By Dr. David L. Callender

We’ve all heard business leaders and executives say they value innovative, resourceful solutions. At the University of Texas Medical Branch, we’ve always encouraged our students, faculty and staff to put forth their ideas and to think of collaborative ways to solve problems — especially in today’s ever-changing health care environment.

At UTMB, we’re taking some extra steps to capture creative ideas from across our institution with our Innovation Challenge 2013 — a unique, inspired and accessible way to draw attention to the importance of never-ending innovation.

Faculty, staff and students have proposed numerous challenges designed to make UTMB even better, including mechanisms to promote advanced training and education of employees, greater assistance to families of some patients, better use of UTMB’s collective buying power, interactive apps to guide visitors, real-time medical information for patients, ways to lower utility costs, continuity of health care during disasters and day care options for children of employees.

The next step in this process will be our Collaborative Innovation Incubator, in which people from all areas of UTMB will come together online to form teams. They will discuss, develop and plan solutions to some of the challenges put forth by our students and staff.

The participants initially will not know who is on their team, thus ensuring a vigorous and dynamic mix of ideas among all levels and types of employees — from surgeons and nurses to researchers and support staff.

And then comes what we hope will be the fun part. Using the format popularized in the “Shark Tank” TV program, our “think-tank” teams will present their solutions to UTMB’s executive leadership on July 31.  

We think that the Innovation Challenge 2013 program will provide several transformative changes to our institution, and we are already thinking of plans for next year.

UTMB is the first institution in the UT System to take part in this systemwide initiative to foster and cultivate ideas that produce tangible results. We’ve taken a unique approach that we think will be a fun way to encourage creative solutions and to inspire, cultivate and reward innovation.