Q&A with the 2020 Innovations Pitch Competition ‘Audience Favorite’ Winner

Posted 9 August 2021

The 3rd Annual Innovations Pitch Competition, held during the 2020 virtual Annual Meeting, focused on the interconnectivity of children’s current and future health with planetary heath and sustainability. Making a huge splash during the competition was audience favorite John Podgore, DO, MPH, FAAP, and Prince Kajara Kaude, BSc, RN, (left) who pitched their innovative efforts to improve the survival of children with Burkitt Lymphoma (BL) by means of ultrasound screening.   

In his work, Dr. Podgore has been witness to the high number of children diagnosed with BL, the most common form of malignancy in children ages 5 to 10 in sub-Saharan Africa. Although highly curable with chemotherapy in its infancy stage, early stage diagnosis is difficult to detect by physical examination. The combination of late diagnosis, delayed referral for chemotherapy and lack of rural clinical nurse training has hindered the ability to diagnose and treat early stage BL. 

Through ultrasound pilot training courses focused on ultrasound imaging techniques and abdominal screening, Dr. Podgore and Mr. Kaude aimed to incorporate early stage BL examinations in conjunction with preexisting pediatric health screening that mobile clinics provide to resource-limited communities. 

The full team consists of Dr. Podgore, Mr. Kaude, Jacques Ebhele-Angundru, MD, and MacDonald Phiri.

We spoke with Mr. Kaude about the experience. He recently was accepted to the College of Medicine at the University of Malawi to pursue a Master’s degree in Epidemiology. Dr. Podgore and Mr. Kaude both plan to attend the 2021 Annual Meeting in person this November.

What have been the most significant breakthroughs you have accomplished so far?
From left, Prince Kaude, Akin Anatole, MacDonald Phiri, Jacques Ebhele-Angundru, outside Daeyang Luke Hospital in Lilongwe

The receptiveness from rural communities. Rural communities have become more receptive to medical attention than ever before, both BL related or otherwise. This receptiveness has allowed us to prioritize the most vulnerable children. 

Five years ago, did you envision yourself in this position? 
Definitely not. After I graduated from nursing school, before I took my nursing certificate, I wanted to learn more about pediatrics. I took this opportunity to learn more about BL alongside Dr. Podgore. Although I had general knowledge of BL from school, Dr. Podgore strengthened my cognition of both diagnosis and ultrasound screening, which has propelled my innovative passion. 

What are your biggest priorities moving forward? 
COVID-19 has hampered our ability to administer the necessary training courses. Once things return to normality, this will be the biggest priority. To date, we have trained and certified four nurses. 

View the entire Innovations Pitch Competition on our YouTube page.  

The Innovations Pitch Competition 

The 4th Annual Innovations Pitch Competition, to be held at the 2021 Annual Meeting in Gaylord National Resort and Convention Center in National Harbor, Maryland (adjacent to Washington, DC) will focus on two of the most consequential threats to a healthy and sustainable world: resilience in the face of a pandemic and reducing the deleterious impact of climate change. Ideas can cover the spectrum from nascent concepts all the way to mature solutions.  These solutions must be rooted in scientific rigor and be able to be pitched to a live audience. Greater emphasis will be placed on how these innovations will improve conditions in developing and low-resource settings. 

The Innovations Pitch Competition was developed as a symposium by longtime ASTMH member May Chu, a former CDC official who has participated in multiple outbreak responses, field work and has led the building of sustainable laboratory systems in the aftermath of the 2001 U.S. anthrax attack, SARS in China, Lassa fever, Ebola and Marburg virus outbreaks in Africa and pandemic influenza response. Seconded to the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy in 2014 and 2015, she worked with the US Agency for International Development on Fighting Ebola: A Grand Challenge for Development to develop a better protective suit and other medical aids to mitigate the Ebola epidemic. 

Chu and her Co-Chair Molly Lamb (Clinical Teaching Assistant Professor, Colorado School of Public Health) manage a team of reviewers, who rank the applications in processes similar to other ASTMH competitive awards. They also identify judges, who preside over the competition, asking questions, scoring each applicant, and providing feedback after the competition. They have integrated real-time audience questions and voting with the Sli.do application.