Dr. June Madete: Encouraging the next generation of Women in Biomedical Engineering

Medtech innovators rely heavily on biomedical engineering to come up with solutions that improve the management, diagnosis, and treatment of diseases. Many notable achievements have been in the engineering of synthetic body replacements, regenerating new body materials using biological building blocks and engineering medical systems that are replicable beyond the human scope.

As the world moves to become more gender-inclusive the biomedical engineering industry has not been left behind. In our first interview for the March into Woman History Series, we feature Dr. June Madete a biomedical engineer with special interest and expertise in collections, analysis and interpretation of gait data using various motion analysis software and hardware. She shares with us her journey as a biomedical engineer in Kenya.

Who is Dr. June Madete:
I am an enthusiastic and dynamic engineer, researcher and senior lecturer, with over 13 years of experience in biomedical engineering training and research. My specialty is biomechanics; looking at the body as a machine. I received my Ph.D. in medical engineering specializing in Biomechanics, motion capture, imaging studies, and patient data collection and I seek to develop biomedical engineering in Africa through knowledge and skill transfer

What inspired you to take up a career in Biomedical Engineering?
At first, I wanted to become a surgeon but I did not manage to get admitted into medicine. This is when I decided to do something affiliated with the area. At the time it was a new field but I loved it immediately and was sure this is what I wanted to study.

What is the best part of being a woman in the MedTech Industry?
It's really brilliant getting to be the one to encourage the next generation of women coming into the industry, as a male-dominated field, I like that I am in the picture to show them that they are also welcome.

What are some personal challenges you have faced as you try to grow as a Biomedical Engineer
Being a new field, trying to start it in Kenya has been challenging, there is no known scheme of service for a recent graduate in Biomedical Engineering and the boards and the policies in place in the field are also not clear as to what a BME is.

From your own experience do you think there has been an improvement in gender inclusivity in the Biomedical Engineering field in Africa?
The field has always been attractive to women from an early age, there is a high admission rate compared to other fields. I suppose it is the Biomedical aspect that makes it attractive to them. I think it can improve but we started on the right foot.

How can we be more gender-inclusive as we try to engineer an innovative end to end health solutions in the ecosystem?
I think most of us as in the industry are free Sensitive to the gender balance and a lot is being done to be inclusive. We could try and start from an early age and encourage innovation from an early age and that will cascade to the higher levels and we will have more women innovating.

What opportunities are available for women looking to enter the biomedical engineering space?
I think the question is not what is available, all are available, every opportunity available to men is available to women, it's just for them to present themselves and be competitive enough to enter the space. It is my role and the role of other women in the industry to mentor and encourage those coming into the field to give them a chance.

Tell us about the work you do at the African Biomedical Engineering Consortium?
I coordinate the activities that are done by the universities and students from the Consortium.
African Biomedical Engineering Consortium (ABEC) is a consortium of universities and their partners that was founded in August 2012 whose main objective is to create a platform for building and nurturing academic, technical, innovation and entrepreneurship competencies needed to develop a robust and dynamic biomedical device sector for improved healthcare.

With this in mind, ABEC has a mission to serve as a multi-disciplinary focal point for articulating healthcare challenges, promoting excellence in human capital development and research, encouraging entrepreneurship among students and researchers, mobilizing resources and stimulating partnerships among key stakeholders in medical devices sector.