Case Western offering master’s in wireless health

By: Neil Versel | Nov 14, 2012        

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Mehran Mehregany, West Wireless Health Institute

Need more proof that Southern California in general and San Diego in particular are the center of the wireless health universe? This fall, Case Western Reserve University’s Case School of Engineering launched a master’s program in wireless health, just months after graduating its first certificate class in the burgeoning field.

The thing is, Case has been a fixture in Cleveland for nearly a century and a half, but the wireless health program is in San Diego.

As the Plain Dealer reports this week, the program grew from a chance meeting between Mehran Mehregany, director of the Case School of Engineering’s fledgling San Diego operations, and a well-known figure in wireless health, Don Jones, then the vice president of health and life sciences at Qualcomm. Mehregany had set up shop on the West Coast in 2007 to act as a salesperson of sorts for the engineering school. Within six months, he found himself sitting next to Jones at a local event.

“[Jones] said he was interested in wireless health and I said, ‘I do sensors,’” Mehregany tells the Plain Dealer. “He said, ‘Come see me.’” By 2009, Mehregany was planning a program in wireless health, but took leave from the university in November of that year to become chief of engineering research at the West Wireless Health Institute – now known as the West Health Institute – in nearby La Jolla, Calif.

He returned to Case in August 2010, but not before launching West’s engineering program and overseeing that institute’s first product developments, including wireless fetal monitor Sense4Baby. He subsequently established the wireless health program, said to be the first graduate program anywhere dedicated to the subject.

Classes began online and in San Diego in August 2011 with 27 students enrolled in a graduate certificate program, covering either electrical or biomedical engineering. “Mostly they were corporate employees, in particular Qualcomm,” Mehregany tells MobiHealthNews in an e-mail.

That first class graduated in May. The inaugural master’s class convened this school year with 23 students, many of them carry-overs from the certificate track, since the credits count toward a master’s of science degree, according to Mehregany. Case will award its first MS in wireless health next spring.

This year, Qualcomm and Qualcomm Life awarded Case an $80,000 grant to promote the program. The telecommunications company also is providing classroom space on its campus.

The Plain Dealer reports that Mehregany is looking to build a research operation in wireless health for the university and possibly expand the program to other cities. The newspaper named Minneapolis as one possible site.