A diverse crowd filled the True Auditorium at Washington Hospital Center on June 14, 2011. Associates in scrubs, suits, lab coats, and street clothes, representing every part of the MedStar family voluntarily stayed late at work or came in on a day off to catch the inaugural MedStar Inventor Forum. The buzz in the room before the presentation began was energizing; clearly, despite the crowd’s differences, everyone shared a common interest — invention that advances health — and a common trait —the ability to think differently. Skeptical at first, I expected the Forum to be like others I’ve attended that promised clarity, yet left me further befuddled. I was delighted to find that the MedStar Inventor Forum presentations were logical, easy to understand, and most importantly, led by our own trusted colleagues. The presenters shared first-hand experience about healthcare commercialization while explaining a comprehensive set of services – collectively known as MedStar Inventor Services – which benefit both the inventor and MedStar Health equally. Thomas Graham, MD, a surgeon-inventor who was formerly Chairman of the Curtis National Hand Center at Union Memorial Hospital and is now Chairman of Cleveland Clinic Innovations, highlighted the dangers of entering the entrepreneurial world ill-prepared. Dr. Graham noted that commercialization of an invention involves a demanding time investment and a steep learning curve given the differences between the worlds of business and medicine. He concluded that had it existed, MedStar Inventor Services would have saved him much pain and ensured a better return on his investment from the outset. MedStar Inventor Services, led by Amit Shah, MD was launched in January 2011 by MedStar Institute for Innovation (MI2) in collaboration with MedStar Health Research Institute, under the leadership of Mark Smith, MD, and Neil Weissman, MD, respectively. The service arose as the first tangible expression of the new Innovation Alliance between MedStar Health and the Cleveland Clinic. MedStar’s new partner, the 50-person Cleveland Clinic Innovations team, brings 10 years of experience and a track record of success to the table: 330 patents secured, 35 new companies created, $450 million in equity investments won, and, incredibly, $50 million placed directly into the pockets of inventors. The first round of Inventor Forums was held at four MedStar hospitals in Baltimore and Washington, DC. Recently, I learned that these forums attracted 260 associates representing more than 15 MedStar entities. Furthermore, among the associates who registered, 49% said that they already had (24%) or might have (25%) an idea that could make a great invention. It was incredible to hear that, from software applications and medical devices to pharmaceuticals and biologic materials, MedStar inventions already take a variety of forms. Moreover, inventors are approaching MedStar Inventor Services at various stages of development—from back of the napkin drawings to fully prototyped inventions with testing data and business plans in hand. The 45 inventors that have been engaged so far are physicians, surgeons, nurses, scientists, pharmacists, technicians, engineers, and administrators at 13 different MedStar entities. At last, here is a service that is tailored specifically for us and that isn’t riddled with catch-22s and fine print intended to be overlooked by those of us without a background in intellectual property law! I’ve found MedStar Inventor Services representatives to be approachable, helpful, and interested in working with inventors in each step of the process. With such a great service at our fingertips, we have a new incentive to convert roadblocks in our daily work into opportunities to devise solutions that advance health, and realize some personal gain while we’re at it!
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