Innovation Week showcases creative ideas from faculty and students

May 03, 2022
Person in a shark costume.
Shark Tank competitions were among the many events that celebrated innovation at MUSC Photos by Nancy Lemon Carney

“The value of an idea lies in the using of it,” said Thomas Edison, discussing the impact of innovation. 

Last week’s Innovation Week at the Medical University of South Carolina built on that concept, investing over $500,000 in new projects across the enterprise and launching some of its brightest and most innovative ideas from faculty members and students.  

During a return to a live format, MUSC’s Office of Innovation funded 25 new projects and awarded a total of $521,000. Overall, 11 live sessions, two pitch sessions, three Shark Tanks and a Stress Less Bash, complete with live music, art therapy and even puppies, were held in person throughout the week. Between the downtown Charleston campus and MUSC’s regional hospitals, 26 videos were produced to be viewed on demand by attendees.

The week’s events started on Monday with the announcement of the recipients of the Blue Sky Award. Developed as a partnership between the Office of Innovation and Office of the Vice President for Research (VPR), two winning research projects were awarded at the Innovation Week kickoff event. The award recognizes innovative, promising projects that are rooted in collaboration between researchers across MUSC colleges and provides $100,000 per year for two years to aid in preparing the project for future funding opportunities. 

Woman in a blue t shirt holds a puppy. 
Puppies helped take the edge off any stress during Innovation Week. 

Midweek, in collaboration with the Office of the Provost, the inaugural class of Education Innovation Advocates was announced. This group of eight will include at least one faculty member from each of the colleges and representatives from Academic Affairs and MUSC Libraries. The advocates are expected to receive $3,000 each for a project to help to foster a culture of innovation within their respective areas. 

“The Education Innovation Advocate program is a unique and exciting opportunity for our faculty to grow education innovation in the six colleges and the Academic Affairs Faculty,” said Gigi Smith, Ph.D. “The advocates will have meetings with key MUSC groups across campus to promote collaboration and further support for faculty education innovation.” 

To wrap up the week, MUSC’s version of “Shark Tank” returned to its live format after being hosted online for the last two years. This was also its first year at MUSC Health's regional hospitals. The Charleston session saw MUSC’s top leadership bite on three projects from employees and faculty, each of whom received $15,000 on Thursday. Meanwhile, the combined sessions of Florence/Marion and Lancaster/Chester each awarded $15,000 to their own top projects. 

Chief innovation officer Jesse Goodwin, Ph.D., said it was good to see the innovators in person this year after two years of virtual presentations, due to the pandemic, and touted the importance of innovating. “I think it’s really important to build the culture where we’re not feeling stuck with problems but one in which we’re saying, ‘Well, let’s look at this as an opportunity to really problem solve,’” she said. In total, more than $80,000 will be distributed to the winners and selected other pitches. 

With Innovation Week 2022 successfully in the rear view, innovators can go ahead and mark their calendars for next year, as Innovation Week 2023 is already set to return April 24 through 28. 

For a full breakdown of the week’s awards, see below.

Blue Sky ($200,000) – Monday

Funded by the VPR and the Office of Innovation, each of these projects received $100,000 in funding.

Donna Roberts, M.D., and Jill Harvey, Ph.D.: “A Feasibility Study of the Incorporation of a Portable MRI in a Telemedicine-Equipped Ambulance for Field Triage of Stroke Patients.”

Baerbel Rohrer, Ph.D., and Andrew Jakymiw, Ph.D.: “Delivery of mtDNA via Nanoparticles for Restoration of Tissue Homeostasis in Age-Related Macular Degeneration.”

Student Pitch ($2,500) – Monday

Sponsored by the Office of Innovation, Benjamin Ellison, James McGinnis and Reece Blackwood, faculty advisor Adam Tanious, M.D., won the Student Pitch Competition and their “Endovascular Organizer” was awarded $2,500.

COM Community Engagement Grant ($15,000) – Tuesday

Focused on a community-focused initiative, Jessica Tarleton, M.D., and team received $15,000 to fund their project titled “The Lowcountry Doula Initiative.”

AI ($100,000) – Wednesday

Sponsored by the AI Hub, a total of $100,000 was awarded to the following MUSC and Clemson faculty members for their joint projects:

George Magrath, M.D., (MUSC) and Feng Luo, Ph.D., (Clemson): “Computer-assisted Classification and Screening of Retinal Optical Coherence Tomography Images.”

Xinyi Li, Ph.D., (Clemson) and Stephen Ethier, Ph.D., (MUSC): “AI Analysis of Cancer Cell Line Drug Sensitivity to Predict Targeted Drug Sensitivity in Patients.”

Jeremy Gilbert, Ph.D., (Clemson/MUSC) and Rahul Rai, Ph.D., (Clemson): “AI for Scanning Electron Micrograph Segmentation.”

Fatemeh Afghah, Ph.D., (Clemson) and Mohamed Elshazly, M.D.,(MUSC): “AI Based Heart Monitoring Systems.”

Liangjiang Wang, Ph.D., (Clemson) and Stefano Berto, Ph.D., (MUSC): “Machine Learning Models for Molecular Neuroscience Research.”

Shark Tanks ($80,000) – Wednesday and Thursday 


The project “Socializer, Teacher, Evaluator, Mentor (STEM) Preceptorship”, was the winner at the Florence and Marion divisions' Shark Tank, and the team received $15,000 to advance its idea. Team members included: Ashley Hudson, R.N.; Lathrum Johnson R.N.; and Michelle Thompson, R.N.


The project “Enhancing Throughput by Creating a Behavioral Crisis Team,” was the winner at the Lancaster and Chester divisions' Shark Tank, and the team received $15,000 to advance it’s idea. Team members included: Keia Hewitt M.D.; Camille Filoromo, Ph.D., R.N.; Scott Broome; Richard Warrin; Portia Brown; Patsy Hawkins; Kelly Cauthen; Cody Johnson, R.N.; and Angela Mackey. 

The Lancaster and Chester divisions also selected the project “Creating Nursing Workflow Efficiency Through Kanban Methodology in the ED” to receive $5,000 in funding to advance their idea. Team members included: Camille Filoromo, Ph.D., R.N.,; Aruna Anand; and Janeen Rawlings R.N.


In Charleston, each of these three projects were chosen as $15,000 winners:

·Clinical care: “Automation of Claims Attachment.” Project team: Dan O'Donnell, Dianna Pelay, Diane Story, Franco Cardillo, Lynn Waters, Cathy Dickey, Megan Cecutti, Patricia Jenkins, Kimberly Curry, Dan Darling, Carlton Hawkes, Pam Helms, Sabrina Holloway, Shalonda Holmes, Angela Malphrus, Cheryl McWilliams, Leanne Shattuck and Tisa Whack.

Education: “Innovative Virtual Global Health Program for Nursing Student.” Project team: Suparna Qanungo, Ph.D.; Courtney Soll; Kate Ague-Kneeland; Kezhia Newman; Madison Bynum; Rachel Nichols; Saddie Sofia; Catherine O. Durham, DNP; Sharon L. Kozachik, Ph.D., R.N.; Kathleen Ellis; Jessica Southern, R.N.; and College of Nursing Dean Linda S. Weglicki, Ph.D., R.N.

Research: AppBuilder: a novel content management system to simplify app development, Project team: Jessica Chandler; Tonya Hazelton; Jonathon Tindell; Bernie Jansen; Les Lenert, M.D.; and Kenneth Ruggiero, Ph.D.

MUSC-Siemens Joint project grant ($50,000)

Maria Spampinato, M.D., was awarded the co-sponsored MUSC-Siemens Photon CT project grant to study how CT angiography plays a key role in the noninvasive evaluation of cerebrovascular disease in acute stroke and stroke prevention. She will receive $50,000 to pursue her work.

Entrepreneurial Sciences in Cancer Award ($50,000)

Jointly funded by Hollings Cancer Center and the Office of Innovation, Philip Howe, M.D., received $50,000 to fund his research in the role that the protein ARIH1 plays in breast tumor metastasis and investigation into novel ways to generate small molecule inhibitors.

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