How COVID-19 has Fueled Innovation in Health Care, Philanthropy, and More

Dave Moore, Staff Writer

While COVID-19 initially stunned innovators in health care, philanthropy, and other sectors, those same communities have bounced back strongly, said a panel assembled by Children’s Health on Thursday, Oct. 8.

The virtual event was held to officially launch Children’s Innovators program, which encourages individual gifts of $5,000 (or $1,000 for students) to help fuel collaborative research between Children’s and UT Southwestern Medical Center faculty.

“The downside of a pandemic is that it’s frightening,” said panelist Nicole Small, LH Capital/Lyda Hill Philanthropies CEO. “The good thing is, sometimes it speeds up things that probably needed to happen. Like telemedicine. It’s happening on the philanthropic side as well. I think a lot more people in our community have been helped.”

Small said COVID-19 spurred the creation of North Texas Cares, a consortium of care providers who combined their data to identify individuals who have the greatest needs, whether nutritional, psychological, etc.

Small was joined on the panel by Health Wildcatters CEO Hubert Zajicek, Main Event Chief Brand Officer Sarah Beddoe, Perot Jain Principal Cindy Revol, and Dallas Fort Worth International Airport EVP of Innovation Paul Puopolo. The event was moderated by Julie Hall-Barrow, Senior Vice President of Network Development and Innovation at Children’s Health.

Puopolo and Revol agreed that innovation has rapidly raced to create touchless transactions and services, where possible, even for individual identification confirmation for security purposes.

Revol added that one company Perot Jain created — an HR/staff management platform called Shiftsmart — worked with an organization called Get Shift Done to pay out-of-work shift workers to work at the North Texas Food Bank, which was short of volunteers due to COVID.

Beddoe, meanwhile, said that Main Event found funding to create a virtual birthday party platform for its customers.

“So much of our business is a physical, in-person experience,” she said. “Our mission is to bring loved ones, friends, and families together. Our business went from being very relevant to not existing.”

Beddoe said those virtual birthday parties have helped Main Event reconnect loved ones.

“We created the virtual birthday platform… so thousands and thousands of children can feel the love, despite the fact that they couldn’t get out and be with their friends and family. While it seems small, it’s a big part of emotional health and making sure people still feel connected.”

Following the panel discussion, Children’s Vice President of Research Administration and Professional Services Operations Brenda Paulsen and Dr. Jeffrey Kahn, UT Southwestern Director of Pediatric Infectious Diseases, outlined some research collaboration by Children’s and UTSW, and how the Innovators program will work.

“We’ll set it up like a ‘Shark Tank’ event, so it’s going to be kind of fun,” Paulsen said. “You will have access to those research teams, so you’ll be able to ask them all the questions you’d like to ask, and all the innovators at the event will vote, right then, on which one that they are going to support.”

To learn more about the Innovators program, click here.

A version of this article originally appeared in Dallas Innovates, a partnership between the Dallas Regional Chamber and D Magazine.