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Health care innovation flourishes at ETSU pharmacy school ‘Shark Tank’ presentation

Contributed • Jun 7, 2020 at 11:03 PM

Budding pharmacy entrepreneurs at East Tennessee State University’s Bill Gatton College of Pharmacy displayed their business savvy during the annual “Shark Tank” event, the college’s version of the popular reality show.

The students were challenged to develop business plans that addressed health care gaps in the community, region or nation with viable interventions spanning clinical and technological mediums. Each student group presented to live “sharks,” business owners, health care administrators, or related experts who serve as volunteer judges seeking to encourage highly engaged, business-ready professionals to make an impact on a community. The competition was led by Drs. Jeff Gray and Jim Thigpen, associate professors of Pharmacy Practice, and conducted over Zoom to maintain social distancing due to COVID-19.

The winning business idea, “MedGuardian,” seeks to help combat the opioid epidemic and reduce opioid-related health care costs through a smart dose dispenser. The product is a locked, tamper-proof smart vial with a fingerprint scanner which dispenses the prescribed dosage to the right person at the right time, thus reducing the chance for accidents, diversion or misuse.

Other ideas among the eight teams included “BabyRx,” providing parents with evidence-based information to make informed decisions about their health and medication use for themselves and their children, and “WOW (Women on Wheels),” providing patient-centered care to women through education and health screenings that is readily accessible and cost-effective.

Judges included Alan Corley, DPh, president of Corley’s Pharmacy Group; Stephen M. Darden, managing partner at Hunter, Smith & Davis; Jill McGonigle, director of corporate communications at Crown Laboratories; Chris Miller, COO for Ballad Health Greene County; and Cindy Thomas, DO, MPH, assistant health officer for the Northeast Regional Health Office for the Tennessee Department of Health.

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