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Loyola alumna using sculpture background to revolutionize medical field

October 14, 2011

Loyola University New Orleans alumna Nancy Hairston ‘90 is putting a new face on the medical field. By using cutting-edge, 3D technology to digitally develop custom cranio-facial implants and surgical planning devices for reconstructive and cosmetic surgeries, Hairston is changing the lives of disfigured soldiers, accident victims and cancer patients around the world.

In 2002, Hairston founded MedCAD, a company that uses digital medical modeling to create customized human body parts with amazing speed and efficiency. By using 3D model technology, patient-specific body parts can be designed with digital perfection in far less time, facilitating faster surgeries, improved fit and more complete patient recovery. For many patients, these parts are an essential component of treatment because they are restorative both aesthetically and emotionally.

Hairston, who credits many of the professors in Loyola’s art department with helping her learn to think outside the box and solve problems creatively, began her career in the emerging field of 3D animation and game development. By 1999, the special effects industry had achieved so many technological milestones that she was ready for a new challenge. Since Hairston didn’t like how the video game development she was involved with was trending to increasingly violent and realistic content, she moved on to the new frontier of rapid manufacturing, a process which creates physical parts directly from 3D computer-aided design (CAD) files.

“I had all of the background in 3D content development, but I wanted to explore the new methods of ‘physicalization’ of the content,” Hairston said. “I saw the huge opportunity to revolutionize manufacturing, and I wanted to apply the advancements in technology to help patients in ways never seen before.”

While traditional 3D CAD modeling packages were created for designing cars and aircraft, sculptural CAD software has been developed to create the more complex, organic shapes like human bones, and is significantly more accurate than hand drawings.

“My time at Loyola and in New Orleans has impacted me in many ways. I learned so much about integrity and purpose—how to approach life with consideration, thought, and an open mind,” Hairston said. “New Orleans taught me about acceptance and how to embrace the diversity and culture in our world. The university’s values of making a difference and pursuing one’s dreams will follow me forever.”

Based in Dallas, MedCAD is a division of Hairston’s larger company, VanDuzen Inc., which is also home to SculptCAD, a non-medical division that uses the same 3D technology to develop other products, from toys to house wares. In addition, VanDuzen Inc. also developed Vouch Software, which detects safety hazards in children’s products.

For more information, contact Jess Brown in Loyola’s Office of Public Affairs at jlbrown@loyno.edu or call 504-861-5882.

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Loyola at a Glance is written and distributed for the faculty, staff, students and friends of Loyola University New Orleans. It is published by the Office of Public Affairs, Greenville Hall, Box 909, 7214 St. Charles Avenue, New Orleans, LA 70118. (504) 861-5888.

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