“Quite frankly, the largest obstacle is the simply convincing older practitioners that 3D printing is more than just a fad. Those who are not using this every day simply saw this as an inaccurate hobby. My team and I worked hard to insert ourselves in the pre-procedural planning in complex cases which allowed us to show exactly how useful this technology is. All it took was a few “Aha” moments where individuals held the models and suddenly understood the anatomy for them to be sold on its efficacy.”
Dr. Sanjay Sinha is an Interventional Pediatric Cardiologist and Assistant Professor of Pediatrics at UC Irvine and UCLA Mattel Children’s Hospital. He completed his medical school at the University of Arizona college of medicine and then moved to Los Angeles for his training. He completed his pediatric residency, pediatric cardiology fellowship, and extra interventional procedural training at UCLA Mattel Children’s hospital. His research interests are in transcatheter valve replacement in congenital heart disease. He has worked extensively in the area of 3D modeling for both surgical and interventional procedural planning and is currently the co-founder of the Congenital and Structural 3D Printing Program at UCLA. Dr. Sinha will be a speaker at our upcoming Los Angeles event.
Jenny: When was the first encounter you had with 3D printing? What was that experience like? What were you thinking at that moment?
Sanjay: My first encounter with 3D printing was being called into my mentor’s office to prepare for a case. He asked me how I thought we should proceed with planning for a complex intervention in a patient with complex anatomy. I remember telling him that it would be great if we could just hold the patients’ heart in our hands and see how the procedure would go. Then he pulled out a hard cast clear 3D print of the patient’s heart. Mind. Blown.
Jenny: What inspired you to start your journey in 3D printing (bio-fabrication/bio-printing)?
Sanjay: I started my career in 3D printing out of a need. I continuously saw the possible application in every patient that reviewed. In congenital interventional cardiology knowing the exact anatomy is essential in being able to successfully implant a stent, place a trans-catheter valve, or occlude a defect. You usually only get one chance, and that’s it. To me, it always made sense to change that paradigm, and have a model where you could refine your approach, try different methods on the “benchtop” with no life on the line, so that by you were implanting it in a patient, it was as if you had done it many times before.
Jenny: Who inspired you the most along this journey in 3D printing?
Sanjay: I have been blessed with excellent and supportive mentorship in my division. Dr. Daniel Levi has taken the time to train me for the last 9 years and, in fact, was the first person to show me a 3D model. Dr. Jamil Aboulhosn has been integral in my training, and was the first person to say “If you want to start a 3D program, I will support you 100%.” He even gave me a printer to place in my office to learn the basics of extruder type printing.
Jenny: What motivates you the most for your work?
Sanjay: I, like most of my colleagues, are motivated by the need to do better for, and be better for our patients. The stakes are extremely high in our field, and we need to be at the cutting edge to maximize our ability to treat these patients.
Jenny: What is/are the biggest obstacle(s) in your line of work? If you have conquered them, what were your solutions?
Sanjay: Quite frankly, the largest obstacle is the simply convincing older practitioners that 3D printing is more than just a fad. Those who are not using this every day simply saw this as an inaccurate hobby. My team and I worked hard to insert ourselves in the pre-procedural planning in complex cases which allowed us to show exactly how useful this technology is. All it took was a few “Aha” moments where individuals held the models and suddenly understood the anatomy for them to be sold on its efficacy.
Jenny: What do you think is (are) the biggest challenge(s) in 3D Printing/bio-printing? What do you think the potential solution(s) is (are)?
Sanjay: I see two large problems in 3D printing in my field:
1) We need to be able to print materials that mimic the properties of the tissue we are recreating. In other words, If I am printing a pulmonary artery that I wish to place a valve in, I want to be able to put the valve in a model on the benchtop and have the tissue stretch and move as it would in the body. This exact biologic model, in my opinion, will come in time as we develop no synthetic materials that can be printed.
2) Insurance Reimbursements: The fact is that maintaining a printer is expensive, as is having a team that can produce high fidelity prints. This work, time, and expense are all built into the pre-procedural planning for a clinical intervention, and we need to find a way that this can be reimbursed. There are fields working in this with insurance companies, and when we can do it, it will allow for this technology to be available in all hospitals and centers to use.
Jenny: If you are granted three wishes by a higher being, what would they be?
1) The power see all solutions to problems
2) The power to create anything out of thin air
3) The power to teleport….I really need to be in multiple places quickly.
Jenny: What advice would you give to a smart driven college student in the “real world”? What bad advice you heard should they ignore?
Sanjay: I think that most college students are told to follow their dreams and passions, which I 100% agree with. What I would say, however, is that you need to be aggressive with a plan for those dreams or passions, otherwise you will never get there. The worst piece of advice I was given, and promptly ignored, was “wait until you are done with your education, then you can see the world.” To me, traveling the world is an essential part of your education and I did it as soon as I was able to.
Jenny: What were/was the best investment you made in 3D printing/bio-printing/bio-fabrication?
Sanjay: The single best investment I made was taking time. It took a lot of time for me to first understand the basics of segmentation and STL creation before I could even think about how to make more biologically real prints.
Jenny: What were/was the worst investment you made in 3D printing/bio-printing/bio-fabrication?
Sanjay: The worst investment I made in 3D printing was in buying textbooks. Most of the information is available free of cost online and in the skills of colleagues. More importantly, the ability to print a 3D model is an art form that you can only truly understand by printing failure after failure until it is perfect.
Jenny: What was/is the biggest risk you took in your career?
Sanjay: The biggest risk I took in my career by far, WAS my career. I was told that there were no jobs for Pediatric Interventional Cardiologists, however, I knew that this is what I was meant to do, and I have always believed that.
Jenny: What do you enjoy in your spare time? What are you passionate about outside of your work/3d printing?
Sanjay: I have a beautiful family and after 9 years of living in the hospital during my training, I am learning how to truly enjoy free time with them. I also love working with my hands and build things in my garage, play several instruments, and am trying to find more time to do those things.
Jenny: What is your favorite quote? Why?
Sanjay: “Be the change you wish to see in the world” Mahatma Gandhi
I cannot think of a quote that better marries the idea of dreaming big and commits the action needed to achieve your goals.
Jenny: What does the word “3DHEALS” mean to you? =)
Sanjay: From the time I first heard this phrase, I have always had a vision of an entire consortium of individuals coming together to show how 3D printing is working in their field to help people. I have great hopes that this is what I will see, and look forward to being a part of the movement.