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Aspiring doctors from Oxford University Medical School competed yesterday in the grand finals of the 2023 Challenge – an innovation challenge for junior doctors with ideas to improve healthcare. Against stiff competition, undergraduate Samuel Folkard scooped third place and Abbie Taylor was also selected as a finalist for her idea.

Having been shortlisted from 57 entries, six finalists were invited to make one final, face-to-face pitch during which they were quizzed on the finer detail of their cutting-edge ideas. They also stood in the spotlight for 90 seconds, pitching to an audience of around 100 of their peers and mentors during a prestigious ceremony at the Said Business School, Oxford earlier this week (12 November 2013).

 During the final stage of the process, a day of Dragons’ Den-style pitches to a panel of top judges, Samuel Folkard was awarded third runner-up with his idea for a novel surgical device to prevent unnecessary hospital admissions. Abbie Taylor was praised for her pitch for a new improvement to education and careers to help develop doctors, narrowly missing out on a top-three place.

Their ideas will now undergo a final assessment and funding may be allocated from a Health Education Thames Valley innovation fund, alongside a funded support package for the junior doctors leading the implementation, for the benefit of patients across the Thames Valley.

Judge Prof. Richard Bohmer, Visiting International Fellow, The King’s Fund and Professor of Management Practice at Harvard Business School, said:  “We chose the winners due to the strength of their ideas and the scope for implementation. The ideas presented were all rooted in day-to-day experience of delivering care in the NHS. Furthermore, we were impressed by the combination of confidence, passion and yet also humility displayed. These are the core traits needed to make a great entrepreneur and to take an idea forward into an implemented innovation.”

Judge Dr. Tony Berendt, Deputy Medical Director, Oxford University Hospitals NHS Trust, said: “I’d like to congratulate the finalists for bringing such a superb set of ideas. Not only have they proved their talent, they have laid down a challenge for us, the older guys in the business. It’s for us to manage the day-to-day challenges of the NHS while simultaneously making the space to safely develop these sorts of innovations, to make a real difference to patient care.”

Samuel Folkard, runner-up, said: “I’m very pleased with the results. It’s been a fantastic journey. I’ve learnt a lot, from looking at different aspects of the implementation of ideas, be it understanding intellectual property rights, working with other companies or overcoming problems. We’ve received incredible support throughout and it’s a great opportunity to get the ideas from junior doctors and to get those ideas into development.

Abbie Taylor, who was one of the six finalists chosen to pitch to the judges, said: “I work with a charity called 80,000 Hours which helps people choose the right career so that they can make the biggest impact and positive change. Through this, I recognised that many colleagues working towards or involved in healthcare professions do so for altruistic reasons; they want to help people and make a difference. But often they don’t feel empowered. I saw a real gap and want to expand the advice and research in this area so that we can make real positive change. I was surprised to get this far in the competition and it has been a hugely useful experience, developing my idea and bringing it closer to realisation with real crossover with my charity work too. The support I’ve received will enable me to continue to help others.”

Dr. Michael Bannon, Postgraduate Dean, Health Education Thames Valley, said: “I am just so immensely proud of what has been achieved through this competition.  We’ve harnessed a tidal wave of energy and creativity to make a real difference to the quality of education, training and ultimately patient care.”

 Source: Health Education Thames Valley