Have you ever had an idea for an invention, but you didn’t know where to start, or you just didn’t have the time to work on it?
The Indiana Clinical and Translational Sciences Institute’s new deputy innovation officer, Jonathan Merrell, MD, is here to help.
Dr. Merrell is an assistant professor of clinical pediatrics at Indiana University School of Medicine and a hospital-based pediatrician at IU Health, but he also has a background in biomedical engineering. He’s even in the process of developing his own medical devices. This experience and training uniquely positions Dr. Merrell to foster creativity in his fellow clinicians, as well as translate their ideas to engineers, who can figure out technical details required for specific projects.
“If a clinician wants to get involved in innovation, my job is to help them lift that concept off of paper and bring it to life,” he said. “My goal is to offer my time and skill set to enable busy clinicians to develop inventions for future patients, allowing them to stay focused on delivering world-class care to the patients they are seeing today.”
Dr. Merrell said there are three major reasons why most clinicians don’t participate in innovation: 1) they are too busy, 2) they don’t know how to get started, and 3) they lack the technical training to translate their ideas to engineers.
This makes clinicians, with their vast first-hand experience with medical and patient-care problems, a huge untapped resource on the road to innovation, he said.
One of the most impactful lectures Dr. Merrell said he has ever attended was his first class as an undergraduate biomedical engineering student. His professor told the class to go home and write down a list of 20 problems they could potentially address as engineers—a homework assignment that would become a lifelong habit for Dr. Merrell.
“The first step of innovation is not to find the perfect solution,” he said. “The first step is to find the perfect problem.”
Clinicians can work with Dr. Merrell to discuss and refine their ideas for innovation. Then, Dr. Merrell will do much of the work to disclose promising ideas to the appropriate technology transfer offices such as IU Research and Technology Corporation. And if a project is approved for development, he will remain in contact with the original inventors to ensure they continue to be involved in guiding the project’s evolution and success.
Those interested can contact Dr. Merrell at firstname.lastname@example.org.