Global Healthcare Technologies

Students overlook city scene

About This Program

  • Location: Cape Town, South Africa - University of Cape Town
  • Term: Winter Quarter
  • Language of Instruction: English
  • Eligibility: Open to NU and non-NU students who have completed upper-level engineering courses and meet NU's minimum application requirements

Winter Quarter 2016

  • Application deadline: Extended from June 1 to June 15
  • IPD study abroad fellowship deadline: Extended from June 1 to June 15
  • Program dates: Monday, January 5 (date of arrival in Durban) - Sunday, March 22 (date of departure from Cape Town)

Winter Quarter 2015: $20,012

Total fees charged by Northwestern: $15,612, includes: 

Estimated additional costs: $4,400, includes:

  • $1,800 airfare to Durban, South Africa, and from Cape Town, South Africa (students book their own airfare; rates vary)
  • $300 for books and supplies
  • $2,300 for discretionary expenses, including meals, moderate personal travel/transportation, etc. (for significant personal travel, estimate an additional $500-1,000)

Students applying to this program are eligible for IPD study abroad scholarships and may be eligible for external funding opportunities


Designed exclusively for engineering students, the Global Healthcare Technologies program offers hands-on experience in developing medical devices to improve health outcomes in resource-poor environments, particularly townships of Cape Town. Students work closely with Northwestern faculty, University of Cape Town (UCT) faculty and local health professionals to identify the healthcare needs and local clients and develop a design project. The emphasis is on problem definition, user-centered solutions, and the utilization of appropriate technologies. The program is organized in conjunction with McCormick’s Center for Innovative Global Health Technologies (CIGHT).

Host Institution

The University of Cape Town (UCT) is the oldest university in South Africa and the second oldest on the African continent. Since 2003, UCT has maintained its position as the highest ranked South African and African university in the Academic Ranking of World Universities. It is a research-intensive institution known for its support of collaborative, interdisciplinary research. The university enrolls over 17,000 undergraduates and 7,500 graduate students, and roughly 18 percent of its student population is international, representing over 100 countries.

Housing & Meals

Students on this program will share a house in Observatory, a student-friendly neighborhood within walking distance of UCT. Students will stay in double or triple rooms with a shared bathroom and have access to a fully equipped kitchen, dining room, and multiple lounges. Students are responsible for the cost of meals.


Program courses take place at the University of Cape Town.  This is a Northwestern program with a set curriculum, so students must enroll in the Northwestern courses listed below. All courses and grades appear on students' Northwestern transcript and are figured into their Northwestern GPA. Courses are co-taught by Mladen PolutaMatthew Glucksberg, and David Kelso.

BME 388-SA: Healthcare Technology in Resource Poor Environments

  • 1 credit

This course provides an introduction to health systems in the context of disease burden, with special emphasis on developing countries and the devices and drugs used to combat diseases there. Site visits to hospital departments and community institutions are an integral part of the course.

BME 389-SA: Healthcare Technology Assessment and Planning

  • 1 credit

Students learn formal concepts and methodologies used in health-technology planning, assessment, and adoption for cost-effective healthcare delivery.

BME 391-SA: Healthcare Technology Innovation and Design

  • 1 credit

This course covers principles and practice of medical device design for the developing world. Working in teams, students will evaluate user needs within the context of under-resourced segments of the South African healthcare system and develop a design project using appropriate technologies.

GBL HLTH 314-SA: Health and Community Development in South Africa

  • 1 credit

This course explores health-related issues confronting South Africa, their social and economic impact, and efforts to address them, particularly within the context of apartheid and post-transition policies. Students will learn about demographics, prevention, and treatment of both infectious and chronic noncommunicable diseases.


Table Mountain National Park

Students will hike sections of Table Mountain National Park during the first weekend of the program. This excursion not only introduces students to the geography of the Cape Peninsula, but it is also a great way for students to get to know each other.

KwaZulu Natal Rural Hospital Visit & Safari

Led by Rob Dickinson, a clinical engineering consultant, and Lori Kelly of Zulu Sun Safaris, this five-day excursion includes visits to hospitals in the rural areas of KwaZulu Natal as well as a taste of African wildlife.

Cape Peninsula Tour

This day-trip to Cape Point – the southern tip of the Cape Peninsula – includes visits to the quaint fishing villages of Hout Bay and Kalk Bay, the naval village of Simon’s Town with its interesting maritime history, stunning panoramic views of Chapman’s peak, and penguins at Boulder’s Beach.