Q&A With Hanna Mandl, Hockey Goaltender And Medical Device Innovator


In the course Medical Device Design & Innovation held at the Center for Engineering Innovation & Design, senior Hanna Mandle was part of a team that created a flexible saw guide to ensure straight, midline cuts during sternotomies. It's designed to enable easier closure after surgery and reduce infections and other risks of the procedure (700,000 are performed each year). She also serves as senior goaltender for the Yale women’s hockey team, which has so far this season defeated the likes of McGill, Rensselaer, and Union. We asked Hanna about how she finds time to mind the net and develop medical devices of the future. 

SEAS News: In the Medical Device Design course, you were part of the team Thoracic Part. What was your team’s goal?

Hanna Mandl: Throughout last semester, team Thoracic Part successfully designed and prototyped a medical device that could be used to ensure a midline, linear cut down the sternum each time a sternotomy is performed. Here, a sternotomy is a surgical procedure that cuts the sternum to gain access to organs within the thoracic cavity, such as the heart and lungs. Should our device be successfully implemented within a hospital, it would help to reduce the amount of post-operative time patients spend in the hospital as well as rates of complications.

SEAS: And you play goal for your other team, Yale Women’s Hockey. How did you get interested in hockey?

HM: I started skating when I was 3 years old and didn't start playing hockey until I was 11 years old. I was a dancer and a competitive skier before I started playing hockey, but wanted to try something different. When my older sister Stef started playing hockey, I also gave it a try and I loved it.

SEAS: How do you find time for both studies and sports?

HM: Time management, organization and perseverance. It has been very difficult to balance varsity athletics and science coursework, but I have enjoyed both, which makes the more challenging aspects (such as sacrificing sleep) less daunting. 

SEAS: Is there any overlap in the skills required for medical device design and hockey?

HM: A strong team dynamic is required for both designing a medical device and playing hockey. It is important that there is a pre-defined goal that everyone is working toward and of course enjoying the entire process. On an individual basis, attention to detail is important to both medical device design and to hockey.

SEAS: Do you have post-graduation plans yet?

HM: I am currently applying to several post-graduate research, fellowship and public health programs. I am going to take a few years off to pursue health-related research before applying to medical school.

Tonight (Friday, Jan 20), the Yale’s women’s hockey team will be playing Dartmouth at Ingalls Rink at 6 pm. Tomorrow, they’ll take on Harvard in another home game at 3 p.m.