Surgical Innovations

Surgeons are natural inventors. In the OR and beyond, they combine technical skill with creative problem-solving to continually improve tools and techniques for patient care. That’s why we measure the pace of life-saving innovations in years, not decades.

At the U-M Department of Surgery, we take this spirit of discovery seriously. We’ve created a program in surgical innovation and entrepreneurship that’s become a national model for its reach and results.

Our program features:

  • Learning across all levels, from medical students to senior faculty, including a formal curriculum for medical student education in innovation.
  • A focus on teamwork within entrepreneurship, including a first-of-its-kind 9-month course for surgical faculty to develop novel medical solutions.
  • Partnerships with faculty in business and biomedical engineering, fostering relationships to solve medical problems together and bring new products to market.
  • Leadership for innovation and entrepreneurship within the department through a dedicated associate chair position.

Entrepreneurial Developments

With support from industry and university partners, Department of Surgery projects have been exceptionally successful in securing funding to advance ideas from startup to licensing. Supporters include the Wallace H. Coulter Foundation and the Michigan Translational Research and Commercialization Program (MTRAC).

Funded projects include:

  • A feeding tube for pediatric patients, called the Buddy Button, which helps prevent food from being dislodged, developed by Dr. Jim Geiger.
  • A drug to treat adrenal cancer, developed by Dr. Mark S. Cohen. This project led to a university spinout company, Scarab Therapeutics, which is developing the drug for clinical trials.
  • An app, named U-M Breast Cancer Ally, to help patients with breast cancer better understand their diagnosis and treatment options, connecting them to doctors at the U-M Cancer Center, developed by Dr. Michael Sabel.

Education at All Levels

Michigan is investing in continued advances by providing training programs beginning at the undergraduate medical education level.

Medical students: Within the U-M Medical School, a curricular track launched in 2015 provides formal training in innovation and entrepreneurship and is directed by Department of Surgery Associate Chair Dr. Mark S. Cohen. This Pathway of Excellence track introduces students to skills they’ll need to advance their own ideas as clinical innovators, and gives them experience in pitching their ideas in a “shark tank”-style competition.

Trainees: Another Medical School program, the Program Accelerating Commercialization Education (PACE), will offer a 12-week curriculum in biomedical innovation and entrepreneurship for residents, fellows, postdocs, and graduate students. Its precursor, the House Staff Innovation Program, supported residents across 7 departments, and led to internal funding awards for surgical trainees to pursue new medical devices and other projects.

Faculty: The department’s own Surgical Innovation and Entrepreneurship Development Program is a 9-month course for faculty to receive space and support to explore inventions that will improve patient health and healthcare delivery.

Learn More

Fast Forward Medical Innovation

Explore how research and commercialization can come together to help patient health.

Innovation & Entrepreneurship Path of Excellence

Learn more about training opportunity offered through the University of Michigan Medical School.

Support Surgical Advances

Your contribution helps us continue to translate discoveries into healthcare solutions.

Discoveries & Breakthroughs

Explore surgical milestones and famous inventors from our past.