By Olivia R. Weidner, DHIT Global Intern | July 27, 2020
On Friday, July 24th, 2020, the Digital Health Institute for Transformation (DHIT) hosted the ninth installment of its digital web series in collaboration with the ASSIST Center at North Carolina State University.
The DHIT Frequency Webinar Series, which takes place biweekly, is a way to keep our community connected while many work from home. Each segment will be co-hosted by DHIT’s President, Michael Levy, and Adam Curry, ASSIST Innovation Ecosystem Director. The series will spotlight distinguished guests from across the ecosystem to discuss the state of digital health in the time of COVID-19.
Amidst widespread fear and uncertainty, DHIT explores the role of digital health in the global response to COVID-19, gaining insight into the ways this crisis has catalyzed the usage and acceptance of telehealth, remote monitoring, and other digital health technologies. Last week’s panelists included:
- Chris Lamb, Co-Founder & CTO, Device Solutions
- John Sotomayor, Founding Patent Attorney, Soto IP
- Michael Ruhlen, Director, Charlotte AHEC
Friday’s webinar marked the application deadline for DHIT and ASSIST’s virtual incubator. With the conclusion of submissions, DHIT Frequency welcomed panelists that represented three respective program and innovation champions: Device Solutions, Soto IP, and Charlotte AHEC. First was Chris Lamb, Co-founder and Chief Technology Officer at Device Solutions. Next was John Sotomayor, Founding Patent Attorney at Soto IP. Finally, DHIT and ASSIST welcomed back previous panelist Dr. Michael Ruhlen, who serves as the Director of Charlotte AHEC. Over the course of the hour, host Michael Levy posed questions to help the audience and the digital health ecosystem get to know each panelist and their respective organization.
Levy began by asking each guest to describe the organization with which they are affiliated. Dr. Michael Ruhlen, Director of Charlotte AHEC, kicked off the conversation. NC AHEC, which stands for North Carolina Area Health Education Centers, encompasses 9 different regions of the state. Ruhlen is Director of AHEC for the Charlotte region, which serves 8 counties and is centered around Mecklenburg County. AHEC was founded with the goal of providing educational programming, professional development, and performance improvement for healthcare providers and systems. This includes pipeline programming, which targets high school students and provides opportunities for experience in medicine, as well as continuing education credits for established healthcare providers. Finally, AHEC provides support to independent practices in the area, ensuring access to electronic medical systems and other digital tools. Chris Lamb, Co-founder and CTO, described his experience working at Device Solutions. Founded in 2003, Device Solutions was intended to leverage skills with connecting and designing wireless devices. According to Lamb, it became clear early on that connected apps and devices were the way of the future, and with the .com boom, there was an increased demand for communication capabilities anytime, anywhere. Speaking on behalf of Soto IP, John Sotomayor described the company as a strategic advisory group that plays prosecutorial and educational roles in helping people to protect their intellectual property. Much of Soto IP’s work consists of guiding clients through the patent filing process.
After getting to know the basics about each panelist’s workplace, Levy sought to dig deeper into motivators and each guest’s reason for getting up in the morning. Every answer was tied directly to the respondent’s work, suggesting that our panel derives a profound sense of meaning from their chosen livelihoods. Sotomayor told Levy:
“For me, it truly is a sense of wonder [that drives me]–hearing what people have come up with. 90% of the time, patents build upon what has come before. But every once in a while, you see something that is so new that it has no parallel. That’s really what gets me excited…The sense of wonder and how we move technology forward is what keeps me excited about this. I’ve been doing this for 20 years and I still haven’t lost my excitement.”
“I grew up in an engineering-centered house; my dad was an engineer, my grandfather was an engineer, and my great-grandfather owned a radio shop. Growing up, there was a lot of hands-on problem-solving. These days, it’s particularly interesting because technology is changing so fast; the tools and abilities we have, the ability to crowdsource, machine learning and AI…it’s just never dull, and there are great opportunities.”
Lamb was similarly aligned in his curiosity and enthusiasm about his work with Device Solutions, and recalled his upbringing as he answered Levy’s question.
For Ruhlen, education and development of the next generation was a big part of his “why” statement:
“Overall, I want to make a difference with my life and my career. I’ll tell you how I tie it all together…I have an opportunity to impact the developing careers of healthcare professionals, and I have the opportunity to make sure that they maintain licensure and interest in what they’re doing in healthcare. I want to be able to empower healthcare providers of the future to undertake the work of developing, deploying, and working with the devices and technologies of the future.”
With a sense of motivators and drivers, the audience was granted further insight into why each guest does what they do. Moreover, these individual statements spoke to the unifying values that characterize the diverse, multidisciplinary ecosystem of digital health.
After hearing from each distinguished guest regarding their goals and motivations, Levy posed one final question: “Why did you decide to get involved with DHIT and ASSIST’s virtual incubator?” For all three panelists, the mission of the incubator seemed to align directly with their personal mission statements. Ruhlen and Charlotte AHEC saw the incubator as a chance to conduct a needs assessment and educate contributors. Sotomayor felt that Soto IP could give back by working with innovators to ensure IP protection, and saw significant benefit in getting involved in the process early on, given certain timeliness issues regarding the patent filing process. Last but not least, Lamb expressed the desire of the Device Solutions team to take technology ideas from “back of envelope” to deployment by addressing feasibility, risk, budget, and regulatory hurdles. The incubator was established with the goal of supporting and guiding ideas from development to deployment, and the collaborative efforts of our program and innovation sponsors are key to making this goal a reality.
With the end of incubator submissions comes the exciting stage of reward distribution. On Friday, August 7th, the award winners will be announced. Pfizer Digital will be giving out the Program Champion Award, and our other innovation champions will provide a number of services, including consulting and mentorship, to awardees. The webinar on August 7th will include more information about the incubator’s winners, and will continue last week’s discussion of progressing toward adoption.
DHIT thanks its guests for serving on the panel, and everyone who tuned in! If you were not able to catch last week’s webinar, check out DHIT’s Media page to see what you missed. DHIT and ASSIST would also like to give a special shoutout to our Program and Innovation Champions: Pfizer Digital, RIoT, Excelerate Health Ventures, Device Solutions, Medallia, Charlotte AHEC, Elsevier, Cone Health Ventures, Hangar6, SotoIP, and Duke MEDx. Mark your calendar for Friday, August 7th for the next installment of the DHIT Frequency Webinar Series. Until then, stay safe, everyone!
- To learn more about the ASSIST Center, visit www.assistcenter.org
- To learn more about the Virtual Incubator, visit www.dhitglobal.org/incubator
- To view previous recordings, visit DHIT’s Media page here: https://www.dhitglobal.org/media/
The Digital Health Institute for Transformation (DHIT) is a 501(c)(3) non-profit education and research institute supporting communities through the process of digital health transformation. We collaborate with leading academic institutions, associations, and industry to cultivate talent and ecosystems with our immersive learning platform, harnessing real-world experiences that drive the adoption of next generation skills, emerging technologies, and mindsets needed to foster the digital health leaders and innovators of the future, today. For more information, visit dhitglobal.org.
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