"Todays’ organizations are looking for the brave and the innovative."

The Center for Innovation is dedicated to supporting our community of innovators to help them deliver value to the University, Students, Patients and the greater Innovation Community. Our Innovation Superstars are recognized here for their unwavering commitment to delivering value to the communities they serve. Our Innovation Superstars are selected based on their contribution to innovation and the strategic pillars of the Center for Innovation. We are extremely proud of the work our Innovation Superstars invested into their innovations and we hope you take a few moments to read the abstract highlighting their contribution and vision.

Bradley Andresen, PhD, FAHA

Associate Professor Pharmaceutical Sciences College of Pharmacy

I am a scientist/explorer. I know that many people can say they are a scientist, and many will also say that science is exploring the unknown. However, from an early age I liked to explore how things worked. What was and still is my motivation is a mystery. I can only state that a few virtues drive my life. One virtue is inquisitiveness/exploration, and another is kindness/helping others. Innovation in the area of research and teaching is a form of exploration that helps others; thus, innovation within academia is an outlet that fulfills two of my core values. Intellectual evolution is a form of innovation, and one mission of higher education is to expand knowledge, or to rephrase one mission is to stimulate intellectual evolution – to innovate. Innovation is buried in typical mission statements because intellectual innovation is what brings about new knowledge and devices that push society forward. Research is a form of innovation, but research does not always lead to a new assay or product. Outside of academia, innovation is closely tied to product development, and if that is the thought of innovation in this question then it would be best suited to teaching and learning as well as commercial ventures. As stated previously innovation fulfills two of my core values. There is also a fun exploratory and risky nature of innovation. Innovation begins as an idea, a seed of a project, and the process of germinating the seed is exciting as it is your own seed and risky because one does not know what the outcome of the idea will be. In short, the idea could fail, or the intended audience may not be receptive; these are some of the risks and the risks pose excitement. Thus besides fulfilling my core values innovation is fun. An innovation strategy at WesternU would help some of the existing ideas gain legs so that they can be completed more rapidly and tested more widely. For products, this is important if they are going to become commercial. For research, this may spur more creativity and foster greater discoveries than would be possible without that creative spark that an innovation strategy may bring. If an entity does not evolve, it will become obsolete. This is true in academics as it is for organisms.  Take Harvard for an example. Is Harvard training people in the same manner as when Harvard first opened its doors? No! Harvard has evolved and generated new knowledge – or more simply Harvard innovated. The same is true for individuals, none of us think and act the same as we did in the past, and I do not mean when we were children. We too change as we age – we gain wisdom through our experiences. Innovation is part and parcel of an academic’s mission, thus to improve and keep WesternU relevant we will need to innovate.

Cyrus Parsa, DO

Professor/Chair, Pathology
Chair Department of Pathology
College of Osteopathic Medicine

In my many years of involvement in medical education, I have had the opportunity to approach content delivery in a variety of milieus and platforms, each with different challenges. I have interacted with students individually on clinical rotations, taught students in large groups, lectured to them by remote connections, and engaged in discussions with them in small group sessions. The challenge to innovate is particularly exciting, as I continually search and find new platforms that seem to reach and stimulate many students. But a suitable system needs to also enable the learners to interact with the teaching module in a positive, constructive, and user-friendly manner in order to motivate them to become sincerely interested to learn about essentials of pathologic basis of disease.

I have personally experienced, and was always one of the first to utilize and see the benefits of, incredible innovations through my years of teaching. I remember the days when I had file cabinets of my latest journal articles that I had to go to in order to find, prepare and update my lectures. I painstakingly prepared Kodachrome images for my presentations. Many days were spent at medical libraries to find just the accurate and latest information regarding disease processes. Innovation has allowed me to utilize my time more efficiently, store and update my educational contents including most authoritative research articles, as well as my own images of disease processes, on my computer regularly and search the Internet easily for best innovative approach amongst the many that are available in the medical education domain.

When thoughtfully approached and prepared, there is not an area that cannot benefit from engaging with an innovative strategy. In the wrong hands, however, it can culminate into chaos. Thorough knowledge of the educational content and available delivery platforms are important prerequisites for any successful innovation strategy. Having the right professional team to work with is essential.

Having actually gone through and experienced years of new innovations in medical education, I have always been excited and passionate to implement a new approach that I thought would be most effective and beneficial in content delivery. The goal is to reach the most number of participating students in order to improve comprehension and implant motivation or desire to learn. For example, I was so excited to implement PowerPoint as a new approach to teach when it first appeared as a novel educational platform. Internet teaching sites have slowly advanced over the years and I am constantly searching for a meaningful way for students to willingly engage and interact in the learning process.

I have had no problem motivating students on an individual, one-to-one, basis when they are on rotations with me, because the students are at ease and open to interact, be motivated, and learn. It becomes a challenge, however, when we are teaching a large group of students, and even more so when we are confronted with remote with distant learning.

For many years, up to the present time, I have had to pursue establishment of innovation strategies on my own without any professional IT support. I am now experiencing a team of very talented Internet savvy individuals at WesternU who are so excited and willing to help develop such strategies with me. I know success comes only when there are knowledgeable individuals, experts in their own specialties that can flourish in this task. I am very fortunate and grateful to have come across such individuals in our own backyard.

Dean Smylie, DVM, MS

Assistant Professor College of Veterinary Medicine

The desire to innovate arises from a desire to improve, to find new and better ways to get things done. Failure to improve is equivalent to degeneration. Complex systems are not inert. Remaining the same is not possible. My focus is almost always the job at hand. How can it be done more efficiently? How can we use available resources to do a better job? I have a near lifelong background in computer technology, so when I can identify a computing solution, that’s the direction I often lean. I enjoyed a career as an equine veterinarian. Some paths in life benefit more from the ability to innovate than others. I submit there are few that require more than ambulatory veterinary practice. (cf. James Herriot, 1972, 1973, 1976, 1992) My mandate at WesternU still involves veterinary medicine, but now it’s education. And, delightedly, not just veterinary medical education but education in all health sciences. There is no more satisfying way to contribute to a field than to be involved in nurturing the next generation of practitioners. And, there is joy in discovering solvable problems and solving them. To borrow a phrase from “Hannibal” Smith, I love it when a plan comes together.

Denise Wilcox, EdD

Executive Director, IT Information Technology

Innovation is important in health care education to continue to evolve the quality of patient outcomes. Think where health care would be today if we did not continue to innovate. That innovative spirit needs to be instilled while the student is getting his/her education. Innovation can then become part of his/her lifelong learning process and be ingrained in their health care delivery rather than an afterthought or not thought of at all. As technology continues to evolve more opportunities for innovation arise leading to better health outcomes. I am passionate about innovation because it offers new and unique ways to solve existing problems. Innovation can also be used to free up time for people to do more high-quality work by making more trivial tasks more efficient.  One example is the IT Team helped create a tablet-based lab exam that:

  1. Reduces proctor time required to administer the exam
  2. Reduces the stress for the students by eliminating announcements of remaining time throughout the exam
  3. Reduces grading time
  4. Decreases the time to provide feedback and exam results to the students
  5. Allows the instructor/faculty easily see where the class as a whole needs more education by aggregating question response data

Edward Barnes, MD

Associate Professor / Vice Chair, Internal Medicine / Assistant Dean Longitudinal Curriculum & Experiential Education College of Osteopathic Medicine

My motivation to innovate in the arenas of clinical practice and medical education remains the same… I am drawn to the ideals of being solution oriented.  When faced with an obstacle I feel it is best to step back and view the needs of the consumer; i.e. the patient or the student, then investigate new and unique ways of addressing the issues, then developing a plan of implementation that will take a few steps closer to the overall means to overcome the obstacle.

Working with others to find inventive ways to move us forward as a team is also a driving force for me.  I find it exciting to tap into others innovative spirit and observe them develop new methods patient care delivery or designs for educational curriculum.  I feel it makes all of us better.
It is very important to be innovative in Higher Education because of the rapid growth in medical knowledge, technology, and the current evolution of healthcare in America.
With the growth in scientific knowledge today our students are faced with gaining an unlimited amount of knowledge within the same amount of time of education that was allotted 50-60 years ago.
Technology inside and outside of healthcare has boomed over the past few decades, our student access knowledge in a completely different manner than the students of the past.  It is important for educators to take note of the newer interfaces and adjust toward the way in which our students learn today.
Finally, we are all aware of the National debate on healthcare in our country.  There is an uncertain future on how healthcare will be delivered in our country.  As we prepare our students to go out into the healthcare workforce we need to transition from a knowledge based educational system to a skills based education system.  This transition will allow our students to be the most competitive in this market as they will trained with a skill set that empowers them to adjust rapidly and lead changes in healthcare.
I believe we have the opportunity to innovate in the areas of teaching/learning and healthcare delivery models because we are a nimble and flexible institution that embraces change well.  Designing an ongoing strategy that enables our team to drive innovation rather that following the trends would be beneficial to our institution and our students.
It is of ultimate importance that WesternU establish a culture of innovation.  I believe we need to establish a “Fail Forward” mentality.  As our faculty and students approach innovation… it is essential that they know that failing is not a loss, but a learning opportunity.  Each time we try something new we should learn from our mistakes and move forward with what we have learned to improve our initiatives.  I believe if we are ALWAYS successful and we make NO mistakes then we aren’t doing innovation right.

Eunice Chung, PharmD

Associate Professor/Assistant Dean, Curricular Affairs College of Pharmacy

The College of Pharmacy envisions to develop leaders who will advance global health outcomes through innovative pharmacy practice. Therefore, delivering an innovative educational program is instrumental in achieving the vision. I serve a supporting role to our faculty members to continually seek new teaching and assessment methods to ensure that our graduates are practice-ready, not only for current practice, but also for future practice. I firmly believe that education is the starting point for many innovative practices. Pharmacy, along with other health science professions, is a very dynamic field where new discoveries impact practice daily. Our students and patients are changing, requiring unique generation-specific needs. Technology is evolving ever so quickly. So if we take a moment to pause and reflect all the moving targets that surround us, it is quite evident that continual development and innovation is not an option but a must.

Robert Hasel, DDS

Associate Dean
College of Dental Medicine

For me innovation is exploration. I believe it is part of our DNA, part of our evolutionary process.
The world is constantly evolving and changing. If we are going to be a part in the flow of the world, I believe we need to constantly examine and change our thinking. I don’t care if people like what I am promoting, I just try to get them to think differently, or to just think.
I like to tear myself apart every day and put myself back together again. This gives me a chance to look at the inner part of my soul and sort through what I want to keep or not. It gives me a chance to get in touch with that source of ideas and knowledge, that place of knowing that is beyond our comprehension or what we can say is me. For me, innovation is bringing that source into reality.

Steven Snyder, DPT

Assistant Professor / Community Coordinator College of Allied Health Sciences

I began my academic career as part of an innovative initiative to foster and develop new faculty. This idea has led to several iterations of a mentoring and faculty development program that has shown many successes. With the developers of this initiative’s support, I was encouraged to create, assess, and share new innovative ideas of my own. I have made several impactful changes in teaching and learning with my ideas, and continue to drive innovation further in the medical education. Thanks to the initial push and inclusion in a new idea for healthcare education, I have developed a passion for innovation of products, ideas and methods to improve education as well as student and patient engagement; I see what a difference new ideas can make, if allowed to take root, encouraged to grow, be assessed and succeed or further developed.
Innovation is the opportunity and freedom to see ideas on improvement grow into a reality. Innovation, no matter in what setting, develops new, and often times better or more powerful tools. Without innovation we would still be using inefficient, wasteful and outdated tools for all of life’s activities. Innovation creates the future as we see it should be. It provides the opportunity to shape industries and allow for peak performance, with less input.
Innovation at WesternU has the opportunity to be groundbreaking in the fields of medical education, health, community and patient engagement. With a strategic innovation program to guide them, the students, faculty and other members of the community have many ideas that can take root and grow into powerful tools. Students at WesternU, who will one day be the leaders of the medical field bring ideas of how their education can be improved or a view of how the future might look. Faculty have evidence-based ideas and experience in the shortcomings of existing technology and methods. Together, the WesternU community can work with each other, and build technologies, apps, and products that will shape a better, faster, and smarter student, educator, researcher, patient and health care provider. With the variety of health care professions on campus, we have the opportunity to take healthcare out of silos, create technologies that improve communication, tracking and understanding of health data for providers and patients. With students and faculty engaged in collaborative and innovative ideas, we can create a medical education system far better than the standard. WesternU is the ideal home for a strategic innovation center.

Timothy Wood, DHSc, PA

CAPE Director / Assistant Professor

What motivates me to innovate has occurred from many of the principles and concepts of teaching and learning that I have been exposed to over my 11 years here at WesternU. One of the biggest is the shift in the classroom from teaching to learning.
The majority of faculty in health professions education (myself included) were educated in the “teaching model” where the professor stood behind the podium and lectured – the so-called “sage on the stage”. The trend in today’s classrooms, based upon current research, is focused on student learning. This newer “learning model” is not intuitive for people that were educated in the traditional “teaching model”. Research has shown that active learning, where the student is actively engaged with the material, results in increased learning and higher student success. For WesternU to continue to forge to the forefront of Health Professions Education, new and innovative methods and structures of active learning need to be created and shared among the faculty.
Mishra and Koehler (2001) devised a model of faculty development that recognized technology’s role in today’s society.
Technology has permeated the classroom with our students: in their backpacks, in their phones and in their laptops. Innovative methods of teaching and learning using technology is what will provide a top-tier education to our students, as well as keep them engaged and motivated.
Fostering innovation in general, and innovative methods of teaching and learning in particular, is vital here at WesternU as we progress further into the 21st century amid the evolving and uncertain landscape of medicine and the role of health professions education.