Pediatric Innovation is up to us: Collaborating to Improve Care at Stanford Medicine Children’s Health

By: Dennis Lund, MD, interim CEO, chief medical officer.

Published originally 6/4/18 on LinkedIn

I recently had the pleasure of kicking off Stanford Medicine Children’s Health’s inaugural Pediatric Innovation Showcase, highlighting some of the latest innovations for pediatric care stemming from programs and collaborations across the Stanford community. There is a dire need for innovation within pediatrics and we must be relentless in seeking solutions through innovation. 

In his keynote address, Vasum Peiris, MD, chief medical officer for Pediatrics and Special Populations at the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s Center for Devices and Radiological Health (CDRH), discussed how to close the widening gap in medical innovation between adults and children, and explained how his FDA team is working to create more efficient processes in response to what pediatric providers identify as the most pressing patient needs.

As an academic medical center, Packard Children’s Hospital has the unique opportunity to take on some of the most daunting challenges in pediatric health care by developing and implementing technology-based solutions within our own hospital environment. The Stanford ecosystem supports the brightest innovators and provides access to resources to foster collaborative strength.

For example, James Wall, MD, pediatric surgeon at Packard Children’s, serves as assistant director for the Stanford Biodesign Innovation Fellowship, a program that fosters collaboration among fellows and trainees, to explore challenges impacting providers and create tangible solutions to improve patient care. The Innovation Showcase featured a medical device company called Novonate, born out of the Biodesign program. A student team discovered that umbilical cord catheters, used to provide food and medication to fragile, low birthweight newborns in the NICU, are notorious culprits of catheter-related bloodstream infections. The consequences of these infections were serious and largely preventable. The team set out to design a device that would reduce the likelihood of infection by better supporting and protecting the umbilical line. Fast forward several years, today, Novonate is expecting FDA approval for their device this fall.

From student-driven innovation to the most reputable physicians in their field, Packard Children’s Surgeon-in-Chief, James Dunn, MD, PhD, also showcased his innovation designed to address a rare pediatric condition known as short bowel syndrome. Dr. Dunn created device to offer a solution to safely stretch a patient’s bowel, in order to help their body absorb nutrients, a boon for improving quality of life for this patient population.

We also saw a live pitch session where innovators featured their ideas. Among those was the founder of Maker Therapy, Gokul Krishnan, PhD, a volunteer who is bringing “makerspaces” to children’s hospitals by collaborating with clinical care and Child Life teams. He piloted the first pop-up space in our Bass Cancer Center’s inpatient unit and has since evolved the concept into a mobile cart to reach patients wherever they are in the hospital.

Attendees were able to demo the Stanford Virtual Heart, a hands-on experience developed by pediatric cardiologist, David Axelrod, MD in collaboration with a local software startup. Through immersive VR technology, medical trainees and patient families alike are using the Virtual Heart to learn about the most complex congenital heart defects.

This event represented the many ways in which collaboration among our physicians, students, local companies, nonprofits and beyond can lead to positive changes for pediatric care. It is invigorating to be part of the innovation hub that is Stanford, which is leading the field in the development of technologies and innovations needed to advance care for young patients, here at home and around the world.