Main Content:

Ben Salatin
Academic Background:
Mechanical Engineering
Full Job Title: Clinical Rehabilitation Engineer
Employer/Name of Company: US Dept of Veterans Affairs, Albuquerque hospital
Graduation Year from MSRT: 2011

1. What was your educational/professional background before coming to the MSRT program?

I obtained an Associates Degree in Mechanical Design Technology and a Bachelor’s Degree in Mechanical Engineering Technology from Old Dominion University. During my Associates degree, I worked part time as a CAD drafter for a shipbuilding company and a manufacturing company. 

2. How has your career progressed since you graduated from the MSRT program?

In 2011 I obtained a position as one of 3 rehab engineers working within the US Dept of Veterans Affairs' new Polytrauma Assistive Technology Centers, which were developed in consultation with Dr. Mark Schmeler at Pitt. I worked at the Richmond, VA Veterans hospital for five years helping to develop the program there and then took a new position as the Rehab Engineer for a new SCI/D focused Assistive Technology Program at the Albuquerque, NM Veterans Hospital SCI/D Center. 

During my time at the Richmond VA, I pioneered the use of 3D printing in the clinic to collaboratively design custom assistive technology with Veterans and their therapists. This clinical experience led me to explore how 3D printing was being used in other areas of health care. I recognized that the VA has the opportunity to become a leader in the innovative use of 3D printing within health care but that there was minimal understanding within the agency from top to bottom as to the technology’s practical uses within health care. I created an internal 3D printing user group of members from prosthetics, rehabilitation, radiology, surgery, engineering and VA headquarters to help further staff education within the VA and support wider implementation of 3D printing across disciplines.   

3. In your current employment, what are your duties and responsibilities?

As a Clinical Rehab Engineer for the SCI/D dept, I serve as the technology expert on a multidisciplinary rehabilitation therapy team throughout the complete service delivery process for a wide variety of assistive technology to include mobility (manual and powered), computer access, alternative communication, smart home control, cognitive aids, adaptive sports and adaptive driving. I work with the therapists on an as needed basis, being available to join an ongoing appointment to provide technical assistance and advice to the Veteran and therapist. I brainstorm assistive tech strategies and solutions with therapists. Additionally, some of the assistive tech solutions require some custom fabrication which I complete through a variety of means including 3D design and 3D printing. I setup and maintain the bedside ECU systems for the 30 bed SCI/D dept, working with nursing to configure a Veteran’s access method to the ECU. I assist with the assistive tech program development through demo equipment recommendation and acquisition, clinical space planning and policy/procedure development. 

4. What other interesting activities, committees or projects have you participated in? 

Beyond my official duties and responsibilities, I have done or I am currently doing the following: 

  • Created a VA internal collaboration web portal for sharing digital fabrication assets, ideas and files
  • Created a national group of clinical subject matter experts in digital fabrication to support national implementation and knowledge sharing
  • Awarded $10k pilot grant via VA Innovators Network for 3D printed upper extremity orthotic study
  • Serve as advisor to local Innovation, Reliability, Informatics & Improvement Service
  • Serve as digital fabrication subject matter expert to VA Innovators Network
  • Serve as a national point of contact advising medical staff and VA Central Office on digital fabrication applications
  • Publicize the VA’s digital fabrication resources internally through national webinars & networking
  • Develop contacts at DoD, FDA, NIH, industry, academia and private health care for knowledge sharing
  • Publicize VA’s digital fabrication efforts externally via writing and speaking
  • Serve on Medical Additive Manufacturing Workgroup created by Society of Manufacturing Engineers
  • Serve on federal government Interagency Maker Working Group