Five of the most promising technological ideas, each with the potential to greatly improve the health of Mississippians, were pitched in a “Shark Tank”-style presentation to a panel of judges, scientists and industry leaders during the inaugural Health Innovation and Transformation Forum May 15 in the Norman C. Nelson Student Union.
Cosponsored by Plug and Play Tech Ventures, an innovation platform that forges connections between startup companies and the world’s largest corporations, the HIT Forum provided an opportunity for health innovators from the University of Mississippi Medical Center and across the nation to share their ideas to improve health care.
It was fitting, perhaps, that the winner of the pitch competition wasn’t even present at the forum. Tashfeen Sulemon, cofounder and CEO of CloudMedX, a company that offers clinical artificial intelligence to improve patient experiences, was unable to attend the forum in person, but delivered his pitch remotely.
By the time the judges had announced CloudMedX was the recipient of the top prize – a $25,000 investment from Plug and Play, an opportunity to pilot the solution at UMMC, start-up coaching from UMMC’s Health Information and Transformation Center staff, intellectual property review by UMMC’s Innovation, Development and Licensing Office, and a suite in the UMMC Translational Research Center’s business incubator – Sulemon was on an airplane flying to Jackson.
Not having an actual representative on hand to receive the oversized check from Dr. Richard Summers, UMMC associate vice chancellor for research, Terrence Hibbert, UMMC director of innovation, and Julia Belaya, director of corporate partnerships, health for Plug and Play, was symbolic for a competition that in many ways showcased the use of remote systems to improve patient and caregiver interaction.
In fact, the winning concept of the forum’s business plan competition that took place before the event – the Reneker Sensorimotor Error Test and Treat devised by Dr. Jennifer Reneker, UMMC associate professor of physical therapy in the School of Health Related Professions – would rely heavily on UMMC’s Telehealth System to one day deliver expanded comprehensive concussion care to patients throughout the state.
Whether delivered in person or through a computer screen, the pitches all added up to a successful first foray into bridging the innovation/health care divide, Summers said.
“I’m very excited about how this HIT Forum went,” he said. “We had more engagement than we expected. The diversity of people that have attended, from the Mississippi Development Authority, Innovate, the Department of Education, the Ole Miss campus, the Mississippi State campus, the Bower Foundation – all these groups are very important for us to move innovation forward. And our partnership with Plug and Play is very important to the future of innovation at UMMC.
“We want to expand the opportunities and just develop the conversation on our campus of how we can advance the health care system through innovation.”
Summers kicked off the forum by reflecting back on the Medical Center’s storied role in health care innovation, from the world’s first heart transplant into man by Dr. James Hardy to Dr. Arthur Guyton’s mapping of the circulatory system and his world-renowned Textbook of Medical Physiology to the development of the first large-scale computer model of human physiology to, more recently, the development of gene therapy to combat hemophilia B and the discovery of the first functional cure for the HIV virus – albeit temporary – in a human baby.
Summers said the Medical Center has been so technologically productive that a recent nationally published article suggests UMMC provided the most “bang per buck” in terms of innovation and research of any university in the country.
“Mississippi is the epicenter for disease in the country, with poor performance in hypertension, stroke, diabetes and obesity,” he said. “We are at the place where we should be the most influential in terms of treating these diseases through innovation.”