Innovation Awareness Month showcases importance of culture at MUSC

May 01, 2024
four people in dress clothes - three women and one man - pose for a photo. Two are holding awards.
Sara Witcraft, Ph.D., and Ken Ruggiero, Ph.D., hold their Blue Sky Big Ideas awards. They're joined by Lori McMahon, Ph.D., vice president for Research, and Jesse Goodwin, Ph.D., chief innovation officer for MUSC. Photo by Sarah Pack

Things look slightly different this April than in years past, but Innovation is still at the forefront of the month. For the second straight year, MUSC expanded its traditional Innovation Week to a full month’s worth of events as part of South Carolina’s Innovation Awareness Month (IAM) initiative.

Proclaimed by the governor in 2023, IAM was created to spotlight all of the groundbreaking achievements and innovations happening across the state. The inspiration for the idea, though, started at MUSC with its annual April event, Innovation Week, a staple since 2018. 

For those new to the event, for the last six years, MUSC’s Office of Innovation has hosted programming, showcases, sessions and pitch competitions surrounding innovative advancements from faculty, students and care team members for a one-week event in April. Since its conception, the office has awarded over $1 million in funding during Innovation Weeks alone, and advanced over 100 innovators across the enterprise.

Two men in blue sport coats. One is holding a blue award. 
Zucker Institute CEO Todd Headley, left, with Stanley Hoffman, Ph.D., the 2024 Innovator of the Year. Photo by Sarah Pack

“It’s a significant achievement that we’ve been able to grow our Innovation Week tradition to a full month of programming in conjunction with the state and reach such large funding numbers,” said Jesse Goodwin, Ph.D., chief innovation officer at MUSC. "We’re excited to continue to support projects that will advance the education of future providers and improve health care across the world.”

Heretofore, the signature event for the month has been the “Shark Tank” pitch competitions, which saw ideas submitted from each MUSC Health division compete for funding in front of MUSC leadership. To ensure broader exposure this year, ideas were categorized by pillar goals and hosted online, allowing more divisional leadership the opportunity to review all submissions. 

“The new format for our “mini-tanks” has been a great success this year,” said Goodwin. “All across the enterprise, leadership has been excited for more engagement, and we’re seeing every division up its game with innovative ideas in the spirit of competition.”

Three men stand outside looking at walls of posters. 
Innovation Month posters are displayed yearly across the enterprise, including along the Medical District Greenway. Photo by Jonathan Coultas

Overall, the Office of Innovation hosted over 15 events in the areas of research, health care and education as well as six total pitch competitions. In addition to the sessions, the group directed over $400,000 in funds to support new projects across the enterprise. Goodwin said it’s a small amount compared with the impact it makes in continuing to build the culture. 

“I think it’s important to build a culture in which 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. “These funds will go to good use in making sure that continues.”

Innovation Week awards

Blue Sky ($75,000 each) 

Funded by the Office of the Vice President of Research and the Office of Innovation. 

  • “Leveraging Relational Agents to Improve Access, Quality, and Cost-Efficiency of SBIRT Delivery in Trauma Centers”
    Co-principal investigators Sara Witcraft, Ph.D., and Kenneth Ruggiero, Ph.D.
  • “Hypermobile Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome Blue Sky Initiative.”
    Co-principal investigators Steven Kautz, Ph.D., and Russell (Chip) Norris, Ph.D.

Student pitch competition ($2,500) 

Funded by the Office of Innovation and Student Innovation Ambassadors.

  • PharmPhriends
    Lauren Figura (College of Nursing)

STEM Crew pitch competition ($2,500)

Funded by the Office of Innovation.

  • SOAR
    Kara Christensen Pacella, Ph.D.

Shark Tank competitions ($75,000 total/$15,000 for each project) 

Funded by the Office of Innovation

Quality Pitch Session

  • Winner: The Flipper (Pee Dee Division)

Team: Becky Young, Roxie Smallwood, April Currie, Miranda Yarborough, Allain Dayao

Service Pitch Session

  • Winner: Using AI to Improve Content Development (Charleston Division)

Team: Kelly Perritt, Emma Vought, Kati Van Aernum, Ashley Tice, Kimberly McCollum

Finance Pitch Session

  • Winner: Vector Merging Enhancements (Charleston Division)

Team: Baley Ganger, Jennifer Wright, Melinda Crosby, Greg Bellamy, Mary Riddle, Thuy Tran, M.D., Bettina Pressley, Cheryl Soles, Cheryl Lewis, Kara Simpson, Jared Blevins, Todd Leach, Kayla James, Katie King, M.D.

People Pitch Session

  • Winner: The Learning Library (Charleston Division)

Team: Amanda Lilienthal, Shannon Ravenel, Ashley Bode

Growth Pitch Session

  • Winner: Leveraging Virtual Triage Technology to Transform the Practice of Emergency Medicine(Charleston Division)

Team: Marc Bartman, M.D.; Morsal Tahouni, M.D.; Jeanhyong Park, M.D.; James McElligott, M.D.; Emily Warr, R.N.

Zucker Institute for Innovation Commercialization Awards

Emerging Innovator Award

  • Ryan Gedney, M.D.

Technology Breakthrough Award 

  • Brian Hess, M.D., and Shikhar Mehrotra, Ph.D.

Patrick M. Woster Memorial Guiding Light Award

  • Yuri Peterson, Ph.D., and Catherine Mills, Ph.D.

Annual Admiral Albert J. Baciocco Innovator of the Year 

  • Stanley Hoffman, Ph.D.

An additional $100,000 of support will fund a Digital Solution Award winner, to be announced on May 15. 

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