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November 27, 2021 @ 7:30 am - 12:00 pm

Hacking Pain: A Skunkworks Project

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Hosted by Providence Research in collaboration with the Discover, Learn & Innovate for Impact Physician Advisory Committee and Providence Health Care, this is a unique innovation event designed to tackle the challenges faced by patients and the community when dealing with pain. This event helps underscore a particular Providence tradition: putting people in the greatest need at the centre of our research priorities.

What does skunkworks mean?
The term originated in the 1940s. Skunk Works was an alias for an American engineering lab that worked on top-secret and innovative programs at Lockheed Aircraft Corporation. Today, the word “skunkworks” describes a project developed by a loosely structured group of people who identify issues and pilot creative solutions.

About this event
This isn’t your typical conference or seminar. We hope our inaugural skunkworks event will be a catalyst for innovation. There are many challenges around pain waiting to be solved, but often researchers, health care professionals, caregivers, and patients do not have a chance to collaborate and share expertise to ideate together.

Skunkworks brings multidisciplinary teams together and empowers them with mentorship and rapid problem solving tools to address challenges related to pain.

Why pain?
Pain and the management of pain are complex problems we want to begin to solve at this skunksworks event. In The Need for a Canadian Pain Strategy, the following points highlight that pain is a local problem with global impact:

  • Pain includes acute pain caused by ongoing tissue damage, trauma or surgery, chronic pain, and pain related to terminal illness.
  • The magnitude of the problem is increasing. Presently, 1 in 5 Canadians experiences chronic pain, and an estimated 20 per cent of the BC population suffers from persistent or recurrent pain.
  • Opioid medication is commonly used for treating pain. In recent years, Canada has been faced with an opioid crisis. Canada is noted as the second highest opioid consumer in the world after the United States. In 2018, almost 1 in 8 people in Canada was prescribed opioids, according to the Canadian Institute for Health Information. Rates of prescription opioid use have tripled in the past decade, leading to greater opioid misuse, addiction and sadly, deaths.

More needs to be done to tackle pain. This inaugural Providence Research skunkworks competition will bring together multidisciplinary teams and enable the brightest minds from Providence Health Care and our partner organizations to work collaboratively on solutions to ease the burden of acute or chronic pain.

How does the program work?

Challenge Champions will pitch their problems to the skunkworks participants on Friday morning. Participants can vote with their feet and join a team that is tackling a problem they are passionate about. Teams will spend Friday designing, building, testing, validating and fine-tuning their prototypes or solutions. Mentors will be available to refine ideas and provide advice. Fuel up on complimentary breakfast and lunch. On Saturday morning, teams will present their prototypes to the judges for a chance to win prizes.

The final pitch event will be attended by thought leaders and other innovators and shared widely on social media and other platforms. This is the day not to miss!

What’s in it for you?
By participating in this fun and competitive event, you are an innovator! Our innovators will have access to the following opportunities and experiences:

  • Network and collaborate with industry professionals as well as like-minded, multidisciplinary innovators;
  • Develop skills in ideation, prototyping, and pitching that will help you come up with impactful solutions to real problems;
  • Learn from influential mentors and judges from business (innovation and entrepreneurship), product development, applied research, and education (e.g. engineers, technologists, industrial designers, manufacturing specialists, and design thinkers), as well as patient partners;
  • Work with a health professional on a pain challenge that interests you;
  • Apply your knowledge to a meaningful health care challenge;
  • Build your leadership and teamwork experience;
  • Receive support, mentorship, and expertise to bring your ideas to life;
  • Be part of a solution (e.g. minimum viable products: an early version of a solution that could range from a product to a service) that can be fast-tracked for further development and implementation in a healthcare setting;
  • Enjoy complimentary breakfast and lunch (day 1) and breakfast (day 2).

Registration deadline: September 20, 2021