The Australian Startup Aiming For Zero Waste In Healthcare

Globally, there’s been increasing awareness - and action- regarding sustainability and climate change.

Healthcare is no different.

Have you ever wondered what happens to the tonnes of unused, sanitised medical supplies found in well-stocked hospitals and clinics in the developed world?

The pristine cannulas and IV drips. The instruments in the operating room. Even the surgical gloves.

Melbourne anaesthetist Dr Martin Nguyen studied this with Hospital Sustainability expert Dr Forbes McGain and their team, and was perturbed by the findings that, in one week in Melbourne, 23% of waste generated from six operating rooms was recyclable. Was it feasible to recycle this waste? The study showed that, yes, it was, both financially and with infection control integrity.

This brought Martin back to his journeys on medical missions trips, where, he says, “in isolated pockets of Vietnam, I noted these communities were in desperate need for medical supplies, but did not have connections or the resources to reach out.” Furthermore, “we discovered (through our research) that there were unused items thrown out into landfill. This practice upset many staff who were avid reducers and recyclers at home, but had to be wasteful at work. They were keen to collect and donate these supplies, but did not know where to send it to.

“This is where the inspiration for Medical Pantry came from. The Medical Pantry sits in the middle to match the needs of undeserved communities with the generosity of the givers.”

Since inception, Medical Pantry has successfully donated high quality, unused clinical goods to communities worldwide, including in Tonga and Papua New Guinea. Led by Martin and a team of eager volunteers, goods are readily donated from hospitals and clinics, and are given to recipients usually via clinicians on missions trips and other aid ventures. Goods can also be used locally; wildlife sanctuaries have benefited, along with local businesses in Victoria’s Western Health district; local clinics may run short, and mechanics find the unused, sterile kidney dishes useful! However, Martin envisages a future where tech enables donors to match recipients’ needs directly online, saving further costs, time and resources that can then be put to use expanding the reach of their work.

 A hospital in Papua New Guinea using donated goods from the Medical Pantry.

A hospital in Papua New Guinea using donated goods from the Medical Pantry.

“Our ultimate goal is for the Medical Pantry to not exist at all - for there to be no waste from the healthcare system,” says Martin. “But, while there is waste, the Medical Pantry will find a second life for medical supplies and stop it heading to landfill. I hope in future, this will be a national program with collection/distribution centres in each major city in Australia. I believe the data collected will raise awareness and feedback to those in healthcare to help achieve zero healthcare waste.”

Currently, Medical Pantry is in the running for up to $100,000 in local government grants to help with more permanent warehousing, distribution and storage. (People with Victorian addresses can vote for Medical Pantry to receive funds in this grant, until 5pm, Monday 17 September.) However, to fulfil its dream of recycling goods in other cities and expanding its reach, it will need more funding and support beyond this grant. It’s amazing what impact local work can have on global health.

To reach out to Medical Pantry regarding funding or other support, please visit medicalpantry.org or facebook.com/medicalpantry.

All images in this article courtesy of Medical Pantry.

Melbourne startup Nebula Health Raises $250,000 in Seed Funding For Best Perioperative Patient Care

First published June 6, 2017

What makes patients’ lives easier?

Having clear, up to date communication with their doctor and treating team.

The problem is, time pressures and administrative structures in most hospitals and clinics make this difficult both for patients and clinicians.

Australian surgeons Dr Paul Paddle and Dr Chandrashan Perera have created a solution for this. Nebula Health delivers smartphone reminders and advice via app directly from the surgeon to the patient, improving the quality of pre-operative care, post-op recovery and long-term health of their patients, in an easy-to-use and efficient manner.

 

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Nebula Health’s new patient-focused app will help patients prepare for and recover well from surgery, with clear instructions tailored to each patient’s unique needs. Photo courtesy of Nebula Health.

As Chief Medical Officer Dr Paddle explains, “The concept for this app was borne out of my own experience and frustration. As a practicing ENT surgeon, I strive to check in on my patients at every step, before and after their surgery. However, in the time-pressured realities of medical practice today, it’s often not possible. With this app, my patients receive personalised directions every step of the way. In return, I receive real-time notifications of their compliance. As a result, my patients have more confidence in my abilities, are more satisfied and have better health outcomes.”

Frustration with the limits of current best patient care are what drive startups formed by doctors, nurses and other clinicians. Perioperative medicine is a standout opportunity for healthtech innovation, given the enormous breadth of surgical patients and cases, spanning from neonatal to paediatrics and adult surgery, and the non-surgical complications that can occur (such as cardiac events) amidst the high turnover of operative cases. A precision medicine solution like Nebula’s app could potentially also help those patients on waiting lists who are anxious about surgery or wanting advice in between appointments.

 

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Melbourne Accelerator Launch Party 2016. Photo: The Medical Startup

Since completing their time with the Melbourne Accelerator Program (MAP), Nebula have visited Silicon Valley with the other MAP graduates and iterated the initial concept of their product into a helpful perioperative app. What was the journey like as a clinician and startup founder? “We tested thirty (surgical) patients using a prototype. Feedback was overwhelmingly positive, and it encouraged us to develop this concept into a market-ready product.” explains Dr Chandrashan Perera , Nebula’s CEO. “Patient testimonials from this trial turned six surgeons into early customers. From this traction, we were able to close our seed round. This funding will allow us to grow the team and scale our services to more patients.” Indeed, at least two more medical doctors have joined Nebula‘s team, and Nebula’s vision has impressed angel investors including Rod Lyle, a board member of ASX-listed medical technology company Pro Medicus.

It’s been exciting following Nebula Health’srapid journey from the Melbourne Accelerator Program (MAP).  Other medical successes include compatriots CNSDose, a pharmacogenetics company who are now part of the Texas Medical Center’s Innovation Accelerator, and other graduates of the MAP program.

Currently, Nebula Health are looking for more surgeons in hospitals and clinics who are interested in their software. For a demo or more information, please contact Li (at) nebulahealth.com.

Congratulations and best wishes to the team!

Creative Spotlight: Jewellery Inspired By Neuroscience, by Luke Maninov Hammond of Queensland Brain Institute

First published June 2, 2017

 

You’d be amazed by the treasures you find on Instagram.

If art and design can tell stories to engage a captive audience beyond science and medicine, Luke Maninov Hammond has done a stellar job.

I came across a snapshot of Luke’s designs via the Queensland Brain Institute’s Instagram. Luke’s work with fluorescence microscopy at the QBI has inspired his incredible jewellery designs and prints, which he has exhibited recently at Pieces of Eight gallery in Melbourne and will soon be showing at Brisbane’s Artisan Gallery from June 15.

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 Beneath The Surface engagement ring. Luke: “This signature ring simultaneously represents the invisible worlds of cellular machinery, marine life, and dynamic connectivity within the brain. Designed as a pair, this engagement ring holds a 1.6ct Australian parti sapphire in 18ct yellow gold, surrounded by three brilliant white diamonds. Combined, the pair form a completed circle surrounding the sapphire with a golden halo set with six diamonds.” Image copyright Luke Maninov Hammond

As well as at his exhibitions, some of Luke’s work can be purchased at beneaththesurfaceprints.bigcartel.com, with profits going towards schizophrenia research. He’s also at www.lukemaninov.com, and on Instagram@lukemaninov and Facebook www.facebook.com/lukemaninovjewellery. Luke kindly provided insights for us about the mix of art, design and neuroscience while preparing for a new role at Columbia University, New York City.

Can you tell us about your neuroscience career?

 

 

When I was studying neuroscience, all I wanted to do was get involved in research on consciousness, but I took a side step and started an imaging project in a cancer biology lab with Prof. Jennifer Stow at the University of Queensland.   This is when I first started using microscopes to image fluorescent proteins in cells. 

It’s one thing to know that without your awareness, every single cell in your body is almost vibrating with activity and something entirely different to actually see it with your own eyes. Looking down into an ocean of darkness and seeing dynamic glowing worlds alive within cells was a profound experience that completely captured my imagination. 

A few years later I had the opportunity to join the Queensland Brain Institute (QBI), where I worked to establish an imaging facility so these techniques could be used to study the brain. It’s been an incredible journey to see fluorescent imaging move from allowing us to see inside single cells, to watching neurons within the brain flashing with activity.  After almost 9 years with QBI I’m about to start a new position managing and establishing a new facility at the Zuckerman Mind Brain Behaviour Institute, Columbia University in New York City.

 

What did your work at QBI focus on?

My work at QBI was focused on establishing a microscopy facility that offered the world’s most advanced imaging capabilities and working with QBI’s researchers to ensure they could use these instruments to make novel discoveries about the brain. This included working on projects trying to understand how neurotransmitters are released, how axons regenerate, and how to treat diseases like Alzheimer’s or motor neurone disease.

Most recently my colleagues and I published a new paper in Molecular Neurobiology which contributes key insights into how vitamin D deficiency during embryonic development can alter the brain’s dopamine system.

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Luke: “Within the In-Between” reveals the brain cells and their complex interwoven processes. To create this image, varying colours have been used to reflect the changing depths of the neuronal processes as they extend through the brain. This image was captured at high-resolution in 3D using state-of-the-art fluorescence microscopy at the University of Queensland’s Queensland Brain Institute.” This is one of several limited-edition prints that can be purchased for schizophrenia research. Image copyright Luke Maninov Hammond

Fluorescence microscopy essentially makes the invisible worlds within cells and brains visible with glowing proteins and dyes. 

Due to recent advancements we can now see objects down to 20nm in size, that’s 5000x finer than a human hair, in living cells and tissue. It’s truly amazing what we can achieve. We are in the midst of a revolution for biomedical imaging, it’s a very exciting time for brain science.

How did you start making jewellery and fine art?

I started making jewellery and objects as a new creative outlet and a way of exploring 3D form. I primarily use a technique called “Lost-Wax Casting,” which involves sculpting and creating a wax object that can be transferred into precious metal.

I fell in love with the analogue process of working with my hands to create these forms, and have been experimenting with it ever since. There is an inherent joy in creating something out of nothing based on an idea which emerges at the edge of your imagination.

Agreed! What was the point when you realised the link between your neuroscience work and a physical expression of creativity?

My practice has always been about reimagining biological form to explore themes of impermanence, consciousness and connection between living things. From the beginning I think the jewellery I was creating was informed by the 3D imaging and analysis I was performing in science but a few years in I realised it made sense to explore neuroscience more deliberately.

What, if any, resistance or challenges have you had to overcome from others, or self-doubts from yourself, when crossing between the science and fashion/design worlds?

Certainly I’ve learnt to overcome a lot of self-doubt in teaching myself to create jewellery. Navigating a path between science and art can be challenging too, in the sense that you don’t want your involvement in one role to call into question your capacity for the other. While there can be a lot of overlap, especially in creativity and coming up with ideas, in science we are required to make unbiased, precise and accurate measurements in order to understand complex processes, and this is not always the work of an artist.

On the other hand, we are exploring an unseen world for the first time, and there is an important role for art to play in sharing this with rest of the world and communicating these discoveries in ways that capture our imagination. It’s encouraging to see growing interest in bridging the worlds of art and science.

 

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Unfolding Object. Sterling silver, Australian sapphires, gold vermeil and patina. Housed in glass bell jar. Image copyright Luke Maninov Hammond

How did the Pieces of Eight exhibition come about (in Melbourne)?

Melanie Katsalidis, the Director of Pieces of Eight, began representing my work last year. When the possibility to propose an exhibition came up, I put forward the concept of “Beneath the Surface.” I only had a few weeks to work on the show, but the timing ended up perfect as I was able to complete the project just in time to be ready to move to New York.

What do you hope people will learn or gain from your exhibition?

 

The exhibition explores the story of green fluorescent protein, the glowing protein discovered in jellyfish by Osamu Shimomura, from which fluorescence microscopy and our ability to see the invisible stems. It draws parallels between the unfolding microscopic structures beneath our skin and those in the depths of the ocean.

I think it’s a story stranger than fiction, that our exploration of the sea has enabled us to illuminate the living brain and journey inwards.

I hope people will come away with an interest in what is being discovered in neuroscience and a sense of wonder in the hidden beauty within us. Part of the exhibition includes large-format cellular images of the brain, which we rarely get to share with the public, so I hope this will capture people’s imaginations.

As with my other work, the pieces represent the unfolding nature of life, encouraging reflection on our coming out of the world, rather than coming into it.

 

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Enclosed Radial” ring. Sterling silver, Australian sapphires, gold vermeil, patina. Image copyright Luke Maninov Hammond

Neuroscience and ageing can be very intimidating subjects; how can we make the brain and neuroscience more accessible to others? 

It’s true, people can put a mental block on understanding topics like this as they appear intimidating. This is why it’s important for science to engage with artists and communicators to come up with novel ways of sharing discoveries and breaking down the barrier that exists between science and the general public.

I think microscopy has a key role to play here too, the images we capture are able to directly convey the story of disease and how the brain works. Often these images are never seen by more than one or two people, as they are distilled into graphs and data points for publication, but I hope we can find more ways of sharing them more broadly. I’ve seen some amazing reactions to the few images I’ve been able to share in my exhibitions and believe they hold a capacity to spark a genuine interest in science and self discovery.

Thank you Luke for your inspiration! Don’t forget to visit his “Beneath the Surface” exhibition at Artisan Gallery, Brisbane from June 15 and buy his prints at beneaththesurfaceprints.bigcartel.com. Profits from sales go towards schizophrenia research. 

Interview with Dr Lloyd Nash, Co-Founder of Global Health Startup “Global Ideas”

First published September 2, 2016

 

Dr Lloyd Nash is a General Medicine Physician working between Australia and Vanuatu, who co-foundedGlobal Ideas, a series of conferences and events where people from diverse industries unite to learn about Global Health issues, social ventures, and career pathways. Lloyd and his friends created this as they found a severe lack of opportunities for people at various stages in their studies or professional lives to explore career options in Global Health. This weekend, their fifth Global Ideas Forum will be held in Melbourne, featuring international guest speakers and small group sessions. During the year, they also host the Design Jam and Global Ideas Labs, where people brainstorm particular issues in Global Health over three hours, using human-centred design thinking.

Lloyd has successfully brought together healthcare workers, architects, graphic designers, lawyers, NGO founders, social entrepreneurs and more into a Global Health powerhouse that energises people at all levels of education to build solutions to Global Health problems. We’d been blown away by the enthusiasm at last year’s Global Ideas Forum, and got talking to Lloyd about his journey combining traditional clinical training with building his own Global Health organisation.

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Dr Lloyd Nash. Photo: Supplied

How did Global Ideas begin?

It started around the board table at an AMA (Australian Medical Association) meeting in 2011. I was there as the chair of the College of Physicians’ Trainees’ committee. I was sitting with young, inspiring people who were passionate about global health, including Dr Rob Mitchell, Dr Ross Roberts-Thomson, and Dr Jake Parker, and we were lamenting the status of Global Health career opportunities.

The lament was, there’s a lot of passion and energy around medical students and campuses, lots of activity and initiatives, then people get into the early part of their careers, whether in healthcare or not, and get buried. Often they might come to Global Health at the end of their career, but there’s a sort of donut (where their Global Health opportunities are lacking). That was a frustration for us, realising there wasn’t a lack of enthusiasm about Global Health, more of a lack of pathways, opportunities and engagement.

Also, looking at my own career path, as I trained in Infectious Diseases for awhile, the Global Health models that were around were either, do an internship at the WHO, or via NGOs- volunteer in the field for two years, then we might give you a job as a program officer. It seemed both of those were very bureaucratic, unresponsive pathways, not fit for purpose, and hadn’t adapted to the 21st century realities of technology, using the skills and passion coming through from the next generation. Most people were told to go do a Master’s degree or camp in the jungle for five years, then come back and look for work. It seemed to be the wrong way to harness the energy and enthusiasm of younger people.

So we started Global Ideas with the Forum in 2012. Our mission is to create and connect the next generation of Global Health leaders. It’s a leadership capacity building project, from Education through to Action.

The structure was Learn, Share, Develop and Connect, as an educational and networking enterprise. We wanted people to learn about new initiatives, share their own ideas, any research they might have done, any social enterprises and other new initiatives they may have developed, and connect with a broad, diverse interdisciplinary community.

We ran three conferences, then had a strategic review and thought, what more do we need to be doing? We were doing well at engaging and inspiring younger people, but I wanted to do more knowledge and skills development, so we launched a couple of new programs- the Labs and Design Jam.

Labs is an extension of the Forum- Labs engages people on a more regular basis to dive deeper into issues over 3 hours. We have a Lead (facilitator), and intimate group discussions. It revolves around the Sustainable Development Goals framework, so connections between health and development, and advocating for the Sustainable Development agenda amongst the next generation of Global Health leaders. We wanted to have events like edutainment, so people can be, like, “I could go to the cinema tonight, or go to the Lab, and I could have more fun and learn more by going to the Lab.”

The Design Jam program extends that educational journey into Action. We partner with organisations doing Global Health work, Design organisations and other groups, and smash those together with our participants to help people become more aware and comfortable applying the tools of Human-Centred Design Thinking.

How can you motivate anyone to care about Global Health and see themselves as change-makers?

If you think about how to create change or develop leadership influence, think about people’s motivations and passions. We encourage people to reflect on their world view to influence others’ behaviour. To do this, you’ve got to learn about Global Health. You’ve got to develop skills to apply in the field, not just vertical skills, but a reproducible thought model that is creative, innovative, and collaborative, to apply to complex challenges in their own careers. That came screaming at us as Human-Centred Design and Design Thinking, and I use both terms interchangeably.

We want to have discussions that feel comfortable, usually taking the form of expert, but I really wanted to challenge the idea of expertise. The concept that you have to be an old professor who’s published a lot of papers, I didn’t think that was true. We wanted to promote the idea that younger people who’ve taken time to reflect and had experiences can be experts in their own right.

I ran a Lab in June on ethics and leadership, discussing Sustainable Development Goal 16- Peace and Justice- how you build societies that encourage dialogue and discussion around conflict.

So I was nominally a discussion lead, and brought a friend and colleague, Professor Paul Komesaroff, who’s a clinician and philosopher, who also led the discussion, but we’re not there to teach or preach. We facilitate connections and help the crowd, and reflect insights back to people. That’s the essence of good facilitation.

We’re creating pathways because, maybe, someone will meet someone working in Global Health, or an organisation that has opportunities through what is a pretty complex system.

How quickly did Global Ideas evolve to what it is today?

It was remarkably quick actually, our meeting was end of 2011, our first forum was held 2012, and now we’re at our fifth forum.

We were kind of powered by medical doctors in the beginning, mainly through my networks. The four of us, Jake, Rob, Ross and I sat and decided we needed a more diverse board, so we brought on Jenny Jamieson who is also another doctor; an accountant, and a lawyer; then we ran into a young doctor who was very passionate about Global Health, Natalie Wright, and literally over a coffee I said, “I have an idea to run a conference, will you help me?” and she was like, “Yes,” and she was effectively our CEO and forum convenor. We literally sat in a cafe on the back of an envelope and sketched out what a great forum would look like.

We brought in other people. Our first academic officer, was also a doctor, Aaron, a really bright guy who created a great experience for people that was grounded in Global Health with many career development angles. This became Global Cafes, sitting in small groups talking to people who’d worked in Global Health, and could reflect back to others about their leadership journeys, and people could ask how they could consider their own career pathways, educational opportunities, and opportunities for action. We had a Career Corner, and Family Time- threaded throughout the conference, in small groups where they stayed with each other during the conference to build intimate connections. Family Time has now become Reimagine Time, which still runs throughout the conference to address global health issues via human-centred design thinking.

How did you get the word out to designers and other professional groups?

Once you diversify your leadership team, you can diversify your management team, your content, and everything else. As the board evolved, it became more diverse, we brought on a designer, a business development person, and a human-centred design service designer. The board became radically diverse.

We always took a more upstream look at Global Health, in that we’re not here to just look at tech solutions for global health. We’re looking at drivers of ill health, particularly social and environmental determinants of ill health. Health is intimately connected with development and vice versa, and people felt it was very accessible and our events were not swamped in health, and that health touches all aspects of their lives.

Once you have content that’s engaging for these people they come along.

What’s your biggest tip for people wanting to do what you’re doing?

There’s a lot of ways to create impact. We identified five personas at Global Ideas, ranging from Grassroots advocacy to Entrepreneurial activities to Policy-making. You may fit into one or more personas. Start with what you’re passionate about, and how you can influence the world, and you’ll quickly identify with one or more of these personas. Once you’ve identified what you’re passionate about and what gets you out of bed in the morning, decide, how do I want to create influence? Do I need a bigger network? More education? And that’s partly planning, part serendipity. But you’ve got to know where you want to get to.
Don’t be intimidated by vertical pathways that are wound up with social status. If you want to change the world, work out how you want to change it, and make it happen.

The Global Ideas Forum 2016 kicks off tonight in Melbourne. Tickets are still available, including day and student passes, here