Anesthesia student’s medical device idea wins UM-Flint business pitch competition

Share or print this article
Nurse Anesthesia student Jason Flowers won UM-Flint's recent Business Pitch Competition with his idea for a device to improve anesthesia/respiratory procedures.
Nurse Anesthesia student Jason Flowers won UM-Flint's recent Business Pitch Competition with his idea for a device to improve anesthesia/respiratory procedures.

Nurse Anesthesia student Jason Flowers took home first place last month in the Hagerman Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation Business Pitch Competition, a UM-Flint event which is run by the center and the School of Management. The competition is open to students from all disciplines. Flowers received $5,000 plus a range of free consultations. Flowers spoke with University Communications & Marketing about the benefits of the competition, the university support he has received, and more.

Describe your winning business pitch. How and when did you develop this idea?

The winning pitch was for a minimally invasive, expandable endo-tracheal tube (MieT Tube). The pitch described the problem (that endotracheal tubes are not tailored to a patient’s individual needs/size), the provisionally patented technology, the implementation of that technology in anesthesia/respiratory equipment, and a business plan to develop a marketable product/IP. The pitch also featured a dramatization of a difficult airway scenario with two fellow senior nurse anesthesia students, Tim Brunelle and Nicole Dub. They both did an amazing job.

I had been working on this idea, of a tube that expands after introduction to the object lumen, for about a year (soon after I started the Master of Science in Anesthesia program at UM-Flint). I heard about the competition from the Dean of my program, Dr. Shawn Fryzel, about two weeks before the initial submission date. Although I did not have too much time to make the initial submission, a frenetic pace and plenty of late nights allowed the MieT tube to stay competitive until the final round.

How did the competition help you further develop and evolve your business idea?

The Hagerman competition really helped me to look past an interesting idea as the object and see that for my idea to be successful more was needed. The competition moved me to do a huge amount of research, seek out mentors in various fields, utilize outside expertise and to see the need for a cogent business plan to keep heading in the right direction. Without the competition I would be nowhere near forming a business, provisional patenting, or meeting with investors (milestones that I have, or will soon have, achieved).

Have you utilized other campus resources and/or leveraged talents of anyone else on campus to work on the plan?

Realizing the stiff competition I was facing motivated me to reach out to many different individuals in the UM-Flint system, and I’m very glad I did. I sent out emails and made calls to all the engineering professors that were listed as teaching computer aided design and asked if they knew of any students who would be interested in doing a bit of paid design work/collaboration. I was successful in contacting professor Ming Li, who was very gracious and put me in contact with an engineering student, Andrew Barron. Andrew and I enjoyed working on some finer points of the design as well as 3D rendering for a video application and for initial 3D printing of proof of concept materials. I would highly recommend Andrew Barron to anyone. He is very professional, extremely hardworking and showcases the best kind of talent that can be found at UM-Flint. I have also visited 100K Ideas and am currently working with them to further the business.

An early prototype of Flowers' minimally invasive, expandable endo-tracheal tube (MieT Tube).
An early prototype of Flowers’ minimally invasive, expandable endo-tracheal tube (MieT Tube).

What have been the benefits for you in participating in the competition? How do the funds, and the free consulting services help?

The Hagerman Pitch competition provided the motivation, with its extremely generous prizes, for me to do additional research, design, and networking related to my idea, taking me from concept to design. Even with thousands of clinical and didactic hours already logged in my program, I would count entering this competition as a highlight of my anesthesia education. To top off the educational reward with $5,000 and free consulting valued in the thousands of dollars is a huge help toward getting the support necessary to launch a healthcare related product.

UM-Flint encourages and supports interdisciplinary collaborations. As a student within nurse anesthesia, what were the benefits of interacting with university members from other fields?

Anesthesia is a field of collaboration, we strive to work in concert with many other fields on a day to day basis. Any time I can work with a student training in another field, especially one with a STEM background, I gain a better perspective on the groundwork that had to be laid for anesthesia to be possible in its current form. And I am reminded of the synergy between fields that allows for rapid innovation. I also thoroughly enjoyed my time working with Dr. Simon and Dr. Blume of the Hagerman Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation. They both gave tirelessly of their time and energy to make this competition a success and provided me with the encouragement and mentorship to aim high with my entry.

Robert is a staff writer in University Communications & Marketing. Contact him with comments, questions, and story ideas.