Interview with Dr. Edyta Bula, 3D Printing for Veterinary Medicine

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Dr. Edyta Bula is a third-year small animal surgery resident at Michigan State University College of Veterinary Medicine. She is concurrently near completion of her Masters of Science degree. Her research is focused on 3D design and biomechanical testing of rock-back during TPLO (tibial plateau leveling osteotomy), the most common surgery utilized to correct the cruciate deficient stifle in the dog. Edyta has also been involved in research pertaining to TTTA in cats, minimally invasive sacroiliac luxation/fracture fixation, pseudoacetabulum post total hip replacement in the canine, and quantification of the tensile strength of the Aberdeen knot on abdominal closure in dogs. Edyta was born and raised in Michigan and completed her doctorate of veterinary medicine from Michigan State in 2016. She then went on to complete a small animal rotating internship at The Ohio State University College of Veterinary Medicine prior to returning to Michigan State to continue her surgical and research training. Dr. Bula will be speaking at the upcoming webinar focusing on 3D printing in veterinary medicine.

Jenny: When was the first encounter you had with 3D printing? What was that experience like?

Edyta: My first encounter with 3D printing was as a veterinary student. I was rotating through the orthopedic department on clinicals, and my now mentor was showing clients a 3D bone model that fascinated me. I was thinking to myself how complex the process must be, and how fun it would be to make tools that are useful in everyday life!

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Depiction of a feline pelvis that has been 3D segmented and modeled to prepare it for biomechanical testing to assess different methods of ilial body fracture fixation. The far-right photo shows the creation of a guide to design a precise osteotomy emulating an oblique ilial fracture in a cat.

Jenny: What inspired you to start your journey in 3D printing?

Edyta: My mentor and supporter Dr. Loic Dejardin has been my inspiration since day 1 of this journey. 

He guided me to understand the connection between 3D printing and research (using 3D prints for biomechanical testing instead of living animals or cadaveric bone) and how beneficial this could be for both veterinary and human medicine in providing accurate, efficient, and reliable results to help understand biomechanics and disease processes.

Jenny: Who inspired you the most along this journey?

Edyta: Dr. Loic Dejardin, my mentor, and veterinary orthopedic surgeon, has inspired me the most. I have observed him utilize 3D printing in planning surgeries, helping clients understand their pet’s diagnosis, creating patient-specific guides to improve surgical efficiency with minimally invasive approaches, and using 3D printing with a variety of research projects that enhance our understanding of the clinical orthopedic disease. 

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3D printed samples of a canine tibia, modeled specifically to mimic ACL correction via tibial plateau leveling osteotomy, shown placed into a custom-press built for loading. Both bone segments are equipped with electromagnetic sensors (EMS) to monitor the displacement of segments during loading.

Jenny: What motivates you the most for your work? 

Edyta: When I have worked on the 3D design of a model extensively and it 3D prints exactly how I was hoping it would! In addition, when I use 3D models to aid in surgery and the patient has a great outcome post-operatively.  

Jenny: What is the biggest obstacle in your line of work? If you have conquered them, what were your solutions? 

Edyta: Working on a research model and having everything come together and “talk” to each other (the loading frame, 3D print, motion sensor equipment). Solutions are made when our team has worked together with engineers and human orthopedic research teams to each bring our own set of ideas to the project.

Jenny: What do you think are the biggest challenges in 3D Printing in veterinary medicine?

Edyta: For 3D printing in veterinary medicine, one of the biggest obstacles is cost – both for pet owners if we are using a 3D guide for surgery (cost of time for planning and printing of the guide), as well as the cost to the veterinary personnel for 3D printing equipment and material. I think the more popular 3D printing becomes in veterinary medicine, and particularly with 3D printing companies supporting veterinary personnel (helping to finance projects, donate printers, work together on a patient-specific guide, etc), the more this will become the gold standard of treatment for certain conditions in veterinary medicine. In addition, veterinarians working with human physicians from a “one-health” perspective to utilize 3D printing would further enhance the importance of this process in veterinary medicine.

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A sample of the design process of the previously 3D printed canine tibia including a base, proximal depression to accept the loading sphere, and screw guide holes to accept a bone plate after printing. A mold was designed for each model for ease of bone plate placement post printing.

Jenny: If you are granted three wishes by a higher being, what would they be? 

Edyta:

  1. To have unlimited availability of different 3D printers and materials to work with and create new projects
  2. To create a 3D bone model that mimics the properties of native bone, so that cadaveric testing or testing on live animals is minimized or eliminated
  3. To show the world how fun and useful 3D printing is within veterinary medicine!

Jenny: What advice would you give to a smart driven college student in the “real world”?

Edyta: Find a mentor in your field of interest who will support and push you to be a better version of yourself every day, and never let you settle when times are tough. Also, remember that the journey will come with a lot of tribulations and trials but never give up because the outcome at the end of all that hard work is worth it!

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