Interview: Justin Ryan, 500+ Heart Models later…

Justin Ryan
Justin Ryan, PhD is a Science Foundation Arizona fellow and a research scientist at Phoenix Children’s Hospital. Justin earned his BA in Digital Art in 2010 at ASU, an MS and PhD in Biomedical Engineering (ASU) in 2016. Justin’s background in 3D computer imaging and animation has informed his current research initiatives in the physical and virtual modeling of biological systems. He currently runs the operations of the Cardiac 3D Print Lab at Phoenix Children’s Hospital, where he produces 3D printed models for surgical planning and medical education. In the last four years, he has printed over three hundred hearts and has expanded the lab while utilizing three 3D printers. Dr. Ryan will be a speaker at #3DHEALS2018

Jenny: When was the first encounter you had with 3D printing? What was that experience like? What were you thinking at that moment?
Justin: I first encountered 3D printing in art school, in a class specializing exploring ways to visualize data through novel means – with an emphasis on 3D printing. Students were discovering amazing pathways to visualize traffic patterns, ballet performances, animal migrations, deaths of languages, and so many more things. I found myself exploring 3D printing as a means to engage with anatomy. Engineering professor, David Frakes, Ph.D., gave me a pathway for meaningful use of this art – which we can now say has translated well into the medical science domain.
Jenny: Who inspired you the most along this journey in 3D printing (bio-printing/bio-fabrication)? This can be a mentor, a patient, a celebrity, anyone basically. You can name more than one as well.
Justin: It is hard to say what has inspired me, but I can certainly say what (or specifically “who”) has enabled me to start this journey in medical research. Dr. David Frakes, a biomedical engineering professor, and Dr. Dan Collins, art professor, and Dr. Stephen Pophal, cardiologist, enabled me to succeed. As a soon-to-be graduate of art, I had an opportunity to repurpose my art-making skills to do something, not just novel, but also potentially life-saving. Two graduate degrees and 8 years later, we have a small, but efficient hospital-based 3D print lab (starting in 2012) which has produced over 500 3D printed heart models.
Jenny: What is/are the biggest obstacle(s) in your line of work? If you have conquered them, what were your solutions?
-Insurance reimbursement.
-Getting a multi-center clinical trial through different hospitals IRB with very little funds.
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)?
Justin: Insurance reimbursement… again.

3D Printed Congenital Heart Disease model photo by Phoenix Children Hospital

Jenny: What advice would you give to a smart driven college student in the “real world”? What bad advice you heard should they ignore?
Justin: Find the overlap between your work and passion. It makes the long nights, failures, and frustrations all worth it.
Jenny: What were/was the best investment you made in 3D printing/bio-printing/bio-fabrication?
Justin: My student loan debt.
Jenny: What were/was the worst investment you made in 3D printing/bio-printing/bio-fabrication?
Justin: Failures can be an investment – always a learning experience.
Jenny: What was/is the biggest risk you took in your career?
Justin: Taking a leap of faith 8 years ago and start on a path of developing medical 3D printing into a career was my biggest risk. Along the way, I have met some incredible medical doctors as well as families who have pushed me to create and build.
Jenny: What do you enjoy in your spare time? What are you passionate about outside of your work/3d printing?
Justin: While I may be in a landlocked state, I do love surfing when I get to a beach.
Jenny: What does the word “3DHEALS” mean to you? =)
Justin: A community of like-mind trying to build awareness, adoption, and advancement of a life-saving technology.