Category Archives: General

Open Bionics – The prosthetic pioneers making science fiction a reality

Samantha Payne and Joel Gibbard form Open Bionics, an organisation that want to change the way bionic limbs are currently manufactured in order to make them more accessible to amputees. By using an innovative technique of 3D printing, Open Bionics scan the residual limb, print a socket to create the perfect fit and then continue to print the remainder of the bionic limb. This technique aims to reduce the cost of purchasing a bionic arm for example, from between £30,000-£80,000 to less than £4,000.

Not only will the lower cost make bionic limbs more readily accessible, the team also share their development findings with the open source community. They have a firm belief that sharing their own experience enables others to use their designs as long as they provide feedback that they can develop from.

Open Bionics have set out to revolutionise the field of robotic prosthetics, creating affordable, accessible, unique limbs for everyone. They are only two years in and still at the research stage but they are already in the top 50 robotics companies in the world. The Open Bionics team is fronted by Joel Gibbard and Samantha Payne. We recently met up with Samantha who gave us an insight into this young exciting company.

Samantha was working as a freelance journalist for a local newspaper in her home town of Bristol when she first met Joel. She recalls, “Joel had just finished a very successful crowd funding campaign called the ‘Open Hand Project’ to produce a low cost 3D printed bionic hand. She was assigned to the story. After the successful crowd funding campaign Joel quit his job to make open-source hands for amputees. Shortly after that he discovered a competition run by Intel which was looking for the best wearable tech project.

The winner would receive $500,000. He quickly got back in touch with Samantha asking for her help with the all-important pitch. There were more than 500 applicants and this was soon trimmed down to 30. The 30 entrants were given the opportunity to enter a three-month intense programme/competition in the USA.  Samantha quit her job and the two of them set up Open Bionics and travelled to the States with the hope of winning the money. After three months, the numbers were cut from 30 to 10. The pair made it through to the end of the process but were pipped at the post, securing second place and a prize worth $250,000 which was enough to set up the business. During the three months in the States, the intense programme gave them the skills and knowledge of how to set up, market and drive a start-up company. They used the money to hire a main core engineering team and set up their lab in 2015.

One of the significant elements they took from the programme was the importance of understanding your audience. “We turned immediately to Dan Melville. He was amazing. We had worked with him before on the Open Hand Project and he helped us a great deal to understand prosthetics, the history, usage, design and potential. He also introduced us to loads of people who have built or used prosthetics.”

We later met Dan in the Open Bionics studio. He said, “I was born with only one full arm and never truly got on with the traditional prosthetic. When I came across the Open Hand Project on Kickstarter, I saw the title ‘3D Printed, low cost, bionic arm.’ I was intrigued.” Dan quickly got in touch with Joel to offer his help on the testing front and within months he was in the studio testing the first prototype. “I’d brought my brother along and once the hand was fitted I was able to shake his hand, which was pretty emotional.” Two years on, Dan is still one of the main testers at Open Bionics and travels to lots of global events to promote the business. He said, “I think what the team are doing is amazing. I’m so excited about the future of prosthetics and feel so privileged to play a small part in bringing these particular bionic limbs to reality.” He talked us through a number of movements the bionic arm he was testing could do… open and close to pick up a mug of coffee or bottle, grip to pick up small things like screws and a bunch of keys and a half hand to pick up carrier bags, as well as a finger point and thumbs up to be able to gesture.bionic-arm

The process Open Bionics use to produce the current robotic limbs is quite unique. They use a 3D scanner to scan the residual limb and then use a 3D printer to produce the socket for a perfect fit. The 3D printer then continues to make the rest of the robotic limb. It’s this printing technique that enables the customisation that previously wasn’t available. Amputees can currently pay anything from £30,000-£80,000 for a bionic arm, but Open Bionics want to create limbs that will cost less than £4,000. The focus now is to create a lightweight limb with a comfortable socket that will ideally have some form of temperature control, can perform multi-grip functions and importantly, look great. The latest one in development is based on a fictional character called Adam Jenson from the game Deus Ex. Next up is the Disney line and then the Marvel Superheroes line, making prosthetics appealing for kids. Samantha told us that they want to work on something specific for upper arm amputees and then exoskeletons to give people movement who may have suffered a stroke or have some other debilitating condition which restricts movement.

From an early stage Open Bionics have been truly transparent in their development, sharing lots of findings with the open source community. They set up the Ada hand project, a platform for research into prosthetics, object grasping and many human-robot-interaction applications. “Our open source licence aims to build a community to allow people to use our designs as long as they feed back on the results and share any developments they have made.” This allows Open Bionics to harness expertise to develop and advance the current offering, creating a cycle where hopefully the designs and manufacture will keep on improving and benefit everyone. The Ada hands have a global reach and can be found in many countries across the world. Sam informed us that they have never taken out an advertisement or spent any money on marketing so they are constantly amazed when new orders arrive.
The team have received global acclaim, won numerous awards and continue to push the boundaries with innovative technology. In the past, the manufacture of bionic hands has been generic and out of touch with individual requirements, but Open Bionics have changed that by initiating debate with amputees with the idea of developing a product aimed at comfort and affordability. “What we do is really rewarding, every development we make feels like a real leap forward and when we test the devices the reactions we get from the amputees and their families are priceless.” Sam and Joel are clearly focused individuals who are committed to driving this young exciting team forward and helping to change the future of robotic limbs for good.

www.openbionics.com

Learn more about the #HealthcareHeroes at: www.healthcare-heroes.com

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Havas Lynx comes out on top with 5 golds at the prestigious PM Society Awards

Leading healthcare communications agency, Havas Lynx, has celebrated an unprecedented number of big wins at the prestigious Pharmaceutical Marketing Awards  (PM Society Awards).  The Manchester based agency collected a total of five golds, four of which were won for its innovative “Change the face of HIV” campaign for Viiv healthcare.  This year’s awards sweep of gold, silver and bronze takes the agencies total to an incredible 36 PM Society wins in the past six years.

Competition this year was tougher than ever, with entries from a total of 51 agencies and 83 in-house creative teams.  Havas Lynx’s record-breaking ten accolades were achieved in recognition of its innovative work across a variety of therapy areas and categories.

The PM Society Awards are widely regarded amongst the most esteemed in the pharmaceutical healthcare sector, and is the biggest annual gathering in the industry. They are unique among healthcare creative awards in that they include categories judged by healthcare professionals – the targets of the work (TARGET) – as well as a creative panel from the industry (CRAFT).

Havas Lynx’s gold awards comprised of:

Best primary care advertisement – Change the face of HIV for Viiv healthcare (TARGET)

Best advertisement campaign – Change the face of HIV for Viiv healthcare (CRAFT)

Disease awareness – Sun safety on site for HSS Hire supported by Cancer Research UK (CRAFT)

Best Primary Care Campaign – Change the face of HIV for Viiv healthcare (CRAFT)

Best Film – Change the face of HIV for Viiv healthcare (CRAFT)

Dave Hunt, Havas Lynx CEO, said:

“We’re incredibly proud to have smashed our own awards record and been recognised at the PM Society Awards, despite incredibly tough competition.  

“Our strategy to invest heavily in our creative capabilities over the past few years has really paid dividends and we now have a studio team of over 75, and a total of eight hugely talented Creative Directors.  This month we’re delighted to be welcoming Tim Jones to the team, a truly stand-out, multi-award winning Creative Director, who brings with him a wealth of experience in consumer and HCP campaigns.

“As an agency we are constantly evolving, and we are dedicated to creating profound work that has real impact. These awards are recognition of that and testament to our hard work.  It’s real a privilege to work closely with our clients, whose ground-breaking work inspires us on a daily basis.”   

About HAVAS LYNX

Informed by experience and driven by innovation, the people of Havas Lynx are agents of the next era in health.

Dedicated to helping clients connect consumers, professionals and brands with information, services, and influences to drive new relationships and better outcomes. Comprised of what was formerly known as Euro RSCG Life 4D and Creative Lynx, Havas Lynx has offices in New York, Manchester and London. A member of the Havas Health global network.

Website: www.havaslynx.com

YouTube: www.youtube.com/user/HavasLynx

Twitter: @HavasLynxEU

Instagram: www.instagram.com/havaslynxeu/

Facebook: www.facebook.com/HAVASLYNXEurope

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Dr Khawaja Gulraiz Rauf

The pioneer who helps the body repair itself

Disfigurements on the human body can have a negative impact on an individual’s confidence. That’s why Dr Khawaja Gulraiz Rauf uses innovative techniques in reconstructive surgery to help rebuild lives. By using ‘tissue expansion’ Dr Rauf places ‘balloons’ under the skin that are then injected with silicone over a period of time. This technique stretches the skin, allowing it to be used to reconstruct the affected area.

This fascinating procedure has meant that Dr Rauf has been able to transform lives, from a young man who was badly burnt in a fire aged 14 to a young woman who was involved in a traffic accident resulting in the loss of skin and hair from one side of her face.

Disfigurements on the human body can have devastating effects on people’s confidence. Dr Rauf has spent his career using his unique set of skills to combat this, repairing bodies and rebuilding lives.

When you think of plastic surgeons, your immediate thoughts are… face lifts, trout pouts and tummy tucks, but Dr Rauf’s work couldn’t be further away from this type of cosmetic surgery. Dr Rauf specialises in reconstructive surgery, using a special technique known as tissue expansion. This type of plastic surgery is not very common. He says, “The actual procedure takes months and this seems to put off a lot of doctors from joining this field of medicine.” In its simplest form, this treatment uses balloons placed under the skin, which over a series of months are injected with a saline solution to inflate the balloon thereby stretching the skin. Once the skin has stretched sufficiently Dr Rauf will remove the balloons and use the excess skin produced to reconstruct the affected area.

His demeanour is extremely relaxed and he exudes a quiet confidence. When asked about his surgical results, he is very humble and doesn’t wish to take any credit for the results. He said, “How can a gardener take credit for the beauty of the rose that he plants?” Dr Rauf graduated from the prestigious King Edward Medical College in Lahore, Pakistan in 1982. He moved to the UK to receive his surgical training, gaining Fellowship of Royal of Surgeons England in 1988 and Certification in Plastic Surgery from Royal College & British Association of Plastic Surgeons in 1992. After his training, he returned to the Pakistan Institute of Medical Science in Islamabad where he was Associate Professor of Plastic Surgery. It was there that he undertook his first tissue expansion procedure in 1995. He recalls the day, “A young man was brought to my clinic, almost dragged in by his brother.

His face had been badly burned at the age of 14 and the disfigurement meant he hardly left the house. He even stopped going to school because he was so ashamed of his appearance.” The skin that had been burnt meant the young man couldn’t grow a beard, so Dr Rauf had to take hair growing skin from the patient’s head to help reconstruct the face. He continued to explain that this procedure was one of the first full beard and moustache tissue replacements ever performed. He recalled, “We used the balloon treatment at the front of his head to expand the skin. It is important to use the right part of the scalp so the new hair grows in the right direction.” After three months when all the balloons had been fully removed, the careful placement and the precise use of the expanded skin, meant the new beard and moustache grew exactly how it would have done before the burns. Dr Rauf showed us a picture of the young man before treatment and then with a full beard. Apart from the slight scarring at the top of the beard the transformation seemed unbelievable.

Later we meet Kathryn, who was involved in a road traffic accident in South Africa while on a college trip. The bus she was travelling in lost control and toppled over, the window nearest Kathryn smashed and her face was dragged across the road ripping the skin and hair from the side of her face. We sit opposite her on typical bright blue NHS chairs in a small waiting room. At first glance, apart from a small scar on her forehead you wouldn’t know she’s even had surgery. She takes her phone and shows us a picture straight after the surgery in South Africa. You can clearly see the skin graft applied by the South African surgeons. The problem, she explains, was “With this skin graft, the hair wouldn’t grow back. This is where the magic of Dr Rauf came in.” Kathryn was coming to terms with not having hair on one side of her head and was finding different ways to cover it up and disguise the area, but after her first appointment with Dr Rauf she said, “He gave me hope that I could once again have a full head of my own hair.” So over a period of three months, Dr Rauf inflated a number of balloons strategically placed under Kathryn’s scalp. The balloons were increasing the scalp area and helping her body grow more skin and hair cells. After the three months Dr Rauf removed the balloons and started to reconstruct Kathryn’s scalp. He first of all removed the initial skin graft sewn on by the South African doctors and used the extra skin that had been produced by the balloon treatment to carefully reconstruct the affected area. Months later Kathryn’s hair had started to grow properly, the scars had died down, her appearance notably improved and she felt that her life could get back to normal.

Kathryn is just one of many of Dr Rauf’s success stories. We sit in a treatment room and he flicks through lots of slides on his laptop of previous patients. He stops at a picture of a man who was missing the end of his nose. The picture is of Arron Jackson, a bouncer whose nose had been bitten off in an unprovoked attack. Dr Rauf said, “Body image was very important to Arron so we had to get the nose just right.” In order to do the procedure, Dr Rauf expanded the skin on Arron’s forehead and carefully manipulated the skin to re-create the tip of his nose. Every before and after slide we saw built an instant picture of a life Dr Rauf had helped rebuild. Some of the injuries were so graphic that we found it hard to look at the screen, but the more graphic, the more amazing the final treatment looked.

Everyone we met that day, including patients and colleagues, talked very highly of Dr Rauf. He isn’t concerned about making the big bucks associated with cosmetic plastic surgery, his focus is more about the well-being of others, about helping people get back to, or gain a sense of normality. He operates a clinic that concentrates on giving patients the confidence to be happy with themselves, to be proud of their appearance and be able to live life without worrying how they look.

Find out more about our Healthcare Heroes project at www.healthcare-heroes.com

#HealthcareHeroes

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Kate Granger MBE

Kate Granger wanted to drive discussions concerning compassionate care in the NHS after being told by a junior doctor with no introduction, eye contact or compassion that her cancer had spread. It was this moment that drove her to create the #hellomynameis movement.

This campaign is one that has been visible both online and offline within the healthcare industry. It was only lately that we had the opportunity to learn more about the story behind it, as part of our #HealthcareHeroes campaign.

Although Kate is no longer with us, her vision of compassionate care lives on in more than 400,000 doctors, nurses and receptionists that supported her, she has truly made an impact on the way healthcare works today.

Although her life was cut short, the impact Kate had in the healthcare industry to elevate compassionate care will live on. She started a movement, raised hundreds of thousands of pounds, and was awarded an MBE for her services to the NHS.

The majority of healthcare staff we’ve met on this trip have introduced themselves with: “hello my name is”, which is something we didn’t think anything of. Then we noticed name badges with a branded, “hello my name is” on them. We inquired about these badges and this led us to be told about a lady called Kate Granger, who unfortunately is no longer with us, but her impact on the healthcare profession lives on. Kate Granger, a junior doctor, first became ill on holiday August 2011 in California when her kidneys failed. She was 29 at the time and after returning home for further tests she was hit with the devastating news that she had a rare form of cancer called a desmoplastic small-round-cell tumour of which there was no cure. Kate was determined that cancer wouldn’t stop her from working and she returned to work in January 2012. Her life expectancy was 14 months, but she lived on for nearly five years and in those five years she achieved more than some do in a lifetime.

Following her diagnosis she compiled a bucket list, incorporating amongst others one amazing challenge, which was to raise £250,000 for her local cancer centre. Kate, along with her husband Chris, drove the campaign with great endeavour and they eventually achieved the target just days before Kate passed away in 2016. She also got a tattoo, renewed her wedding vows, appeared on Coronation Street, did a sky dive, wrote a blog to chart her battle with cancer, published two books and took to Twitter to campaign for compassionate care.

It was through Twitter that the “hello my name is” campaign really ignited. Kate wasn’t happy about the lack of introductions she’d had from doctors during her care, especially one from a junior doctor who, with no introduction, no eye contact, no compassion, delivered the staggering news, “Your cancer has spread.” The doctor left the room as quickly as he entered, leaving Kate in deep distress. After voicing her concerns with Chris, he suggested that they did something about it. Kate decided to begin a campaign and after one tweet with the hashtag #hellomynameis the movement was born. She sent Chris home to design the logo and the hashtag quickly caught on.

Within two years it had the support of more than 400,000 doctors, nurses, therapists, receptionists and porters across more than 90 organisations. It also won the support of politicians and celebrities, including Prime Minister Theresa May, Richard Branson, Kylie Minogue and Drew Barrymore. It continues to grow and is starting to embed itself as best practice.

This campaign inspired a plethora of discussions concerning compassionate care and in 2014 NHS England launched the prestigious ‘Kate Granger Awards for Compassionate Care’. The awards have continued every year to date finding and awarding heroes within the NHS. Further recognition for Kate’s work came in 2015 when she was awarded an MBE for her services to the NHS and improving care. Then again in 2016 she received a special achievement award from the BMJ, honouring her for her work on the “hello my name is” campaign.

Kate passed away on her wedding anniversary, Saturday 23rd July 2016. Her husband Chris Pointon announced her death on social media, saying that his beloved and brave 34-year-old wife died on Saturday, “Peacefully, surrounded by loved ones”. Throughout the treatment, which must have been an incredibly difficult time, her blog gave us an insight into her honest and optimistic outlook on life. One of her last blog posts at Christmas time said, “This time of year often leads us to reflect on the year that has just past. For me: 4 cycles of chemo, a national launch of #hellomynameis, an MBE, an Honorary Doctorate, a UK wide campaign tour, a trip to California, a CCT and a new job. Not a bad year really…” Her honesty about her battles with cancer through the blog and her books have helped patients and doctors worldwide. The £250,000+ raised has helped in the fight against cancer. The “hello my name is” campaign continues to grow and although we didn’t get a chance to meet Kate in person, her positive influence can be felt far and wide and her vision on compassionate care is delivered daily by an army of incredible staff working in healthcare.

www.hellomynameis.org.uk

Find out more about our Healthcare Heroes project at http://www.healthcare-heroes.com

#HealthcareHeroes

Kate Granger holds her MBE which was awarded to her by the Prince of Wales at an investiture ceremony at Buckingham Palace, London.

Kate Granger holds her MBE which was awarded to her by the Prince of Wales at an investiture ceremony at Buckingham Palace, London.

Tom Lynch – The BMX champion who transformed the emergency services

As part of our #HealthcareHeroes campaign we met Tom Lynch, a former BMX world champion who has used his skills in cycling to transform the way the emergency services works around the world. Tom innovatively set up the Ambulance Cycle Response Unit, an emergency response unit based on his frustrations with London traffic and the delays this had on reaching people in need, quickly.

Now, Tom can reach patients faster than any ambulance in rush hour and the use of lightweight equipment ensures that nothing slows him down.

Read his incredible story below:

Former BMX world superstar knew he could reach patients faster than ambulances in heavy traffic, so he decided to set up the modern day Ambulance Cycle Response Unit.

Before meeting him I had read, ‘Tom Lynch is to BMX racing what Tony Hawk is to skateboarding.’ Throughout the 1980s and early ‘90s Tom Lynch was National Champion, British Champion, European Champion, number three in the World and a World Team Trophy Winner. He quickly became a global name on the BMX circuit competing nearly every weekend for almost 15 years from the expert classes up to the elite Superclass. Nowadays he is still a global name and he’s still on a bike but it’s the healthcare services that are getting the benefit of his many skills.

“When I was 11, I had an accident at school and everyone around me was panicking. The ambulance crew arrived and calmness came with them, all the madness suddenly disappeared. I remember that day as if it were yesterday.” That day made an impact on Tom and helped shape his future. Tom had been riding for as long as he could remember, attacking the hills where he grew up on his Raleigh Chipper and Chopper and then later thrashing motocross bikes. So when the BMX trend took over in the early 1980s, Tom took to it instantly. He travelled the world as a BMXer, won numerous trophies and titles several times over, appeared on the front page of magazines, had fans on every continent and lived a life people can only dream of. He’d pushed his body to its limit and existed amongst the elite for as long as he could before stepping away from the limelight and coaching the next wave of Olympic hopefuls such as Liam Phillips and Shanaze Reade who went on to become World Champions and Olympians. “After that, well, I knew staying at the top of BMX couldn’t last forever so I decided it was the time to get a normal job but joining the ambulance service was far from normal.”

Tom trained with the London Ambulance Service, first with patient transport services then as an Emergency Medical Technician. He became increasingly frustrated with London traffic and the delays it caused to people who desperately needed care. He also knew not everyone needed to be driven to hospital by two highly qualified medical professionals. He often remarked that it would be quicker to reach people on his bike but colleagues laughed him off. He realised that a lot of people didn’t know about his biking past, but he was sure that after all this time he could still cycle faster than the London traffic in certain areas. Tom continued to talk up his idea, until in 1999 he got the go ahead for a trial to set up the Ambulance Cycle Response Unit (C.R.U.) to answer 999 calls in the West End of London. He still had friends in the bike industry and he made sure he got the best equipment available. The bike was fitted with the latest life saving equipment and the all-important, and now lightweight, defibrillator. The whole unit weighed nearly 50lbs (23kg) but this wasn’t a problem to Tom. The trial was a huge success. He said, “I knew the day the trial became a success. I was based around the West End and the calls were coming in and I was doing my best to ease the pressure on the ambulance crews. I would race to incidents, flying past traffic, cycling where motor vehicles could not go and getting to patients quickly. That particular day I went to five incidents within one hour. I treated the patients, cancelled the ambulances and used other medical centres as opposed to the accident and emergency.” According to NHS data, not all patients who call for assistance need hospital treatment, there are lots of incidents that a single medical professional with the right kit can handle. For example, Tom mentioned that, “Last week a cycle responder colleague went to ten ambulance callouts and only one patient needed an ambulance.” Clearly the C.R.U. can deliver the right patient care and can save time, money and resources which enables ambulances to deal with appropriate cases of need.

This gave Tom the ammunition he needed to take the service to the next level. He proposed plans to expand the service, create the training and policies, improve the bikes and the equipment they carried. He said, “I came up against a lot of red tape, but I’d seen the difference the cycle service could make in such a short space of time. I knew I had to keep pushing and increase the numbers on the ground.” One of the huge positives with using the bicycle was the reduction in time it took to get to heart attack victims. Every second counts when the brain is starved of oxygen and the results for preventing death from cardiac failure have significantly improved as a result of the work of the C.R.U. in the areas they work.

When we meet Tom he is fully kitted up, dark trousers, hi-vis vest and riding his custom bike. Today he manages several teams across London made up of over 100 ambulance paramedics including reserves and St John Ambulance volunteers, and is responsible for helping set up further teams around the country. The service has gone from strength to strength and they have people on the ground in lots of major UK cities, across Europe, USA and now even in China and Japan. He said, “Training can get very competitive. We have highly motivated individuals on the team such as triathletes, marathon runners, mountain bikers, cyclocross and roadracers as well as lots of fit and positive people. When you fuse this with excellent paramedic skills and a commitment to care you have a winning combination.” On his vest today there are a number of ribbons showcasing his achievements. We talk about the various forms of recognition he and the service have received, an important one being the MBE for which he was presented in 2007 for services to Bicycle Moto Cross (BMX) racing and the Ambulance Cycle Response Unit (C.R.U.) service, which he said allowed him to shout from the rooftops about the benefits of the C.R.U.

The service is making positive impacts on people’s lives on a daily basis, delivering value for money and high performance. Tom recalls the celebration they had to mark ten years of one of the C.R.U. teams. “We’d invited current and previous staff as well as people we had helped. We met one of the first people we’d treated for a cardiac arrest. He’d turned up with his grandchildren; the youngest one looked up to us and said, ‘thank you for letting me meet my grandad.’ Those are the moments we live for, those are the gold medals.” He credits his achievements to the amazing support of those who have helped him along the way, initially his parents, brothers and sister and now his supportive and loving wife who he says, “Puts up with a lot and has done so from day one of this crazy idea.” And of course looking to the future, his two children whose love of bikes will keep Tom on his toes.

An idea that was born out of a desire to reach people faster and ease the pressure on the ambulance service and hospitals has grown into an outstanding service staffed by hundreds of well-equipped and motivated paramedics. Tom has channelled his excellent cycling and coaching skills, his self-belief and his competitive spirit to develop and deliver a life-saving service. He may have stopped winning trophies years ago, but he has won the hearts and minds of many individuals and families worldwide.

Learn more about the Healthcare Heroes at https://healthcare-heroes.com/

#HealthcareHeroes

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Healthcare Heroes – The Passion Project

Every day we are inspired by our industry; by the innovation, the science, the potential, but perhaps most importantly the people. Not just those who we work with on a daily basis, but those working in the hospitals, labs and studios to make a positive difference.

At Havas Lynx, we have created a campaign to celebrate these Healthcare Heroes, to shine a light of the inspirational stories of people working with passion, purpose and determination to improve people’s lives all over the world. We’ve searched far and wide to bring you stories from 21 Healthcare Heroes. We’ll be sharing the stories over the coming weeks, I hope you enjoy reading the stories, as much as we enjoyed writing them.

Jo Milne – The gift of hearing

We had the pleasure of meeting the inspirational Jo Milne, as part of our Healthcare Heroes campaign. Jo suffers from Usher’s Syndrome; a condition that meant she was deaf from birth and is now slowly losing her eyesight. She underwent life changing surgery that meant at aged 39, for the very first time, Jo was able to hear. Today, Jo travels great distances to give children the gift of hearing just as she received. Read her incredible story below:

Jo was deaf from birth but she never saw it as a hindrance. She grew up with two sisters who could hear and mum and dad treated each child with the same care and attention. The only difference she said was that, “My family and friends would have to look at me when they spoke so I could lip-read to include me in conversations, but I had great support and acceptance which meant I felt very confident being deaf.” As a result, later in her teens she became actively involved in improving services for people with disabilities and Jo also delivered disability awareness and equality training. But in her late 20s Jo started to notice her sight was slowly deteriorating. “I’d been aware that my peripheral vision hadn’t been great for a while. I’d trip over things because if I looked forward I couldn’t see my feet.” She described her vision as like “Looking through an oval letterbox, above, below and to the sides are blank spots.”

As those blank spots were getting larger, Jo’s visual world was starting to shrink. Medical tests confirmed that Jo had Usher syndrome. Usher syndrome is a genetic condition that affects both hearing and sight and because Jo was profoundly deaf, she was petrified of losing a sense that she completely relied on. There is no cure for the syndrome and coming to terms with this brutal fact led Jo to suffer from depression. During that time she relied on others making decisions for her, like needing a guide dog on a permanent basis, which turned out wasn’t right for Jo. She gradually began to believe that surgery to improve her hearing could be the way forward. There was no guarantee that the cochlear implants would work but despite that Jo decided to go ahead with the surgery.

During that time, one of Jo’s friends contacted Lauren Laverne, BBC Radio 6 Music presenter. Jo became the subject of the show’s regular feature called ‘Memory Tapes’. Thousands of listeners contacted the show to suggest music recommendations for Jo. Following her radio feature, ITV’s This Morning launched #songforjo and it became a national debate on which song or piece of music people would recommend Jo should listen to when her implants were turned on.

“When it came to switching the implants on, I’d asked my mum to film it so I could share the moment with my family and friends.” The moment they turned the implants on, she fell apart. She was hearing for the first time which was extraordinary, but she was also carrying the emotion of her future sight loss. These implants could now guide her through the troubling loss of her sight and allow her to face life with a brand new sense. The film was uploaded for the BBC Radio 6 Music listeners and went viral within 48 hours. Just a week later she was on news channels in the UK and Europe, in papers, magazines and on blogs. She said, “I was on the news all over the world; even family in Australia and friends in South Africa saw the clips.”

The video has now had over 12 million views and has opened doors to things Jo could only dream of. She is currently part way through visiting the seven wonders of the world, a trip that has been donated by an anonymous businessman after he saw Jo talking about her sight loss. She is determined to build up a visual bank of memories. “My ever decreasing sight means I have to get out and live life to the full, capturing every moment and to be given opportunities like this is truly amazing.”

Another person who witnessed Jo’s video was an old school friend who was living in Bangladesh. She got in touch and the two arranged to meet. Around a similar time the ‘Hearing Fund’ got in touch. It’s a charity, set up by the Osmond family to raise funds and awareness for deaf children and their families. After initial discussions with the charity, Jo and Amina suggested the idea of travelling to Bangladesh and taking hearing aids with them for children with hearing loss. The charity agreed and a variety of different sponsors, including the BBC, got on board. Makeshift camps were set up in Dhaka to distribute hearing aids. Jo said, “We ended up taking over 500 hearing aids for children. The expressions on their faces were priceless. Some were hearing their mother’s voice for the first time, others were amazed by the sound of birds. Children don’t hide emotion, so you can imagine the joy I saw.”

Jo is continuing to work with the Hearing Fund in Bangladesh and is currently campaigning to bring sign language to the National Curriculum. “I would love sign language to be available for every child to shorten the gap between the deaf and hearing worlds.” Even though her sight is starting to fail her, the hearing implants have taken her world to another level, making her feel, oddly enough, ‘less blind’. Jo is two years post operation and she says that her life couldn’t be happier. She is embracing every opportunity that comes her way and will continue to raise awareness and be a voice for disabilities all over the world.

www.thehearingfund.org.uk

Read the stories of the other Healthcare Heroes here.

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The Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Millennial Healthcare Professional

Originally written in the late 1970s, Douglas Adams’ well-loved sci-fi masterpiece, The Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy, tells the story of Arthur Dent as he flees Earth shortly before it’s destroyed to make way for a hyperspace bypass. Accompanied by his alien friend Ford Prefect, Arthur finds himself floating around a universe in which small digital devices can tell you everything about anything; where foreign languages can be instantly translated into native tongues; where machine intelligence dwarfs the cognitive capabilities of mankind; and where flagging down a lift is as simple as pressing a button. A universe…rather like the one we live in now.

More than just another sci-fi oracle, Adams has proved an inspiration for those defining a future well beyond his own lifetime, including Dr. Jack Kreindler. A medical technologist and investor, Kreindler is one of a new wave of physician redefining what we expect from HCPs. He spoke to Havas Lynx as part of their research for Generation Now, a new white paper about the millennial HCP (mHCP).

Kreindler’s introduction to Adams set him on an extraordinary and unorthodox career path. To help support himself through medical school, a young Kreindler worked as an IT consultant for Adams: ‘I realised through working with Douglas that we were practicing medicine in kind of the Stone Age. And it got me thinking that perhaps the use of connected devices and information technology would absolutely transform what we regarded as truth in medicine.’

Since then, Kreindler has worked in A&E, specialised in high-altitude medicine, founded a centre for health and sporting performance, and invested in practices driven by machine learning. Each venture has vastly progressed his medical understanding and clinical practice. Moreover, they’ve provided a career diversity that is commonly sought out by millennials. Speaking at an RSM Digital Health Entrepreneurs event last September, Adam Tulk, CEO of Frameshift  (who connect HCPs with temporary work), reported that ‘a lot of doctors want to have less of a purely clinical career and more of a portfolio career.’

Many seek extra-clinical opportunities in digital. Having grown-up with digital engrained in their everyday life, and seen its transformative impact firsthand, they have ambitions to harness this power to shake-up healthcare. ‘The key thing that is redefining those ambitions,’ says Dr. Kreindler, ‘is the generation of entrepreneurs that have made it very big; the Larry Pages, the Elon Musks, and the Zuckerburgs of the world. People don’t have the fear any more. They are thinking if they can do it so can I.’ Systems and providers are moving to support such ambitions. NHS England launched its Clinical Entrepreneurship Programme at the end of 2015, as part of a drive to open-up entrepreneurship and innovation to professionals. It’s a clear indication from Sir Bruce Keogh and his colleagues that, far from harming clinical practice, engaging professionals in non-clinical initiatives could benefit the nation’s healthcare.

And why wouldn’t it? Many mHCPs are as motivated by a sense of social conscience as theyare any personal ambition. Kristian Webb is a cardiac devices specialist who started up a number of initiatives to provide quality patient information. ‘It was the inaccuracies in medical information online that worried me,’ says Webb, ‘I felt I had a professional responsibility to put more accurate information out there.’ Unlike large healthcare companies and organisations, Webb felt no problem with engaging with patients online, using forums and social channels to direct them to robust clinical information before eventually starting up his own repository for cardiology information.

Engaging with patients online, monitoring them remotely, and providing timely information and advice will all be vitally important as mHCPs move away from treating sick patients and towards facilitating sustained good health. It’s a shift that’s vital if we are to alleviate the burden of aging populations suffering multiple comorbidities. But there will be challenges. mHCPs are going to need skills their predecessors never dreamed of, not least in communication. ‘We know more about when to inspire people, when to motivate them to make a change from the advertising industry than we do in medicine,’ says Kreindler.

Interpreting the wealth of data at their disposal will be as critical. As in The Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy, where the creators of the Deep Thought super computer so struggle to understand the answer it gives to ‘The Ultimate Question of Life, The Universe, and Everything’, so we have not yet mastered the reams of data available in such a way that professionals can easily make use of them.

There’s going to be plenty to keep mHCPs on their toes, especially with the expectations of increasingly empowered patients and the rocketing rate of medical innovation. As such, they’ll need support from all corners. For pharma, this means new opportunities in unchartered galaxies. It’s an exciting, challenging and important time. Just whatever you do, remember The Hitchhiker’s Guide’s golden rule; don’t panic.

More information available at http://www.m-hcp.com

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