Emergency intubation in the field is a challenge for everyone involved, most especially the patient. Paramedics and EMTs have to contend with less than ideal circumstances while they attempt to insert a stiff laryngoscope down the throat and into the lungs of a nonresponsive patient.
“And the success rate is only about 50%, which is far below what I would have expected,” said UC Santa Barbara mechanical engineering assistant professor Elliot Hawkes. A variety of factors contribute to failed emergency intubations: the lack of practice of EMTs and medics compared to doctors in hospitals, the uncontrolled setting and, importantly, the patient’s own anatomy, which naturally tries to prevent foreign objects from entering the trachea.
Hawkes knows there’s a better way, one that could more reliably open a patient’s airway while minimizing trauma. And he’s being recognized for his out-of-the-box thinking with a 2020 Packard Fellowship in Science and Engineering, awarded to innovative early-career scientists and engineers whose research over time is expected to lead to new discoveries that improve people’s lives and enhance our understanding of the universe.