The Magic Wand Initiative (MWI) is a creative program designed by-clinicians-for-clinicians that empowers physicians to identify and solve unmet patient needs and teaches them the process of innovation. The MWI cultivates patient-centered innovation where clinicians identify problems worth solving, practice divergent and convergent brainstorming, collaborate with stakeholders, prototype, and possibly commercialize solutions. Throughout this journey of innovation, learners have the opportunity to partner with other expert clinicians and non-physicians (i.e. scientists and engineers), to select which patient problems are worth solving and what solutions are worthy of further development and testing.
This initiative was pioneered, designed and launched by Dr. Rox Anderson and Dr. Lilit Garibyan at the Wellman Center for Photomedicine and Massachusetts General Hospital Department of Dermatology in 2013. The goal and mission was to increase clinician involvement in problem-based research and innovation. We wanted to educate and empower academic dermatologists to identify important unmet medical needs and form teams to solve them with steps shown in Figure 1. We partnered with a nonprofit organization in the community called Advancing Innovation in Dermatology (AID) to provide the education, support and tools needed to solve the identified problems. Since that time, the pilot program has achieved concrete measurable success, affirming that if clinicians are empowered to identify and solve existing problems, new and innovative solutions can be brought to the patients. The success has been measured with increased number of publications, grants awarded, patents filed, prototype devices created and reduced burnout in the participating physicians.
Figure 1: The Magic Wand Initiative pathway used to educate and empower clinicians to launch and lead problem-based research and innovation.
Given the tremendous success of the Magic Wand Initiative at Harvard, we started receiving requests from clinicians throughout the country and from both within and beyond academic departments on how they could participate in the Magic Wand program. This led us to spin-off another collaborative educational program in collaboration with AID, called the “Virtual Magic Wand” (VMW) Scholars program in 2017. The “Virtual Magic Wand” program, is an online platform program aimed to help early-career clinicians from across the country to deeply understand and define a dermatologic clinical problem worth solving. The goal of the program is to educate and empower residents and early career clinicians to become the next generation of innovators in dermatology. It is designed as a 10-month long instructive and interactive course with monthly teleconferences. At the completion of the program, the participants submit a white paper that thoroughly describes a specific clinical problem in dermatology that they have identified and deeply defined.
The program has been very popular among resident and early career attendings. The participating VMW scholars have very much enjoyed the program. Since VWM’s inception three years ago, there have been 33 VMW Scholars from 21 academic institutions in addition to the military and private practice. Clinicians from all over the US and from diverse practice settings show great interest in biomedical innovation.
We believe that clinician involvement in biomedical innovation is crucial for identifying and solving medical unmet needs and for bringing novel therapies to patients. Key factors that make physicians effective innovators include 1) Identifying and solving problems that arise from the real-world practice of medicine; 2) Implementing and integrating the innovative biomedical solutions into patient care and iterating to improve care delivery; and 3) Engaging and empathizing with patients on how innovations impact their health and healthcare experience.
Now is the time to work together to increase clinician engagement in problem-based research and innovation. Through the Magic Wand Initiative, we hope to empower clinicians to adopt the creative and iterative thinking processes of innovation and provide them with the tools, training, and opportunities needed to solve unmet needs.