Florida Blue Statewide Heath Care Innovation Pitch Competition


FL Blue 2018- All participants 12 finalist teams- presenters during the pitch competition

FL Blue 2018 WinnersAwardees (from left to right): Sirikanya Sellers, Michael Jernigan, Jordan Douglass, Chelsea Reeves,Tram Pham , Lauren Wright , Evita Conway, Michael Klienman,Fiorella Marquez  

FL Blue Judges 2018

Judges (from left to right): Kelli Murray, Eric Ramos, Susan Moore Vosserler, Fabio DeSousa, Jennifer Sineway, Julia MacGregor, Ann Boughtin, Chris Pizzo, Chris Alvarez

Students Win Big in Innovation Competition

Finals with Mental Health Management Solutions


Anxiety and depression are a growing health problems in today's society. Neither of these illnesses discriminates, as they affect all ages, genders, and ethnicities. The American Psychological Association estimates that 40 million Americans suffer from some type of anxiety disorder and about 14 million more suffer from depressive disorders. It is evident these are highly prevalent health issue that need a solution. Luckily, the students who participated in this year’s Florida Blue Healthcare Innovation competition are inciting change in their pursuit of bettering mental healthcare management. Of the 12 competing teams, five were awarded prize money.

This year, for the first time in the history of the competition, two students were awarded honorable mentions for their outstanding efforts. Fiorella Marquez, a graduate student from Nova Southeastern University, with her mental health management mobile application called Uok and Sirikanya Sellers, a medical student from the University of Central Florida, with her mental wellness education school program called Rising Youth were each given a cash prize as part of their honorable mention awards.

Jordan Douglass, Michael Jernigan, and Chelsea Reeves, undergraduate students from Florida Polytechnic University, took third place with their innovative diagnostic technology called SynapCare. Their wearable device is designed to look like headphones and uses EEG technology to analyze an individual’s brain waves to better detect depression and anxiety. The team was awarded $2,500 for their invention.

Second place was won by a team from Florida Atlantic University. Doctoral students, Michael Kleiman and Evita Conway were awarded $5,000 for their state-of-the-art diagnostic technology. Their technology examines how cognitive dysfunction affects eye movement is used to diagnose clinical disorders. This method was the foundation for their startup, SciKey Diagnostics, where they manage the development of behavioral diagnostics for Alzheimer's disease, dementia, depression, anxiety, and ADHD.

The grand prize was won by two doctoral nursing students from the University of South Florida. Lauren Wright and Tram Pham were presented $10,000 for their product. The two developed a baby-bottle nipple that mirrors the natural shape and flow of the baby’s mother. The intention behind their product is that it will allow babies to more easily and naturally feed, which will cut down significantly on postpartum depression. Additionally, studies have shown that infants who are deprived of breast feeding tend to develop anxiety issues in their adolescence.

This was the sixth consecutive year the health innovation competition has been co-sponsored by Florida Blue and the USF Center for Entrepreneurship. The competition finalists ranged from undergraduates to doctoral students and came from universities all around Florida. All involved with the competition were dedicated to their innovations and passionate about improving mental health care management.

“This has been a seven-year journey for us,” said the director of the USF Center for Entrepreneurship, Michael Fountain. “Back then, we saw that we had so many great universities in Florida and we thought, how can we do something to impact health care in the state, the nation and be an example for the rest of the world. We are looking for solutions to big problems here.”

On a similar note, Dave Pizzo, market president of Florida Blue, remarked about how advanced and amazing the student innovations were this year.“It was heartwarming to listen to all your presentations and the passion that went into each one,” he said. “This is an incredible group of students this year.

Judge Keli Murray summed up the importance of the students’ passion and dedication best saying, “As I get older, I’ll be very comfortable placing my care in your hands.”