biomedical technology is. It’s the ultimate service to humanity. We have to show why the world needs this technology: a PCR test to fight a pandemic, a neuro-implant to help Parkinson’s or Alzheimer’s patients – countless possibilities like these! Young women, who we urgently need to study technical subjects, are particularly open to these arguments, by the way. It’s no coincidence that our discipline isn’t a purely male domain; the proportion of women is over 50%. That sets us apart from all the other engineering sciences.

Why is the DGBMT a specialist society within VDE?

The DGBMT has been part of VDE for 22 years, and both sides have benefited. VDE and VDE Health certainly profit from our scientific expertise and reputation. In an era marked by demographic change and an aging society, there’s a lot of innovation in healthcare, along with a lot of money. On the other hand, the DGBMT and the other VDE societies are “only” volunteer-run expert networks. With a strong, international organization like VDE at our side, we can have much more of an impact. In that sense, we’re right where we need to be!

How is the DGBMT contributing to an “e-dialistic future”?

Biomedical technology is a good example of what an e-dialistic future can mean. After all, we develop technical solutions that enable healthy aging and affordable healthcare.

Interview by Martin Schmitz-Kuhl

Since October 2018, Prof.Karsten Seidl has been head of the Health business unit at the Fraunhofer Institute for Microelectronic Circuits and Systems (IMS) and a professor of micro- and nanosystems for medical technology at the University of Duisburg-Essen. He has chaired the DGBMT since September 2023.

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