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USF Bulls Make Up Seven of 16 Finalists in Statewide Pitch Competition

By Keith Morelli

Florida Blue Flyer

TAMPA (October 9, 2017) -- A virtual personal assistant for the homebound elderly, a ride-share app for disabled people and even a home-care robot are among the ideas being pitched to a panel of health-care professionals this month in the Florida Blue Statewide Health Care Innovation Pitch Competition.

Eight universities from across Florida making up 12 teams will participate in the fifth annual event to be held in Orlando on Oct. 18. Of the 16 student finalists, almost half are University of South Florida Bulls.

Winners will take home cash prizes and the opportunities to develop and market their products and ideas. First place takes $10,000; second place, $5,000 and third place, $2,500.

The event is cosponsored by Florida Blue/GuideWell and the USF Center for Entrepreneurship in the Muma College of Business.

"This unique state-wide competition is open to students from every college and university in Florida," said Michael Fountain, founding director of the USF Center for Entrepreneurship. "Over the past four years, more than 150 students from 18 different colleges and universities have competed for prize monies provided by Florida Blue."

The competition is open to undergraduate and graduate students from medical, dental, veterinary, pharmacy, public health and nursing schools from across the state. Students whose aim is to bring their ideas to market, compete in a head-to-head competition using short, professional presentations before a panel of health-care professionals.

With the event's Aging in Place theme, the focus this year is on ideas and prototypes that will enable the elderly and infirmed to remain in the comfort of their own homes as they age or recover. This can cut down on institutionalization, saving people from spending their savings on nursing homes and rehabilitation centers.

"Each have developed a unique approach to improving the quality of health care for individuals aging in place in their homes which is an enormous problem not only here in Florida but across the nation," Fountain said. "In the past five years, this competition has helped to identify and spotlight over 200 promising health-care innovations developed by collegiate students in Florida and has helped to launch numerous new health-care products, services and companies throughout the state."

The home-health-care concept has been aided by advances in technology, and in particular, systems associated with advanced sensors that allow remote monitoring, as well as communication software leading to telemedicine and other health solutions. Many of the pitches feature innovations within this field.

Here are glimpses of the seven USF students who are among the finalists in the competition:

Tyagi Ramakrishnan

Tyagi Ramakrishnan
Tyagi Ramakrishnan is a doctoral candidate in mechanical engineering at USF. His expertise is in the field of mechanical design, software development, medical devices and business strategy. He currently has four patents pending which involve prosthetics, orthotics and robotics. He is a research assistant at the Rehabilitation Engineering and Electromechanical Design Lab at USF and has developed prototype software for recording range-of-motion data of patients before and after surgeries. Ramakrishnan is pitching TOBOR Robotics, which provides care and robotic solutions for homebound elderly patients.

Corey Reeves

Corey Reeves
Corey Reeves is a doctor who graduated with an MBA from the Muma College of Business this past spring. In 2013, he completed medical school at USF's Morsani College of Medicine and currently is a chief resident in the USF Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation Residency Program. Reeves is pitching Clinic Catalyst, a software product that enables doctors to better capture new patient data and integrate it into portable chart fields. He presented the concept at the Fintech Business Plan Competition in April and won.

Ramy Mitwalli

Ramy Mitwalli
Ramy Mitwalli is pursuing a master's degree in entrepreneurship at USF with a concentration in applied technologies. He currently holds a master's degree in pharmacology and an MBA and plans on becoming a physician. He has teamed with Hashim Armashi of the Lake Erie College of Osteopathic Medicine's Bradenton campus. Their pitch is for DreamScape VR, a virtual reality system that assists aging-in-place patients.

Estevan Serrano

Estevan Serrano is a second-semester graduate student seeking a master's degree in entrepreneurship with a concentration in applied technologies at the USF Center for Entrepreneurship. He serves as the graduate assistant at the center and a product specialist at the Uber corporate regional office. Serrano is teamed with Neha Sathe, pitching BlueRunner, a ride-share app for disabled patients.

Neha Sathe

Neha Sathe is a third-year undergraduate nursing student completing a minor in maternal and child health at USF. She has a CNA license and has worked full-time, 12-hour night shifts at Florida Hospital while attending classes during the day. She plans to join the U.S. Army after completing her education.

Amber Gatto

Amber Gatto received a bachelor's degree in mechanical engineering at USF and since has worked toward earning a mechanical engineering master's degree, also at USF. She has been a student assistant in the Department of Engineering Research Management and has served as a graduate research assistant in the USF Center for Assistive Rehabilitation and Robotics Technologies. She has teamed with Andrew Li, a medical student at Florida Atlantic University, to develop grip-strength devices for patients.

Tim Hangge

Tim Hangge has decades of professional management experience, including health-care technologies, a field he has worked in over the past seven years. He is a graduate student at the USF Center for Entrepreneurship. His pitch is EvinceMed, a service for the specialty prescription marketplace.

Besides the cash awards, winners may be eligible for business incubation and launch support at the GuideWell Innovation Center in Orlando. Guidewell is the parent company of Florida Blue.