The Global Health Design Academic Program is sponsored by the University of Michigan Global Health Design Initiative and provides students with an opportunity to address global health challenges through clinical immersion and design coursework. To date, more than 150 UM undergraduate students have performed front-end design work using design ethnography methodology at hospitals in Michigan, Ghana, Ethiopia, Kenya, Uganda, and China since 2008.

Program Description

The program consists of pre-immersion training in the Winter 2020 term, a 4-8 week clinical immersion in Ghana, Kenya, Rwanda, or Michigan in Summer 2020, and design coursework in the Fall 2020 term. During the Winter 2020 term, students study front-end design processes, complete thematic clinical readings, and learn about contextually relevant topics to prepare for their clinical immersion experience. Students then complete a 4-8 week clinical immersion over the summer where they gain practical hands-on experience identifying, defining, and/or assessing early-stage concept solutions for engineering design problems through direct interactions with healthcare providers and other stakeholders. When students return to campus in the fall semester, they enroll in design coursework (e.g., capstone design course, multidisciplinary design program course, independent study course, etc.) to develop and test concept solutions using the knowledge gained from their clinical immersion. Students may also have the opportunity to earn credit hours towards the Multidisciplinary Design Minor with Global Health Design Specialization or the Specialized Study Program in Global Health Design.

Information Sessions:

Monday, December 2nd, 6PM @ 3350 GG Brown Building
Tuesday, December 3rd, 5PM @ PIE Space (1st Floor Shapiro)



  • Minimum 2.85 GPA
  • Current U-M Ann Arbor students in good academic standing
  • Undergraduate students only
  • Sophomore or above**
  • Must demonstrate an ability to exercise initiative, independence, and good judgement**
  • There is no foreign language proficiency required for this program

*Class standing is determined by year of study, regardless of credit hours earned. GHDI strives to create multidisciplinary teams therefore students from all disciplines and departments are encouraged to apply. Past participants have come from a wide range of academic disciplines, including engineering, nursing, anthropology, and many others.
**The clinical immersion component of this program is highly independent compared to many other international education programs.

This co-creative design program with University of Michigan and project stakeholders has three components. Please read the following information carefully to best understand program requirements.

Winter Term

Pre-immersion Training and Coursework (Ann Arbor)

  • Completion of front-end design coursework through enrollment in MECHENG 499 (Section 001): Front-End Design (3 credits) or a non-credit bearing guided self-study (e.g., online modules or independendent readings/assignments)
      • W20 MECHENG 499 lectures will be held on Mondays and Wednesdays from 12-1:30pm in 2150 DOW.
      • Students are strongly encouraged to register for MECHENG 499 as soon as possible. Priority consideration will be given to applicants that have enrolled in MECHENG 499.
      • Course registration requires permission of the instructor. If you would like a place in this course please send a brief note to Dr. Shanna Daly (srdaly@umich.edu) describing why you would like to be in the course. In this message, please state that you are applying for the GHDI Academic Program as the reason for why you would like to be in the course.
    • If students are unable to enroll in MECHENG 499, students may complete this requirement through a non-credit bearing guided self-study (e.g., online modules or independendent readings/assignments).
  • Completion of guided self-study of a medical specialty related to the project theme (e.g., obstetrics and gynecology, emergency medicine)
  • Attendance at and preparation for pre-immersion meetings about contextually relevant topics and logistics (1-2 hours/week)
    • Note: If participants join a cohort after pre-immersion meetings have commenced, they may be asked to complete make-up assignments and/or attend additional meetings with GHDI instructional staff to discuss previously covered meeting topics.
  • In addition to the 3-credit MECHENG 499: Front End Design course, students can earn up to 2 credit hours of ENGR 355 or 455 for the pre-immersion work they complete during the W19 semester. Enrolling in the credit is optional. Students are permitted to enroll for the credit in future semesters.

Spring-Summer Term

Clinical Immersion and Design Ethnography Experience (Field Site)

  • 4-8 week experience at a clinical field site abroad between May-August
  • During the clinical immersion experience, participants will:
    • Develop and apply design ethnography skills
    • Observe and interview healthcare providers
    • Establish intercultural and interdisciplinary communication skills
    • Develop clinical literacy on a particular health care topic
    • Gain an understanding of the local and broader contexts of design
    • Define a problem and generate and/or refine user requirements and engineering specifications
    • Develop early-stage concept solutions
  • The scope of the front-end design work completed at the field site will vary by location and clinical theme, but all participants will utilize various design ethnography techniques such as formulating need statements, conducting observations and interviews, developing user requirements and engineering specifications, and performing a context assessment. General descriptions of the three most common types of projects are provided below:
    • Needs Finding (Duration: 6-8 weeks): Students perform design ethnography studies including observations, interviews, and focus groups in order to identify and define unmet clinical needs. Once identified, needs are prioritized and one or more needs are studied in depth through focused observations and interviews, benchmarking, literature review, and early-stage prototyping with the goal of defining user requirements and engineering specifications and developing preliminary concept solutions. Typically, this work is performed at a new or relatively new field site and is highly exploratory in nature.
    • Deep Dive (Duration: 4-8 weeks): Students begin their clinical immersion experience by conducting focused observations and interviews, or “deep dives”, in order to further define a select number of previously identified high priority clinical needs. Students utilize these direct interactions with stakeholders along with benchmarking, literature review, early-stage prototyping, and evaluation of relevant prior student concepts to refine and/or build upon existing user requirements and engineering specifications and develop new concept solutions. This type of project work is typically performed at an established field site that has supported previous GHDI student teams.
    • Problem-Solution Co-Evolution (Duration: 4-8 weeks): Students pursue one high priority clinical need that has been defined by previous student teams through clinical immersion and design coursework. During the clinical immersion experience, students simultaneously develop and refine both the definition of the clinical need and concept solutions informed by focused interviews and observations, while continuously iterating their analysis, synthesis, and evaluation processes between the two notional design ‘spaces’ – problem space and solution space (Dorst, Kees and Cross, Nigel (2001)). Students also explore local manufacturing capacity and processes, and other relevant implementation factors in order to inform the development of clinically-viable solutions.
  • The clinical immersion component of this program is remotely mentored by Global Health Design Initiative faculty and staff so student teams MUST exercise independence in travel.
  • Students can earn up to 3 credits of ENGR 355 or 455 for the deliverables from the clinical immersion and design ethnography experience over the summer. This credit is optional and may be distributed across future semesters.
  • Students may work in teams comprised of undergraduate students from local universities based near the field site (e.g., the University of Ghana in Accra, Ghana or Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology in Kumasi, Ghana)

Fall Term

Design Coursework (Ann Arbor)

  • Students will enroll in design coursework to develop and test concept solutions and/or design iterations using the knowledge gained from the clinical immersion experience.
  • Students with senior standing will enroll in one of the following design courses or a suitable alternate course (requires permission from Global Health Design Initiative faculty) in the upcoming Fall term.
    • MECHENG 450/ENGR 450: Design and Manufacturing III (4 credits)
      • MECHENG 450/ENGR 450 lecture, discussion, and recitation sections are typically held on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 1-5:30pm on North Campus.
  • Students with junior standing will enroll in 3-4 credits of ENGR 355/455: Multidisciplinary Design Program Course (3-4 credits) or a suitable alternate course (e.g., ME 390: Mechanical Engineering RISE Program) in the upcoming Fall term with permission from Global Health Design Initiative faculty.
  • Notes about course credits:
    • MECHENG 450/ENGR 450 can be taken as an engineering technical elective.
    • All non-mechanical engineering students enroll in ENGR 450. An override is required to register for ENGR 450.
    • Biomedical engineering students may substitute ENGR 450 for their senior biomedical design course with approval from their academic advisor.
    • Non-engineering students with senior standing are eligible to enroll in ENGR 450 or may choose to substitute a suitable alternate independent study course. Approval of an alternate course is mandatory by both GHDI and a faculty member from the student’s department before acceptance into the program is finalized.
    • Students that enroll in ENGR 355/455 or a suitable alternate design course must obtain approval from GHDI instructional staff prior to enrollment.
  • Students may optionally enroll in additional design coursework to continue the project in the following Winter term.

Selected students will be placed into cohorts. Each cohort will spend their clinical immersion and design ethnography experience at a specific field site with a designated clinical theme.

Potential summer 2020 field sites and clinical themes include:

Emergency Medicine (Needs Finding, Deep Dive, or Problem-Solution Co-Evolution)

  • Komfo Anokye Teaching Hospital – Kumasi, Ghana

Obstetrics and Gynecology (Deep Dive or Problem-Solution Co-Evolution)

  • Komfo Anokye Teaching Hospital – Kumasi, Ghana
  • Korle Bu Teaching Hospital – Accra, Ghana
  • St. Paul’s Hospital- Addis Ababa, Ethiopia

Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation

  • ​Consolata Hospital – Meru, Kenya

Primary Care (Deep Dive)

  • Hamilton Community Health Network – Flint, Michigan

Clinical Theme TBD (Needs Finding)

  • Rwanda (Field site TBD)

The credit earned from this experience can count towards the Multidisciplinary Design Minor with Global Health Design Specialization. Coursework may also count toward the Specialized Study Programs in Global Health Design. However, participating students are not required to enroll in these academic programs.



Past clinical immersion experiences have ranged between $2,750-4,500 USD.


All selected students will be awarded the Global Health Design Scholarship, a competitive award established by The Papadopoulos Family Foundation, Mike and Phyllis Korybalski, and The Joseph B. And Florence V. Cejka Foundation. Global Health Design Scholars will receive up to $4,500 USD to offset clinical immersion program costs. The monetary awards are intended to offset costs associated with clinical immersion travel (e.g., flight, ground transportation, housing, meals, visa application, vaccines, immunizations, etc.). Award amounts will be pro-rated based on field site location and total duration of the clinical immersion.

Passports and Visa

A valid passport is required for international travel. Passports must be valid for six months after the end of the program. Information about visas will be provided after acceptance.


Priority Application Deadline: December 4th, 2019 at 11:59PM

Priority Decision Deadline: December 31st, 2019

Interviews for priority admission will begin immediately following the priority deadline. Applications received after the priority deadline will be considered on a rolling basis. It is highly recommended that students submit their applications prior to the priority deadline.

Application Checklist

The following items are required to complete your application.


  • Curriculum Vitae or Resume Upload
  • Passport Information
  • Engineering – GHDI: Design for Global Health Academic Program Application (contact information for 2 references and 2 short essays)
  • Unofficial Transcript Upload

Signature Documents

  • Recording Release & Authorization Form
  • Records Release Notice
  • Travel Health Preparation Guide Review
  • Verification Statement


Students will be responsible for arranging their own accommodations. The GHDI instructional team can recommend hostel/guesthouse, student dormitory, and/or homestay options can be recommended based on prior student experiences.

Additional Information

The clinical immersion experience is remotely mentored by the Global Health Design Initiative faculty and staff by phone, video chat, and email contact. Applicants must be comfortable with navigating a new setting and independently making decisions while at field sites. Participants will work in teams of 2-4 with other GHDI academic program participants. Teams will be responsible for managing their time, arranging and using local accommodations and transportation, and maintaining contact with their mentors and family.

Contact Information

Please direct advising inquiries and program-specific questions to globalhealthdesign@umich.edu.

Interested in this Opportunity?

Applications for the Design for Global Health Academic Program are accepted online through MCompass. Follow this link to login and apply.

Apply for this opportunity

What to Know About The Global Health Design Initiative

Program History

Program History

GHDI has been working with stakeholders for more than eight years to identify and address global health design challenges. Learn more about our history and core values.

Learn More →
Project Outcomes

Project Outcomes

Since inception, we have worked on projects in maternal health, family planning, minimally invasive surgery, physical medicine and rehabilitation, and more. Explore our past and current projects.

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Get Involved

Get Involved

There are many ways to get involved in global health work with GHDI. From taking on a need statement, to participating in an opportunity, or becoming a partner.

Learn More →