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Gaining a Global Perspective: Innovation and Entrepreneurship at Michigan Medicine and Beyond

Seven thousand miles away, I arrived in Samoa, a Pacific Islander Nation with some of the highest rates of chronic disease on our planet. Nearly half of the population in Samoa has diabetes, placing this community at high risk of diabetic retinopathy, a debilitating condition that leads to blindness if left untreated. I boarded the plane to Samoa with a low-cost, portable camera that captures images of the back of the eye, eager to design a creative solution to a costly problem. Nearly 3,000 images later, our team had implemented the first remote eye screening program in the South Pacific, detecting sight-threatening diabetes-associated eye disease and expediting the referral of patients to local care.

In one of the most remote regions of our world, I witnessed the role that medical innovation and capacity-building can serve in addressing barriers in accessing critical screening and specialty care. I knew that I wanted to continue exploring the ways that innovation and entrepreneurship can be used to address global healthcare challenges while in medical school.

Our Ross MBA team alongside members of the TechnoCoRe Catalyst team at the Technological Institute of the Philippines (T.I.P.)

The University of Michigan: A Hub for Healthcare Innovation
Shortly after matriculating at the University of Michigan Medical School, I became involved in Sling Health, a student-run incubator that brings together multidisciplinary teams of medical, business and engineering students to solve problems in healthcare. As an M1, I joined a team focused on addressing ‘pain points’ in the operating room. After speaking with over 160 surgeons in the Department of Surgery at Michigan Medicine to understand the problem more deeply, we developed Surgical ComfORt, an ergonomic surgical retractor system, which was a first-place finalist at Michigan Sling Health Demo Day.

Throughout the discovery and prototype development process, I gained an appreciation for the immense support that the University of Michigan ecosystem provides student entrepreneurs. After my time working with other medical, business and engineering students in our Sling Health team, we were able to participate in the Michigan Business Challenge, gaining additional seed funding for our device development, as well as mentorship and feedback from experts in the field. I learned that the support extends even beyond the medical school. Our team was able to participate in programming through the Zell Lurie Institute at the University of Michigan Ross School of Business, including the Pinkert Healthcare Accelerator and Dare to Dream Program, which provide a healthcare innovation curriculum coupled with longitudinal mentorship and grant funding. These programs not only sparked an early desire to pursue a dual degree alongside medicine, but also connected me to incredible perspectives related to the business of healthcare.

Group of people sitting on one side of a table smiling at camera

Interviewing students from the College of Electronics Engineering and the College of Business at T.I.P.

At the end of my M1 year, I was eagerly awaiting the opportunity to enroll in a Path of Excellence. The Healthcare Innovation path seemed like the perfect fit to build a strong foundation in innovation and entrepreneurship. From bringing in real patients at Michigan Medicine facing problems requiring an innovative solution to providing a framework for medical students to solve unmet medical needs, the path has served an important role in supporting my innovation work. I’ve been able to serve as a team lead for PostOR, developing a wearable ergonomic sensor to provide real-time, intraoperative feedback on ergonomic behavior to surgeons. Participating in the Michigan Surgical Innovation Accelerator course, led by Dr. Rishi Reddy and Candice Stegink, has been one of the highlights of my time in medical school, allowing me to work with incredible faculty surgeons, Drs. Kristin Chrouser, Tasha Hughes, Jeffrey Kozlow; resident urologists Drs. Mark Farha (MD/MBA ’22) and Renee Cole; and learn from materials science engineers and experts in the sensor space.

Our multidisciplinary action project (MAP) team alongside engineering students at T.I.P.

Global Commercialization: Integrating a Business Lens
Supporting innovation on a global scale, I am now wrapping up a semester-long multidisciplinary action project (MAP) at the Ross School of Business as part of the MBA program. MAP is a unique aspect of the MBA program that allows students to work full-time with companies to solve real business challenges. For the past seven-weeks, I have been working with my classmates to develop a commercialization pathway for technologies stemming from the Technological Institute of the Philippines (T.I.P.). This project is a partnership with the William Davidson Institute, which drives economic development and supports business needs in low- to middle-income countries.

Visiting the world’s smallest active volcano, Taal, in the Batangas, Philippines

Our team was able to travel to Quezon City, Philippines in March to speak with T.I.P. faculty, students and members of their TechnoCoRe Catalyst team to understand how their current curricula and programs are driving commercialization activities. Over the course of our time in the Philippines, we were able to speak with student innovators across all engineering disciplines. From technologies that sense the readiness of cacao for harvesting to those that leverage virtual reality for disaster preparedness, engineering students at T.I.P. provided me with a wealth of knowledge on the commercialization process. Working with T.I.P. has also allowed me to come ‘full circle,’ now focusing on strategies to support student and faculty innovators in bringing their ideas and products to market.

…And of course, our MBA team found time to explore the Philippines, trying lots of Filipino dishes, exploring the incredible biodiversity and finding the world’s smallest active volcano (Taal). I am grateful for the opportunities that UMMS and the Ross School of Business have provided me during my dual degree and for the global perspective to become a more effective physician leader and innovator.