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$300,000 in Prizes Awarded to Engineering Students for Innovations in Primary Healthcare

Date: 7/23/2012
Contact: Ronald Newbower, PhD,

BOSTON–The MGH “Ambulatory Practice of the Future” (APF), in collaboration with CIMIT, has announced the three top winners of this year’s competition for technology innovations in primary healthcare. This is the fourth year of this unique Prize program. The objective of these awards is to encourage engineering students to apply their skills toward developing novel approaches at the very frontlines of healthcare. Their efforts have real potential to improve patients’ outcomes while reducing overall costs.

This year’s top prize of $150,000 goes to a team co-led by Jason Boggess and Everett Lawson, graduate students in MIT’s Media Lab. Their novel project, offers rapid imaging of a patient’s retina, without requiring dilating eye drops or technical skill for its use. The value of such a dramatically simplified technology would be the ability to do low-cost screening during the course of a routine primary care visit, and thus to detect any early signs of damage from diabetes or other causes. Their system could also easily track the ongoing development or management of any vision issues.

The second prize of $100,000 goes to a graduate-student team from the University of California at San Francisco, led by Mozziyar Etemadi for a unique and promising home-monitoring approach for early detection of dangerous crises in patients suffering from chronic congestive heart failure (CHF). Success and early intervention could mean a reduction in such crises and subsequent costly emergency readmissions to hospitals.

Two graduate-student teams tied for third prize, receiving $25,000 each. One team, led by Daniel DeDora from the State University of New York at Stony Brook, is developing a novel noninvasive approach to the long-standing challenge of continuous glucose monitoring for diabetics. The second team, led by Monika Weber from Yale University, is contributing new technology toward the important goal of rapid identification of pathogens in small blood samples taken in the primary-care setting.

In announcing the winners of this national Prize for Primary Healthcare, Ronald Newbower, PhD, Co-Founder of CIMIT, Strategic Advisor of the APF, and Director of this competition, stated, "We are delighted with the quality of the entries this Prize competition has elicited each year amongst engineering students. They are clearly eager to develop innovative technologies to address our national challenges in primary care and to use their creativity to improve the overall efficiency and efficacy of care. The winners of these major awards are headed toward truly significant careers and may well serve as role models for others in their field. We are proud to be able to support their efforts."

Dr. David Judge, Director of the MGH APF, stated “In our commitment to improve the paradigm of care for patients, we seek new tools, enabled by novel technologies, that can improve our ability to make rapid and more accurate medical decisions, whether patients are in the office, at home or at work. We believe that with such tools, the primary-care teams of the future will play a pivotal role in streamlining diagnosis and treatment, thereby reducing the cost and inconvenience that is driven by inefficiency and delay in appropriate care.”

Ten Finalists and Collaborators

This year’s competition began in February 2012, with ten finalists chosen from a broad national portfolio of 75 preliminary entries. Each finalist team received $10,000 in February to assist in the preparation of their full entry due in June. The three top winners just announced were chosen from these student teams of Finalists, listed here in alphabetic order:

Martin Omid Akhavan, Johns Hopkins University, in collaboration with Luis Soenksen
Project Title: “Innovistics Point-of-Care Fever Differential Diagnostic Tool"

Jason Boggess, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Media Laboratory, in collaboration with Everett Lawson, Di Wu and Siddharth Khullar
Project Title: “Fast Retinal Imaging for Diverse Screening via Binocular Coupling”

Daniel DeDora, State University of New York, Stony Brook University, in collaboration with Sayan Mullick Chowdhury, Nicholas Pallotta, Atulya Prasad, Aleks Klimas and Jon Yahav
Project Title: “GlucoREAD Patch: A Novel Non-invasive Continuous Glucose Sensor Using Near-Infrared Spectroscopy and an Optical Probe”

N. Gozde Durmus, Brown University, in collaboration with Kim Kummer and Erik Taylor
Project Title: “Using Nano-material Science to Inhibit Medical Device Infections”

Mozziyar Etemadi, University of California, San Francisco, in collaboration with Kendra Johnson
Project Title: "A New Cloud-Enabled Technology for Monitoring Heart Failure at Home"

Raymond Kozikowski, University of Florida, in collaboration with Sarah E. Smith and Jennifer A. Lee
Project Title: “Differential Laser-Induced Perturbation Spectroscopy: A New Fluorescence Technique for Enhanced Non-Invasive Detection and Staging of Oral Cancers”

Margo Monroe, Boston University, in collaboration with Alex Reddington, Jacob Trueb and Ahmet Tuysuzoglu
Project Title: “POC Instrument for Highly Sensitive, Quantitative, and Multiplexed Allergy Diagnostics in Whole Blood”

Guillermo L. Monroy, University of Illinois at Urbana–Champaign, in collaboration with Cac Nguyen, Nathan Shemonski and Shuo Yuan
Project Title: “Primary Care Imaging”

Eric Salm, University of Illinois at Urbana–Champaign, in collaboration Gregory Damhorst, Brian Dorvel, and Carlos Duarte
Project Title: “Integrated ‘Lab-on-a-Transistor’: Droplet-Based Polymerase Chain Reaction with Electrical Detection"

Monika Weber, Yale University, in collaboration with Brian Goldstein, Phillip McCown, Luye Mary Mu, Kara Brower and Shivang Patel
Project Title: “Alpha-Screener: Rapid Pathogen Detection and Antimicrobial Test”

About Prize for Primary Healthcare

Each year, this unique competition awards $400,000 in prizes to the most innovative of submitted projects. With these 2012 awards, the portfolio of student-led primary-care projects supported by Prize money over four years has expanded to forty, with a total of $1,600,000 in awards to date.

This Prize for Primary Healthcare has been made possible through a generous gift from the Gelfand Family Charitable Trust. “The challenge of delivering affordable excellent primary care presents an opportunity for those students interested in engineering solutions to make truly profound contributions” said Mark Gelfand, a principal in the trust. “I am pleased with the continuing success of this unique competition in driving toward that goal. Innovation in primary care could help many families, and I am confident that much good will result from these inspiring projects.”


CIMIT is the Center for Integration of Medicine and Innovative Technology. A ten-year-old non-profit consortium of Boston-area teaching hospitals and engineering schools, CIMIT provides innovators with resources to explore, develop and implement novel technological solutions for today’s most urgent healthcare problems. Participants in the consortium are Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, Boston Medical Center, Boston University, Brigham and Women’s Hospital, the Charles Stark Draper Laboratory, Children’s Hospital Boston, Harvard Medical School, Massachusetts General Hospital, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Newton-Wellesley Hospital, Northeastern University, Partners HealthCare and VA Boston Healthcare System.

About Ambulatory Practice of the Future

The Ambulatory Practice of the Future (APF) is a unique initiative of Massachusetts General Hospital to care for a fraction of its employee population and their dependents in innovative ways not tied to the traditional office-visit paradigm, and with reimbursement reflecting quality of overall care rather than volume of visits or encounters. It is intended as a living laboratory for new pathways of care and new technologies potentially adoptable by payors and providers alike as we move forward towards controlling overall healthcare costs, improving patient experiences, increasing career satisfaction for primary care clinicians and improving long-term medical outcomes.

Additional Information

Additional information about the APF may be found at, and additional information about the Prize for Primary Healthcare, as well as about CIMIT, may be found at

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