Amalie Bjørndal Robl is developing an intravascular blood pressure monitor together with her study group. The idea is to be able to measure blood pressure continuously during an operation, so that the surgeon can respond immediately if an acute, potentially life-threatening situation occurs.
"Blood pressure monitors currently don’t measure frequently enough to give an immediate signal. And every second counts in a life-threatening situation. That’s why we’ve decided to develop this equipment, and hopefully it will help both patients and doctors in the future," she says.
Amalie is on her third semester in the Healthcare Technology programme at Aarhus University. She has almost always known she would do something in the healthcare sector, and it is no coincidence that she ended up on this programme.
Far too much of her own youth was spent with doctors and at hospitals around Denmark. From as young as 3-4 years, she had to visit doctors again and again because she was "born wrong", as she puts it:
"Two things were wrong. My thigh bones turned inwards, and my hips turned outwards. It was difficult to see when I was small, so it took a long time before they found out what was wrong."
It was not until she was 12-13 years old that a medical specialist discovered there was something wrong with Amalie’s hips, and she was recommended for immediate hip surgery. This experience made a big impression on her and would have a major influence on her later life.
"It was the first time I felt that someone took me seriously. I remember especially the nurses, who after the operation came up to me and said 'OK, now that the doctors have fixed you up, let’s take care of you’. It warmed me that someone finally thought about me and talked to me as a person, and not just as a problem that had to be solved. And it dawned on me that nurses actually have a very big and important role in patient care. Ever since then, I thought I’d be a nurse myself," she says.
Amalie had to go through three further surgical procedures before she had been "corrected". Her femur bones have been turned outwards by 25 degrees, and her hips have been put into place with reverse PAO surgery. Amalie’s last operation was two years ago.
Amalie was born and raised in Egå, north of Aarhus. She went to Sølyst School and later to Egaa Gymnasium, where she opted for natural sciences. She had always been good at maths, physics and chemistry, and even though she considered taking music at upper secondary school, ultimately her choice fell on science.
"My big sister is studying physics and she’s working on her PhD right now. Her choices have always influenced what I decide. That was probably what made the difference. We had had the same courses at secondary school and the same teachers, and she has always said, 'This is really exciting, you really have something to look forward to', and I think that’s had an impact on me," she says.
(The article continues below the image)
Her experience with the healthcare system meant that she has wanted to study something within health science for many years. She has thought about everything from becoming a doctor or nurse to physiotherapy and various engineering programmes in the health field.
"Both my parents work in offices, and I've always thought that at least I didn’t want to go there," she says, and continues:
"I want to help people. This was the most important factor in my choice of study. And I want to have close contact with people, so I can see that I’m actually making a difference. That's why I thought nursing was an obvious choice. But we’re hearing so much about poor working conditions, night shifts and low pay at the moment, so I started thinking about whether I might be able to move in a direction where I could maybe help both patients and staff."
In her sabbatical year during the Covid lockdown, Amalie started looking at what she wanted to study. She went through all of the study programmes on the Aarhus University website and she also applied for interesting programmes at the University of Copenhagen and the Technical University of Denmark. Every time she came across something interesting, she noted it down, and finally she had a long list she could start sorting.
"I realised quite quickly that there was no way I was going to be a doctor, because I simply didn't have the grades," she laughs.
During her sabbatical year, she also participated in the student-for-a-day event at Healthcare Technology at Aarhus University:
“It was brilliant! It was great to join a class and be a fly on the wall during a normal teaching session. I joined a third semester class. When I saw that they were having programming, I thought again about whether this was really something for me, because it looked very difficult. I'd never had anything like that before at all. But today I actually think it’s really cool. I've got the bit between my teeth now, and I really want to develop software."
Amalie started at Healthcare Technology after the summer holidays in 2021. She clearly remembers her first day when she stepped into the classroom.
"There were surprisingly many girls! I didn’t expect that at all. You have certain preconceptions that engineers are just boys and programming nerds. But about 75 per cent of my class are girls. I really didn't see that coming," she says.
Student life was also a surprise for Amalie. The teaching is mostly classroom teaching or group work with different projects, and it’s very easy to join in all the social events going on, she says.
Healthcare Technology is a 3.5-year Bachelor of Engineering degree programme, and after that, Amalie plans to continue studying for a master's degree in Biomedical Technology. Time will tell what happens after that.
"Healthcare Technology is a very broad programme and there are many opportunities to work on a wide range of things when you’re finished. I’m still hoping to work with, and for other people, and I'm very conscious of doing something that makes sense and makes a difference for others. I constantly have my own experience at the back of my mind, so I really hope that I can help both patients and healthcare professionals: there’s so much to be done."