Neuropathic Hand Injury Rehabilitation and Assistive Product Development

  • Name: Ena Bula Oyola
  • Number of lab members or colleagues (excluding PI): 2 in the current project
  • Location: Valencia, Spain
  • Graduation Date: Industrial Design in 2009 and Ergonomics in 2017
  • Grants: 3
  • Twitter followers: 11

Hello! Who are you and what are you working on?

I am a product designer and ergonomist. I am currently pursuing a Ph.D. in Health Technologies at the Universidad Politécnica de Valencia. I have a grant from the Ministry of Sciences of Colombia and the Universidad del Norte teacher training program.

I started this Ph.D. program in 2019 and aim to complete it by the end of 2022.  My research focuses on neuropathic hand injury rehabilitation, therapeutic adherence, and assistive product development. We have recently conducted a systematic review on the efficacy of electrophysical modalities for the treatment of radial, ulnar and median peripheral neuropathies.

What’s your backstory and how did you come up with the idea?

My interest in upper limb rehabilitation began in 2007 after I was involved in an automobile accident. I had multiple fractures and paralysis due to radial nerve injury. This experience allowed me to analyze orthopedic products’ characteristics from the designer’s and user’s point of view. A decisive event was designing an immobilizer to consolidate my ribs and clavicle fractures because none of the prescribed ones worked adequately.

My goal is to improve people’s quality of life with motor dysfunction through the design of assistance and rehabilitation products.

Please describe the process of learning, iterating, and creating the project

I believe it is essential never to lose curiosity and the desire to learn. Identify what knowledge and skills could nurture your life project. In my case, I have opted for postgraduate studies that did not have thematic lines associated with product design, but that has allowed me to have a comprehensive vision as if it were a macrosystem.

It is crucial to keep in mind that learning, creating, or researching are cumulative processes and their advances arise from trial and error.

Please describe the process of launching the project

To disseminate our results, we used academic or professional networks such as LinkedIn or ResearchGate and other social networks such as Twitter.

How is everything going nowadays, and what are your plans for the future?

My mid-term plan is to validate the design I am currently developing, finish my thesis and graduate from my Ph.D. In the long term, I want to continue working in biomechanics and hand rehabilitation, including pathologies such as stroke or Parkinson’s disease.

Through your science, have you learned anything particularly helpful or advantageous?

Each experience brings with it lessons learned. Facing a Ph.D. that is not entirely linked to my training has allowed me to grow academically and personally. For example, I have known that having reservations and fears about our expertise in the face of a new challenge prevent us from taking the first step. It is convenient to take the plunge and look for the necessary mechanisms to solve the problems as they arise (they are always lighter than the imaginary ones :D).

We’d like to know more about your lifestyle. Please let us know what is your morning routine.

The first thing I do is walk my dog, then after breakfast, I take a shower and start my day. I usually list the tasks I expect to do during the day and cross off the ones I complete. I set ambient sounds according to the task. For example, if I am going to read papers, I listen to binaural sounds; if I am in the design phase, I listen to music that inspires me.

And how does a typical day look for you?

Due to the pandemic, I have been working from home since March 2020. I am not much of a night owl, so I prefer to make the most of the day. I tend to start with the activities that demand the most attention and leave for the end those that are simple or not urgent.

At the end of my day, I go out to train (3 times a week), play with my dog, watch a movie, read a book, and do a short meditation session before going to sleep.

What does your workstation look like?

My workstation at home is very simple. I have a desktop computer, a notebook where I keep all my notes, and an acrylic whiteboard. When I’m designing, I have sketch pads and materials for mock-ups.

What platform/tools do you use for your professional life?

I use tools like Excel, Word, PowerPoint, R Studio, and Illustrator, platforms such as Zoom or Google meet, and professional networks such as LinkedIn and ResearchGate.

What secondary software and apps do you use daily?

Gmail, Google Calendar, Binaural Beats, and Meditopia app.

How do you stay up to date on News and resources?

I keep up to date with the news through newscasts and online media, although I have tried to filter a bit for mental health in the wake of the health crisis.  In terms of academia, I use Google Scholar alerts and receive newsletters from journals that publish interest information.

What have been the most influential podcasts, or other resources?

I’m not very into podcasts. The book that got me interested in my field was “Fundamentals of Biomechanics“. In the challenge of publishing, it helped me to have the Cochrane and Grade manuals.

What tools do you use in your personal life? Cook? Self-Care? Hobbies?

I do functional exercises and sparring three times a week. On weekends, I take long walks with my dog and spend time with my boyfriend, family, and friends.

I enjoy cooking, hiking, singing, and when I feel inspired, writing poetry.

Advice for other scientists who want to get started or are just starting out?

I think it is essential to find a topic that genuinely interests you, have clear goals but not lose sight of the day-to-day. Learn from mentors, be receptive to their suggestions and rejoice with each new learning. Be flexible and open-minded to all possibilities and objective enough to doubt them all. Keep abreast of developments in your field of study. In moments of mental exhaustion, do not continue working on the same activity but alternate it with another task that requires a different skill. Try to manage stress by whatever method works best for you (meditation and coaching have helped me).

Thank you very much for your time, Ena. Where can we go to learn more?

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