#ACGME2024 Session Summary: “Shark Tank” – A Dive into Medical Innovation

May 7, 2024

After nearly two years of working on their Back to Bedside-funded projects, six awardee groups participated in a competition based on the hit ABC show “Shark Tank” during the final day of the 2024 ACGME Annual Educational Conference. In the session, "Innovative Projects to Get Residents/Fellows Back to Bedside: A 'Shark Tank' Competition," a panel of four judges, or “sharks,” grilled presenters from the Back to Bedside teams as they showcased their ingenuity through projects aimed at increasing connection with patients and reigniting joy and meaning in medicine for residents and fellows.

The resident-led teams were given five minutes to lay out the idea behind their project before diving into carefully constructed presentations, which included result charts, visual abstracts, project pictures, videos, and more. After presenting their case for funding, the sharks carefully evaluated the projects and weighed in with tough questions about scalability, impact assessments, findings data, and more.

The six competing projects, selected to “compete” from the 20 projects funded in the current cycle of Back to Bedside, were:

Engaging Physician Trainees through Bedside Intensive Care Unit (ICU) Narratives
This multi-site, prospective behavioral study led by a team from the ICAHN School of Medicine at Mount Sinai aims to positively impact residents’ fulfillment and engagement with their work by promoting a humanistic clinical learning environment.

Arts and Medicine Track: Using Art to Enhance the Patient-Physician Relationship
A two-year curriculum developed for internal medicine residents at Brown University focuses on allowing residents to explore the relationship between arts and medicine and obtain new knowledge and skills in a low-stakes environment.

Beyond Rounds—Improving Physician and Patient Wellness on the Gyn-Oncology Service through Meaningful Connection
This program from a team at the University of California, Davis Health pairs residents with willing patients to engage in a meaningful activity, such as manicures, puzzles, painting, coffee, etc., leading to meaningful connections and helping physicians find wellness in their work to combat burnout.

Knowledge is Power: Community Centered Pathology
A project developed by a team from the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) encourages meaningful patient care moments by establishing a dermatopathology education clinic to improve patient and community health literacy and increases pathology residents’ exposure to the positive outcomes of their work.

Lending Empathetic Ears at Bedside
The team from University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, Harrisburg aims to re-engage residents in direct patient care by addressing communications barriers promoting greater inclusivity in elderly patient care, and enhancing the quality of resident-patient interactions by introducing and providing each resident with a readily available, cost-effective solution – the Super Ear.

Mitigating Bias and Burnout through Patient-Centered Narrative Medicine
The narrative medicine curriculum developed by the team at the University of Washington has residents participating in quarterly sessions during which patients with specific shared experiences are invited to speak. This is followed by a conversation between the residents and patients, and reflection by the residents.

Though real money was not at stake from the sharks, prizes were up for grabs, and the judges considered the audience’s opinion through real-time voting at the end of the presentations in making their final decision. The judges and the audience considered five factors: innovation; importance; feasibility; methodology; and potential impact. In the end, the pathology team from UCLA prevailed in a narrow vote to take home first place.

“Being a pathologist, people assume we don’t interact with patients in any kind of real, meaningful way,” said team lead, Kenechukwu Ojukwu, MD, MPP in an interview after the competition. “I wanted them to know, we do.”

The call for proposals for the fourth cycle of Back to Bedside funding closed last month; selected projects will be announced in June. Awardees in the next cohort will present their projects in San Diego during the 2026 Annual Educational Conference. You can learn more about the initiative and read about all 20 projects from this last cycle on the ACGME website.