2024 Applications are now open! Please click this link to apply.


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 2024 term, an 8 week clinical immersion in Ghana in Summer 2024, and design coursework in the Fall 2024 term. During the Winter 2024 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 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.



  • Minimum 3.0 GPA
  • Current U-M Ann Arbor students in good academic standing
  • Undergraduate students only, with either junior or senior standing in Fall 2024 *
  • Must demonstrate an ability to exercise initiative, independence, and good judgment **

* 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 and travel component of this program is highly independent compared to many other 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 2024: Pre-immersion Training and Coursework (Ann Arbor)

Pre-immersion design training and coursework includes:

  • Completion of front-end design coursework through the completion of a curated set of online learning blocks through the Socially Engaged Design Academy (SEDA) (https://csed.engin.umich.edu/online-learning/). 
  • Completion of guided self-study of a medical specialty related to the project theme (e.g., obstetrics and gynecology, physical medicine and rehabilitation, emergency medicine)
  • Attendance at and preparation for pre-immersion meetings about contextually relevant topics and logistics (1-2 hours/week)
  • Students can earn up to 2 two credit hours of ENGR 355 or 455 for the pre-immersion work they complete during the W2024 semester. This credit is optional and may be distributed across future semesters.

Additionally, prior to the conclusion of the Winter 2024 semester, participants must complete the following pre-program preparations:

May 2024: Pre-departure Training (Ann Arbor)

Participants may be asked to participate in a one-week intensive pre-immersion training (commencing in May), engaging in a range of topics relevant for the clinical immersion: 

  • Applied front-end design training and practice
  • Additional discussion of medical specialty related to the project theme (e.g., obstetrics and gynecology, physical medicine and rehabilitation, emergency medicine)
  • Preparation for cultural context (e.g., country-specific customs, equitable collaboration, etc.)

Spring/Summer 2024: Clinical Immersion and Design Ethnography Experience (Field Site)

  • 8 week experience at a clinical field site in Ghana between May and August 2024
  • 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
    • Explore 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: 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: 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: 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 three credit hours 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 near the field site (e.g., the University of Ghana in Accra, Ghana or Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology in Kumasi, Ghana)
  • Students will work in teams and are expected to treat others respectfully and professionally.


Fall 2024: Design Coursework (Ann Arbor)

  • Students will enroll in a follow-on course to develop and test concept solutions and implementation considerations using the knowledge gained from the clinical immersion experience.
  • Students with senior standing may enroll in one of the following design courses or a suitable alternate course (requires permission from Global Health Design Initiative faculty) in Fall 2024:
    • MECHENG 450 / ENGR 450: Capstone Design and Manufacturing III (4 credits)
      • Mechanical engineering students with senior standing and who have completed all prerequisites for MECHENG 450 will enroll in MECHENG 450 during Fall 2024. 
      • Students interested in completing the MECHENG 450 learning blocks and contributing to a MECHENG 450 project as an extended team member will enroll in ENGR 450 during Fall 2024. ENGR 450 co-meets with MECHENG 450. 
      • MECHENG 450 / ENGR 450 lecture, discussion, and recitation sections are typically held on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 12-4 pm on North Campus. 
    • Suitable alternate course
      • Students that are not eligible for MECHENG 450 or do not want to take ENGR 450 will work with the GHDI instructional team to find a suitable follow-on course that applies their disciplinary knowledge to continue driving forward their project identified from the clinical immersion experience (e.g., MECHENG 490 independent study with Prof. Julia Kramer and/or Prof. Kathleen Sienko).
      • Approval of an alternate course is mandatory by both GHDI and a faculty member or academic advisor from the student’s department before acceptance into the program is finalized.
  • 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 Fall 2024 with permission from Global Health Design Initiative faculty.
  • Notes about course credits:
    • MECHENG 450 / ENGR 450 can be taken as an engineering technical elective.
    • Biomedical engineering students may substitute ENGR 450 for their senior biomedical design course with approval from their academic advisor.
    • All non-mechanical engineering students will work with the GHDI team to find a suitable follow-on course (e.g., ENGR 490 or alternate). 
  • Students may optionally enroll in additional design coursework to continue the project during 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 2024 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

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.


Scholarships and Funding

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 funding to offset costs associated with clinical immersion travel (e.g., flight, ground transportation, housing, meals, visa application, vaccines, immunizations, etc.). 


Students will be responsible for arranging their own accommodations for the one week pre-immersion training in Ann Arbor in May. 

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

Passport 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 6, 2023 at 11:59 pm

Priority Decision Deadline: January 16, 2024 at 11:59 pm 

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. 

Additional Information

Admitted students will be required to complete all pre-immersion training and assignments; have good standing in the program; and sign an intellectual property agreement granting a nonexclusive right, with the right to sublicense, to the Regents of the University of Michigan for the purpose of furthering the global health mission. Each student retains his or her ownership rights in project inventions and may commercialize his or her rights in project inventions in any manner.

Application Checklist

The following items are required to complete your application.

  • Curriculum Vitae or Resume upload
  • Unofficial transcript upload
  • Contact information for 2 references (no letters required)
  • 2 short responses:
    • Short response 1: Describe how an international clinical immersion experience may impact your design of a global health technology. (Please limit your response to 400 words or less.)
    • Short response 2: Describe any skills, perspectives, and/or prior experiences you will bring to the design of global health technologies and a multidisciplinary design team. (Please limit your response to 400 words or less.)

Contact Information

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

To learn more about the Global Health Design Initiative and past projects, visit globalhealthdesign.engin.umich.edu

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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.

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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 →