When Charles Larson and his University of Alberta team started The 3D Heart Project, he knew it’d be an excellent training tool. The project involved printing 3D models of pediatric patients’ hearts along with 3D technology that shows the inner workings of the organ.
Larson didn’t anticipate the impact the technology would also have on patients and their families. The first model he created was for a little boy who would ask his parents questions every night about his heart problems. Larson’s team created a 3D model that was a mix between an anatomically correct version of the boy’s heart and a Star Wars’ TIE fighter.
“The questions stopped and he could be more focused on his future. That’s when I realized, wow, this could be really powerful,” says Larson.
When the University of Alberta closed at the height of the pandemic, Larson’s team repurposed its skills by designing and printing face shields. It teamed up with Karma Medical and, with the help of 150 volunteers, crowdfunding and grants, donated over 2,000 face shields to individuals in the medical field.
Larson’s also passionate about ensuring that medical professionals feel good about their work — he and his wife created a system where staff nominate colleagues for the positive work rather than just report failings.
“Our thinking was: How do you build great teams? You need innovators who are excited and come up with new ideas to improve care.”