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image of Florida Blue Health Innovation Challenge winners

USF students compete in Florida Blue Health Innovation Challenge

TAMPA -- Three University of South Florida students — Siegrid Pregartner, Mitchell Harrah, and Frank Nunez — won first and second place and Judge's Choice awards in the ninth annual Florida Blue Health Innovation Challenge. Florida Blue Health Care, one of the largest health care providers in Florida, awarded a total of $23,500 to Florida college students at the April 29 competition.

Aside from the USF students, two other competitors were recognized for their health innovations, including Marissa Mengelkoch from Florida Southern College and Brandon Dutkiewicz from Hillsborough Community College.

The competition was held in downtown Tampa at the USF Health Morsani College of Medicine. Florida Blue and USF hosts the challenge to help find unique and innovative solutions to solve Florida's pressing health care concerns.

The Florida Blue Health Innovation Challenge is a statewide competition open to students from every college and university in the state. In the past eight years, over 300 students from more than 20 different colleges and universities have competed for cash awards provided by Florida Blue. This year's health care challenge covered integrated usages of AI and data, social isolation and mental health, health care labor shortages, end-of-life care, and solutions for underserved populations.

Pregartner, a pharmaceutical doctoral student, won first place and $15,000 for her business Janus Diagnosis. Janus Diagnosis is an Alzheimer's diagnosis tool that aims to aid in early detection using AI technology.

Harrah, a biomedical engineering doctoral student, took second place and $5,000 for Baldr Medical. Baldr Medical is a skincare imaging and detection device that helps diagnose early stages of skin cancer using AI.

image of frank nunez

Nunez, a graduate student in the entrepreneurship in applied technologies program in the Muma College of Business, received the Judge's Choice award and $500. Nunez’s business, Mind Box, is a VR tool to help users' mental health through behavioral therapy tactics.

Mengelkoch, an MBA candidate from Florida Southern was awarded third place for her company Traffic Trigger, which features an AI software that helps emergency physicians judge the likelihood of a patient being a sex trafficking victim.

Dutkiewicz is pursuing an associate degree with a focus in entrepreneurship at Hillsborough Community College. He received the Presidential Award for his company SupportaTroop. SupportaTroop is a service that will help civilians in the states give specialized care packages to U.S. soldiers abroad to help aid in the soldier’s mental health.

This year's 11 finalists were chosen from dozens of applicants from eight Florida colleges and universities. The students come from a broad range of disciplines and colleges, including medicine, pharmacy, engineering, entrepreneurship, computer science, health sciences, and business majors.

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