Adventures in Applying for a Patent
Jared B. Gilman, MD
PGY4, Virginia Commonwealth University Health System PM&R Program
“Ok, Jared, let’s do an ultrasound-guided glenohumeral joint injection,” said Dr. H on the second day of my outpatient musculoskeletal rotation. She goes on to say, “You saw me do one yesterday, so today it is your turn.”
As we drew up the medications, I thought to myself, "It didn’t look that hard…right? I can do this." Well, fast forward to six of the longest minutes of my life as I struggled to “find my needle” on the ultrasound screen. Shortly thereafter, she helped guide me to the correct location. I guess one can say, you learn from doing rather than watching. I can confirm this. But I was not satisfied with this current learning technique, “See one, do one, teach one.”
I knew this visual-spatial skill required much more training to become proficient. So one afternoon, Dr. H and I sat down to discuss if I had any feedback for my rotation. I mentioned the limited training exposure to US-guided injection prior to performing on a patient. This is when the lightbulb went off and I decided to make a phantom ultrasound injection model.
My first rendition of this injection model was a homemade version using common household materials that I found in my kitchen. Initially, I looked online at different injections models that had been trialed for medical training. After this, I poured X amount of substance A and X amount of substance B into water and boiled, followed by cooling it in my fridge. The next day, I brought the mold to clinic and put a needle in it, but had significant difficulty removing the needle. Back to the drawing board.
That evening, I went back and made 3 different formulations with substances A and B and trialed them again in clinic. Once I reached an injection mold I was satisfied with, I decided to test the creation out during a resident US workshop. Here, we practiced injections on our phantom and I received extremely positive feedback regarding its practicality. My fellow classmates felt this training tool allowed them to practice ultrasound-guided injections in a low-stress, no-harm environment. They also liked that we could pour this mixture around any anatomical model to practice a multitude of different joints.
At my program’s next residency research day, I presented my US injection model and explained how I had been able to use it to improve the user’s comfortability interpreting US images, as well as performing injections after using my model. It was at this presentation that our department chairman suggested I patent the model I had created.
From there, I continued to make multiple reformulations. I felt confident with the final version, which was pliable but stiff, to allow for accurate mimicking of the human body. The next step in this project was one I had zero experience with. But like any hardworking resident, I was eager to learn. First things first, I had to talk with patent lawyers and go through a patentability assessment to determine if there is anything commercially available similar to my product. I knew there were similar models but what makes my product different than the others would be the “missing ingredient” to moving forward with the patent process.
I recently received Spark-Seed-Spread funding from the Veterans Health Administration Innovators Network for this US injection model. With this funding, I plan to hire mechanical engineers to provide the technical piece that is missing and continue refining the blend. I also hope to patent the actual ingredients that allowed me to create my ultrasound injection model. My ultimate goal is to share this model with other residents in training to improve their injection skills.
I hope all of you use your creative minds and run with your ideas because sometimes a simple idea can be bigger than you thought!