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Surgeons Win Big Ideas Competition Grants

Picture of HPB surgeon Chet Hammill with text overlay that reads "Surgeons Win Big Ideas Competition Grants"

Winners of the 2021-2022 Big Ideas Competition were announced this May. Of the six winning teams, two were led by Washington University surgeons. Teams led by HPB surgeon Chet Hammill, MD, MCR, and Chief of Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery Justin Sacks, MD, MBA, will be awarded $50,000 research grants for their research projects.

Hammill’s research team received the award for a research project titled “Avoiding Pulmonary Complications after Major Abdominal Surgery Using Novel Digital Incentive Spirometry Technology.” Hammill is an HPB surgeon with expertise in minimally invasive techniques. Hammill, who earned a Master of Clinical Research from Oregon Health & Sciences University and has a background in aerospace engineering, is focused on research to improve outcomes in pancreas, liver and bile duct surgery. He also introduced a new pancreatitis treatment for patients in the St. Louis region—total pancreatectomy with islet auto-transplant.

“Our team is honored to receive a Big Ideas Award, which will support a randomized study using remotely-monitored digital incentive spirometers to reduce pulmonary complications in surgery patients,” Hammill says. “This aligns with the goal of our team, to improve outcomes in surgery by leveraging innovative technologies.”

Sacks and Director of Translational Research for Plastic Surgery Amanda Westman, PhD, led a team that received the Big Ideas Competition award for their project: “Clinical Translation of a Device and System for Preventing the Development of Pressure Ulcers.” This is the first single-use disposable device capable of performing continuous bedside pressure monitoring, preventing pressure ulcer development/progression, and reducing hospital liability and spending related to pressure ulcer care. Sacks, the Shoenberg Professor of Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery, also received Skandalaris LEAP funding for the project in 2020.

Sponsored by the Healthcare Innovation Lab and Washington University Institute for Informatics, the Big Ideas Competition was created to identify and support high-priority, novel projects from collaborative clinical, operational and research teams that are developing innovations in informatics and health care delivery. The competition was judged by leadership of BJC HealthCare and Washington University School of Medicine.