Investing in ideas

Dr. Ali Abdalvand collects ideas. The Royal Columbian Hospital emergency physician considers himself an amateur inventor, albeit one who has never really gone beyond putting his thoughts to paper. However, Dr. Abdalvand and others at the hospital are getting a unique chance to bring their innovative healthcare ideas to life, with help from a donor to Royal Columbian Hospital Foundation.

“I have always been someone with a knack for mechanical things,” says Dr. Abdalvand. “I do sketches of my ideas. But the thought of building a product is too big for someone who is already busy. I couldn’t even think of going this far.”

Dr. Abdalvand has a prototype of one of his ideas since becoming involved in a process that was launched in early 2017. A donor to the Foundation who wishes to remain anonymous is investing in healthcare entrepreneurs, leading to the creation of the Advancing Innovation in Medicine (AIM) fund.

“I don’t know of anything like this anywhere else in the country,” says Foundation President and CEO Jeff Norris. “Rather than help buy medical equipment, this donor is enabling our talent to create new medical tools, products, and technologies.”

Out of 57 ideas during an initial application round, funding has been provided for four projects as of mid-2019.

“More than half a million dollars has already been made available,” Jeff notes. “This is driving a culture of innovation at the hospital.”

Through AIM, Dr. Abdalvand is working on a device to improve the care of patients with collapsed lungs or fluid buildup in the chest cavity. His chest tube stabilizer would simplify the stabilization of chest tubes.

“To insert a chest tube, we have to make an incision in the chest wall,” Dr. Abdalvand explains. “So I thought about a system that actually closes that incision without sutures and holds the tube tight enough so it doesn’t move in or fall out. Probably more importantly, the system is adjustable in case you have to move the tube or pull it back.”

In addition to the financial resources, Dr. Abdalvand appreciates the mentorship he has received from AIM’s donor.

“He has the business experience that I don’t have,” says Dr. Abdalvand. “He has done this many, many times with commercial projects and companies. He has many connections in the industry.”

While Dr. Abdalvand tests the prototype of his chest tube stabilizer, AIM continues to search for more ideas.

“AIM has the potential to benefit healthcare globally,’ says Jeff. “One of its major goals is to improve patient care. Every new invention could help an untold number of people throughout the world.”

Hospital Team