Medical students from Western University of Health Sciences’ College of Osteopathic Medicine of the Pacific-Northwest (COMP-Northwest) in Lebanon, Oregon contributed to the winning team at the University of Oregon’s Ducks Disrupt Health Care hackathon. Hosted by the Oregon Executive MBA program at the University of Oregon, the innovative team competition launched in March 2020 and culminated in June with a finale for judging and awards that was held virtually due to the pandemic.

The event was facilitated by Gigi Wang, industry fellow and faculty member at UC Berkeley, Sutardja Center for Entrepreneurship and Chair Emeritus for VLAB Stanford, formerly known as the MIT/Stanford Venture Lab.

COMP-Northwest students Jerry Chen and Taylor “Annie” Phan joined industry leaders from health care and innovation across the Pacific Northwest.

“Annie and Jerry’s medical expertise elevated the cross-sector sharing at this event,” said Rachel Todd, Director of the Oregon Executive MBA program. “The Ducks Disrupt Health Care hackathon provided a uniquely powerful mechanism for working in multi-disciplinary teams within a highly collaborative environment to solve today’s health care problems.”

Chen and Phan were invited to attend the event as members of COMP’s Medical Innovations and Technology Team (MITT) and are featured in the From Start to (Virtual) Finish: The Story Behind Ducks Disrupt Health Care video.

“When presented with the opportunity to participate in the Ducks Disrupt Health Care Event, I was unsure how I could contribute and work with established physicians and entrepreneurs,” Chen said. “The goal of this event was to allow different teams to pitch their ideas that could ‘disrupt’ the health care status quo for a better future. It was rewarding to learn about entrepreneurship and its close integration with health care.”

Left to right: Gigi Wang, industry fellow and faculty member at UC Berkeley, Sutardja Center for Entrepreneurship, and COMP-Northwest students Taylor “Annie” Phan and Jerry Chen.

The medical students were asked to join the innovation team of Mark Enker, MD and Benjamin Wang, MD to pitch an innovative new subglottal endotracheal (ET) tube that is designed to reduce many of the medical complications patients face when they are intubated or on ventilators.

“I came into the event thinking I was only a first-year medical student looking to observe and learn, but when Gigi and the other team leads asked me to join their teams, I began to feel that I had much more to offer,” Phan said. “Attending the Ducks Disrupt Health Care Event hosted by Dr. Mark Enker and his colleague, Madeline Eastman, from the University of Oregon’s Executive MBA Program will always be on the top of my list of professional and personal development. Attending the event pushed me way beyond my comfort zone and made me do things I never thought I could do.”

Both Dr. Enker and Dr. Wang are anesthesiologists who specialize in the intubation and ventilation of critical and surgical patients. Dr. Wang is the inventor of the new device and the founder of the company NeVap, Inc. which provides production and distribution of the product. The value of this new medical device proved timely with the global surge of ventilator patients that occurred simultaneously to the hackathon competition.

“I’ve found the enthusiasm and work ethic of young medical professionals such as Jerry and Annie to be an enormous asset to innovative thinking. They were invaluable team members who helped refine the strategy and value proposition of our pitch,” Wang said. “Jerry and Annie immersed themselves in the entrepreneurial process and learned how to imagine how health care could be made safer, more efficient, and value based. It was a pleasure working with them on an entrepreneurial project that could not only impact patient care, but also seed innovative thinking in the minds of promising medical professionals.”

The NeVap team of two EMBA students, two industry professionals and two medical students were awarded first place in the competition and a $3,500 prize.

Chen, Phan and other members of the NeVap team donated their winnings from the competition to the nonprofit Adopt a Hero.

“When Dr. Wang asked Annie and I our preference on splitting the prize money, we learned that Dr. Wang has been working with a charity that provides PPE and masks to health care workers in Mexico,” Chen said. “Annie and I thought that would be a great opportunity to give back and help those in need, so we donated our shares to the charity as well.”

The charity provides medical front line workers in Mexico with ventilators, masks, gowns, gloves and other critical medical supplies. Maria Fernanda Reyes is the founder of the Adopt a Hero campaign in Mexico and lost her father due to lack of access to a ventilator. Dr. Wang has donated 10,000 of the NeVap ET tubes to hospitals in Mexico through the Adopt a Hero program.

“Jerry’s and Annie’s generosity will save lives and provide resource- restricted Mexican health care workers with much needed PPE and other medical supplies,” Wang said.

The COMP Medical Innovation and Technology Team (MITT) provides unique opportunities for medical students to actively participate in health care innovation and emerging technologies.

“Our future physicians are digital natives. They think differently and are ready for the medicine of tomorrow,” said Di Lacey, WesternU Oregon Associate Vice President. “We expose them to technologies such as telehealth platforms and they immediately want to know why it can’t do ‘this’ for the patient or doesn’t do ‘that’ for the physician. MITT students have the opportunity to work in real-time with leading vendors and innovators to explore their vision for the future of health care.”

Like many of their MITT activities, participation in the UO health care disruption event has opened additional opportunities for the MITT student program.

“Working with Jerry and Annie on the NeVap Project throughout the Ducks Disrupt Health care experience was inspiring. They both demonstrated high intellect with a thoughtful, innovative approach,” Enker said. “We were so inspired to work with other WesternU COMP medical students, that OffSite Care, our telemedicine physician group, is now deeply engaged in working with them on creating a health care digital solution for COVID-19.”