Second Annual Spark Competition Focuses on Research

January 10, 2024 by

Spark graphic with light bulb

UVA Health believes that its most promising innovators and changemakers likely come from within – from the people who care for patients, work in the research labs, lead clinical trials and collaborate with fellow team members day in and day out. In this spirit, UVA Health has launched its second annual Spark Innovation Competition, which was established in 2022 to leverage the wisdom, energy and dedication of its team members and bring positive change to the organization’s culture.

In its second year, the competition is focused on improving the research environment. This includes ideas that impact the way research is conducted, the processes required to conduct research, and the quality of life of UVA Health team members conducting research and those who support the research community across the UVA Health System. The submission deadline is February 29, 2024.

“The goal of the Spark Competition is to enhance the culture of the research environment by tapping into the creativity of the amazing people who work here,” said David Kashatus, PhD, an associate professor in the Department of Microbiology, Immunology and Cancer Biology and leader of the Spark Innovation Project Team. “The Spark Competition was initiated in 2022 based on feedback collected from over 400 UVA Health team members indicating a strong desire and drive to implement positive change within the Health System, but insufficient mechanisms for frontline team members to fully engage in the process. Spark upends the traditional hierarchy by employing a diverse team of faculty, staff and students to directly seek and reward the most innovative ideas.”

The competition will span two rounds with judges evaluating all submissions on feasibility, impact and sustainability. In the first round, judges will narrow the field to 10 ideas that will each receive a $1,000 prize. Those submitting the 10 winning ideas will then work with a Performance Improvement Coach to further develop and build out their concepts. In the second round, judges will select three winning ideas for implementation. Every submission will be shared widely with local leaders for further visibility and potential implementation at the local level.

UVA Health launched last year’s competition with an initial goal to select three winning ideas for implementation. After receiving numerous outstanding submissions, the judging panel expanded the number of winners to six, including:

  • Ann Mercer, Peri-Operative Services | Paint the parking garages with murals or bright colors with improved wayfinding
  • Dr. Miriam Gomez-Sanchez, Hospital Medicine | Establish wellness space for exercise within the hospital for employees
  • Richard Rose, Telemedicine | Create integrated mobile app that guides patients where to go during their appointments
  • Dr. Bob Goldstein, Anesthesiology | Expand access to medication reclaim boxes
  • Dr. Christie Schaeffer, Plastic & Maxillofacial Surgery Resident | Improve lactating experience for team members
  • Dr. Carrie Kovacik, Pharmacy Resident | Offer free feminine supplies in bathrooms

“It’s a joy to work on the Spark Innovation Competition and get an up-close view of the brilliance, wisdom, and creativity of our front-line team members,” said Hannah Fitzhugh, Special Initiatives Lead for UVA Health. “The inaugural Spark Competition was especially inspirational because of the teamwork involved in bringing ideas to fruition. The collaboration and motivation to implement Spark ideas is managed by people who otherwise may not work together, creating new opportunities for professional collaboration and creativity.”

Visit the Spark website for submission guidelines, more information and to submit an idea.

Filed Under: Community, Featured, Research