Innovation: more than a lightbulb moment

Program developed by Department of Surgery now expanding to promote technology and innovation at OHSU

January 11, 2017

Everyone's had them. Those "lightbulb moments" where an idea springs forth, limitless in its potential to transform the status quo. Health care is an industry ripe for innovation. Mobile technology, personalized treatment, big data – these areas are exploding with possibility. Yet how does a clinician with a demanding schedule channel their innovative ideas toward something tangible? 

In 2013, Department of Surgery leaders John Hunter, M.D., F.A.C.S., professor and then-chair (now interim dean), and Sally Rodgers, M.A., F.A.C.M.P.E., executive director/department administrator, initiated a Surgical Innovation Program with a mission to answer such questions. Its goal is to facilitate, drive and manage the innovation process for busy clinicians. Sharon G. Kryger, M.S., C.C.R.P., C.C.R.A., serves as innovation manager.

"Since launching the Surgical Innovation Program, we've been able to more effectively manage the Department of Surgery's technology portfolio, facilitate communication between faculty members and develop relationships with internal and external partners that allow faculty to receive essential feedback about their idea," Kryger said.

Department of Surgery IP disclosuresOHSU groups like the Oregon Clinical and Translational Research Institute and the Office of Technology Transfer and Business Development, as well as lawyers, engineers and other industry experts in the community have joined in the effort.

The program is yielding results. The department's intellectual property disclosures in fiscal year 2016 doubled compared to the prior year (see graph). Seven disclosures were from faculty submitting for the first time and three were first-time submissions by residents and/or medical students. Faculty members in the department garnered more than $200,000 in technology development grants.

Interns bring expert advice

Building on this model and expanding it to include an educational element, Kryger launched a Surgical Innovation Internship in 2015. The three- to six-month program gives students project-based experience improving health care through medical technology. The program works by forming teams with an engineer, a physician and a faculty mentor to advance a specific technology. They collaborate to identify real-world, unmet medical needs, invent new medical technology products to address those needs and plan for their development into patient care.

Surgical Innovation Program interns 

The success of the innovation interns quickly spread beyond the Department of Surgery; six other School of Medicine departments will participate in the 2017 School of Medicine Innovation Internship resource. Engineer interns are identified through alliances with the OHSU Department of Biomedical Engineering, Portland State University's School of Mechanical Engineering and the University of Portland's Biomedical Engineering.

Share your lightbulb moment

If you have a fresh idea for improving health care through technology, contact Kryger via email or at 503-494-7477 to discuss your project and your interest in working with the summer intern team.