Enhancing surgical innovation through a specialized medical school pathway of excellence in innovation and entrepreneurship: Lessons learned and opportunities for the future
The mission of an academic medical center and academic departments of surgery focuses on teaching, scholarship/research, and expertise of clinical care. The standard 4-year medical school curriculum and general surgery residency training are well balanced to expose trainees to these missions in varying degrees, yet the advancement of medicine as a field is predicated on the creation, development, and successful implementation of medical innovations. Surgeons, by virtue of their clinical training, are immersed in medical technology and are continually required to use this technology effectively in combination with their own technical skills and judgment to provide optimal patient care. As such, they routinely face the challenges of current technology and the need for innovation and improvement, leading many to become natural inventors. Having a good idea or innovation to improve patient care, however, is just the starting point of the complex process of implementing that idea in the clinic. Unfortunately, the vast majority of surgeons and medical students have no formal educational training on the innovation process regarding how good ideas can be developed successfully for clinical and commercial implementation. Added to this lack of formal education are the limited resources and time constraints that surgeons, residents, and medical students face in acquiring the educational skill set to adeptly navigate this innovation and entrepreneurial landscape. To address these challenges, the University of Michigan recently created the first pathway of excellence for medical students to focus their passions and interests in medical innovation and entrepreneurship. This program has been transformative for building a new culture of young, motivated medical innovators, many of whom have dedicated their talents already to addressing several key problems in surgical patient care.