Skip to contents
In This Issue:
From left: VACU Scan's Richard Lin, Ben Brush and Khang Nguyen
For Ben Brush and his teammates, winning Harvard University's 2014 President's Challenge was validation that their invention could have great potential for people suffering from diabetic foot ulcers.
"It was fantastic to take something from start to finish," said Brush, a third-year Harvard Medical School (HMS) student, who was the team's grant and proposal writer. "We were surrounded by other great ideas, and to have an outside panel of experts confirm we weren't starry-eyed was very rewarding for us."
Last month, Brush and his team, "VACU (Visual Amplification of Cutaneous Ulcers) Scan," also the name of the device they created, were crowned winners of the President's Challenge-a competition created to foster cross-disciplinary entrepreneurial ventures that will have profound social impacts. The team was recognized for its proposal of a smart phone-based prognostic test for diabetic foot ulcers.
The student-led innovation team was comprised of students from HMS and Massachusetts Institute of Technology. BWH's Arash Mostaghimi, MD, MPA, an attending physician in Dermatology, and BWH intern Khang Nguyen, MD, are also part of the team, which came in first place out of 130 entrants and received a grand prize of $70,000 to further develop and investigate the device and algorithm.
VACU Scan is a smart phone-based prognostic and diagnostic tool used to assess the healing capacity of diabetic foot ulcers and evaluate the effectiveness of interventions in use by measuring the flow of blood to the skin. It uses an algorithm to extract data from videos that is invisible to the naked eye. This data can be used by physicians to guide decision-making for patients with chronic wounds.
Brush said this information has the potential to save hospitals and insurers up to $10,000 per patient each year by limiting the use of ineffective therapies and speeding wound healing.
Winning the challenge wouldn't have been possible if it weren't for the true group effort from every team member, Nguyen said.
Mostaghimi said it was exciting to win because the team can now begin small trials with the device, specifically on patients coming to the Wound Care Center at BWH, to see if the ideas translate to a clinical setting. "The sky's the limit in terms of possibilities," he said. "By next year, we will be able to clearly identify this device's potential."
And if it the device works, Mostaghimi said a team will work to improve the technology to provide the most value to patients and clinicians.
"It's exciting to be a part of an institution that values innovation and creative thinking," Mostaghimi said. "BWH is very open to supporting its people who want to try things differently."