Triangle Health Innovation Challenge winners (L to R): Tannya Cai, Shih-Han Chang, Mihir Pershad, Maghana Shamsunder and Dhruv Patel. Not pictured: Cameron Valadez Photo shows students holding a large check for $2000
Triangle Health Innovation Challenge winners (L to R): Tannya Cai, Shih-Han Chang, Mihir Pershad, Maghana Shamsunder and Dhruv Patel. Not pictured: Cameron Valadez Photo courtesy THInC

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By Dylan Field

A team of five undergraduate students and one Ph.D. student took home two awards, including the Grand Prize at the inaugural Triangle Health Innovation Challenge on Sunday afternoon. In addition to $9,500 in cash and credit, the winning team gets to present its work at the Health 2.0 NC Triangle event on Sept. 23.

The Triangle Health Innovation Challenge, a three-day event held at the Trent Semans Center for Health Education at Duke University, was organized by Duke and UNC-Chapel Hill students to bring together talent from around the region to solve pressing issues in health care.

Students, clinicians, entrepreneurs, engineers and designers were among the dozens of participants from around the Triangle who brainstormed solutions to 24 problems.

The device the winning students designed would allow physical therapists to monitor how often their patients complete prescribed exercises and whether patients do the exercises correctly.

Tannya Cai, an undergraduate researcher at Duke, said one of the device’s biggest benefits is that it would give real-time feedback to the patient that could help the patient avoid additional injuries.

Triangle Health Innovation Challenge winners (L to R):
Tannya Cai, Shih-Han Chang, Mihir Pershad, Maghana Shamsunder and Dhruv Patel. Not pictured: Cameron Valadez. Photo courtesy THInC

Like the other contestants at the conference, Cai and her teammates – Maghana Shamsunder, Mihir Pershad, Dhruv Patel, Shih-Han Chang and Cameron Valadez – came up with the idea for their device and built it in two days.

“If patients don’t do their physical therapy at home, they are at increased risk for re-injury and they often don’t get better, because most physical therapy ends up being on your own time,” said Pershad, a senior biochemistry major at UNC-Chapel Hill.

During his team’s pitch, he estimated that 70 percent of patients fail to do their required exercises.

Other winning pitches included a breathing-exercise device for people who suffer from chronic lung diseases, a waiting room scheduling app and a real-time electronic health record app.

Fifteen teams made three-minute pitches for their products to a panel of judges. Then the student teams took questions from the judges.

The judges for the top three innovation prizes, as well as the Mosaic Health Solutions Prize, were P. Kay Wagoner, entrepreneur-in-residence at the Eshelman Institute for Innovation; Bobby Bahram, managing partner at Excelerate Health Ventures; and Eric Poon, chief health information officer at the Duke University Health System. Andrew Hooge from Validic was the judge for the Validic mHealth Prize.

Teams were judged on the impact their idea might have, how well they executed their idea, the business plan attached to the idea, the composition of the team and the pitch itself.

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