Stepping Strong Fund to back trauma care innovation at Brigham and Women’s Hospital

Gillian practicing stairs at Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital.
Gillian practicing stairs at Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital.

The parents of a teenager whose life was saved by doctors at Brigham and Women’s Hospital after she was badly injured by bombs at the 2013 Boston Marathon are funding a program at the Brigham that looks to technology to improve trauma care.

Gillian Reny was among the spectators seriously wounded at the Boylston Street finish line in April 2013. She received treatment at the Brigham, where doctors were able to avoid amputating her legs, even though her injuries were severe.

The Trauma Innovation Series that kicks off Wednesday is open to anyone in the Brigham community. Participants are invited to identify problems in trauma care and next month they will be asked to provide solutions.

Ten months after the Marathon bombing, the Reny family set up the Gillian Reny Stepping Strong Fund as a way to thank the Brigham trauma team and bring awareness to trauma medicine. In the years since, the fund has invested nearly $6 million at the hospital, including a handful of “Innovators Awards” for basic science research and a fellowship for plastic surgery in trauma cases.

The new partnership with the Brigham Innovation Hub is the first time the philanthropy will back entrepreneurial or tech-based ideas.

“Our goal was to transform trauma care through innovation and collaboration. The inherent nature of what iHub does fits so beautifully with what we are doing,” said Audrey Epstein Reny, Gillian’s mother. Gillian’s grandfather is Robert Epstein, a managing partner of the Boston Celtics.

The Innovation Hub at the Brigham supports entrepreneurial ventures that its doctors propose. Launched in 2013 and led by executive director Lesley Solomon, the group helps find partners and funders and assists with issues such as intellectual property.

About every six months the iHub runs a hackathon-style program focusing on a different topic within medicine: surgery, pulmonary medicine, and radiology, among others. The intent is to provide a conduit to commercialize innovations.

Three finalists from this current round focusing on trauma care will be picked in August and receive $10,000 each to further develop their projects. A winner will be announced in November and will take home $100,000.

Nidhi Subbaraman writes about science and research. Email her at nidhi.subbaraman@globe.com.
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