Biomedical engineering is the application of engineering principles and techniques to the understanding of biological systems and the improving of healthcare. But while this is the technical definition, there it is much more to biomedical engineering than the blandness of principles and techniques. No instrument or machine on its own ever diagnosed a disease or cured a patient – it was the practitioners who use them that did. But without the instruments, the machines, the understanding of the underlying science, nothing would happen. And that is the role of biomedical engineers, they create the instruments, the machines, they work side by side with the medical practitioners to understand the problems and the underlying science -- they find the solutions. Biomedical engineers are the problem solvers.
To understand how biomedical engineering has improved healthcare, we need to look at examples of what it has accomplished. The artificial cardiac pacemaker is a good one that has saved or improved the lives of millions of people. But there are many others. Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) can non-invasively pin point the location of abnormal tissue, improved ceramic materials result in better artificial joints, biomaterials are used to transport drugs to specific tissues, cryobiology has resulted in improvements to tissue preservation, mathematical modeling has resulted in a deeper understanding of the immune system, and mechanical improvements to wheelchairs have improved the lives of many. All of these examples have one thing in common, they applied the principles and techniques of engineering and thus improved healthcare.
Engineering is a good route to becoming a biomedical engineer; at present the majority of biomedical engineers are engineers. But there are other routes, biology, mathematics, rehabilitation medicine; all find a home in biomedical engineering. The key is pick the discipline that you enjoy and in which you can excel, and then as you acquire the knowledge and skills, understand how you can apply them to healthcare. Check out what we have accomplished, what we are doing, join us.