Prescription for a career

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 09 April, 2005, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 09 April, 2005, 12:00am

BIOMEDICAL TECHNOLOGY is at the forefront of the modern medical revolution. With its brave new world of life-saving implants, cosmetic surgery, cell research and medical-imaging, it undoubtedly offers a bright future for any graduates in the field.

'As the population ages and becomes more health and image conscious, the discipline will become increasingly important,' said Arthur Mak, chairman of the Biomedical Advisory Panel at the Hong Kong Institution of Engineers (HKIE) and chair professor for Rehabilitation Engineering at the Hong Kong Polytechnic University (PolyU).

Underlining this rapid growth, the number of biomedical engineering jobs in the United States is forecast to rise twice as fast as the overall average, with more than 10,000 jobs expected in the sector by 2012.

'This will certainly have an impact on the economy in Hong Kong, where it should develop at around the same pace,' Professor Mak said.

The HKIE has already set up a biomedical engineering subcommittee. The government's Innovation and Technology Commission has also earmarked medical devices and diagnostics as a special area for receiving financial support over the next few years.

The recently created Hong Kong Medical and Health Care Devices Manufacturers Association estimates that 40 local companies are now in the business. Some have switched from other industries, such as making household appliances. 'That number will only grow,' Professor Mak said.

In particular, he sees increased demand for health-care technology for use at home.

'Hospitals are costly and there is a global trend for home-based care, but most technology today is designed for trained clinicians in hospitals,' he said. 'The world needs robust, reliable and safe technology and devices that can be used at home. Biomedical engineering is rising to the challenge, with great potential to benefit the community.'

Responding to the demand for more skilled professionals in the field, PolyU and the University of Hong Kong have launched relevant undergraduate courses since 2000. About 50 qualified students graduate every year.