Northwell Health Commits $1M to Fund Employee Ideas for Healthcare Innovation During Big Ideas Showcase

The 2023 Innovation Challenge showcased ideas to tackle cancer care and bioelectronic medicine treatment for stroke

Northwell Health CEO Michael Dowling speaks at the 2023 Innovation Challenge (Photo: Business Wire)

NEW HYDE PARK, N.Y.--()--Northwell Health has awarded $1 million toward the research and development of two employee-driven projects that drive the goal of transforming the future of health care with new ideas during the health system’s 2023 Innovation Challenge. Winners of the competition included team leads hailing from the Feinstein Institutes for Medical Research, the home of research at Northwell Health. Each project will receive up to $500,000 in funding to advance their innovations in care delivery and science.

Lead investigators of the two winning projects included Daniel King, MD, PhD, assistant professor at the Institute of Cancer Research at the Feinstein Institutes, and Sandeep Nadella, MD, gastroenterologist at North Shore University Hospital in Manhasset, for their work on iNav: AI-Driven Identification and Navigation for Cancer Patients; and Chunyan Li, PhD, associate professor at the Institute of Bioelectronic Medicine at the Feinstein Institutes, and Timothy G. White, MD, chief resident at the Department of Neurosurgery at North Shore University Hospital, for StrokeFighter: Novel Bioelectronic Therapy for Acute Ischemic Stroke. The announcement was made during the health system’s Made for Big Ideas™ Showcase.

“Innovation and creativity are the essence of good organizations, and at Northwell we take pride in fostering a culture that promotes our team members who strive to advance science and the delivery of care,” said Michael Dowling, Northwell Health president and CEO. “All of these submissions represent the very best ideas and novel approaches Northwell, and its talent, are pursuing to tackle some of health care’s biggest issues.”

Since officially launching six years ago, hundreds of Northwell employees have submitted ideas to the competition. To date, Northwell has awarded funding for 13 projects to advance their progress and develop their innovative ideas.

This year, there were 84 submissions, and after a rigorous screening process, six finalist teams were chosen to present their pitches in person to an esteemed panel of judges. This year’s judges included:

  • Bunny Ellerin, digital health expert
  • Brenton Fargnoli, MD, managing partner at AlleyCorp Healthcare
  • Alissa Hsu Lynch, health tech innovator, board director and Henry Crown Fellow
  • Tom Manning, executive chairman of Aegis Ventures and chairman of Ascertain

“Innovation is a team sport at Northwell. Our core strength comes from the curiosity and ingenuity of our 83,000 team members,” said Jason Naidich, MD, senior vice president and chief innovation officer at Northwell Health. “The finalists showcased here today exemplify the way in which interdisciplinary teams are especially capable of developing novel approaches and transformative solutions that will improve patient care.”

Navigating cancer care through AI

Drs. King and Nadella, along with Tiffany Zavadsky, CRNP, created an AI-enabled solution to identify and navigate both pre-diagnosed and newly diagnosed cancer patients to cancer care, including access to novel clinical trials.

“This feels like a new beginning,” said Dr. King. “We recognized that one of the key problems in oncology is that we’re not able to navigate patients to care properly and quickly. What we can do with iNav is use technology to identify patients much earlier than we did before and promptly send them to get the correct care they need.”

Treating stroke through bioelectronic medicine

Presented by Drs. Li and White, StrokeFighter is a cutting-edge bioelectronic medicine therapy designed to alleviate the negative effects of acute ischemic stroke (lack of blood flow to the brain), while also preventing and treating stroke-induced vascular cognitive impairments through targeted electrical stimulation of the trigeminal nerve. The project team has dedicated the last five years to optimizing trigeminal nerve stimulation parameters by using a unique wrap-around technique that could assist in early stroke treatment.

“This work comes from a very small lab, and I really appreciate this opportunity,” said Dr. Li. “Some people may know about our work or what bioelectronic medicine is, but our research may one day help a lot of patients.”

Other members of the StrokeFighter team include Yousef Al-Abed, PhD, co-director of the Institute for Bioelectronic Medicine at the Feinstein Institutes; Daniel Sciubba, MD, MBA, Lucille and Milton Cohn professor and chair of neurosurgery at Donald and Barbara Zucker School of Medicine at Hofstra/Northwell, senior vice president of neurosurgery at Northwell Health, and co-director of the Institute for Neurology and Neurosurgery at Northwell Health; Stavros Zanos, MD, PhD, associate professor at the Institute of Bioelectronic Medicine at the Feinstein Institutes; Kevin Shah, MD, chief resident of the department of neurosurgery at North Shore University Hospital; and Henry Woo, MD, vice chairman and director of cerebrovascular neurosurgery at North Shore University Hospital and professor of neurosurgery at Donald and Barbara Zucker School of Medicine at Hofstra/Northwell.

“Since 2017, the Innovation Challenge event has served as a wonderful forum to showcase the novel approaches towards improving care which are developed by our Northwell colleagues,” said Richard Mulry, president and CEO of Northwell Holdings. “We are proud to partner with them to advance these solutions and extend their impact on the nature and delivery of care.”

Northwell Holdings, the for-profit venture investment arm of Northwell Health, works with doctors, scientists, staff, and entrepreneurs both in and out of the health system to advance the commercial potential for internal innovation and development of commercial joint ventures.

The last Innovation Challenge, held in 2021, awarded two transformative projects: a 3D imaging device to identify tissue pressure injuries early and a non-invasive bioelectronic medicine spleen stimulator to treat excessive bleeding. Past projects funded have included research into the first non-invasive diagnostic test for endometriosis, a therapeutic drug candidate as a potential treatment for HPV infection, real-time actionable data related to ED utilization, and the allocation of clinical resources and infrared thermography for early detection of tissue pressure injury.

About Northwell Health

Northwell Health is New York State’s largest health care provider and private employer, with 21 hospitals, about 900 outpatient facilities and more than 12,000 affiliated physicians. We care for over two million people annually in the New York metro area and beyond, thanks to philanthropic support from our communities. Our 83,000 employees – 18,900 nurses and 4,900 employed doctors, including members of Northwell Health Physician Partners – are working to change health care for the better. We’re making breakthroughs in medicine at the Feinstein Institutes for Medical Research. We're training the next generation of medical professionals at the visionary Donald and Barbara Zucker School of Medicine at Hofstra/Northwell and the Hofstra Northwell School of Nursing and Physician Assistant Studies. For information on our more than 100 medical specialties, visit and follow us @NorthwellHealth on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and LinkedIn.

About the Feinstein Institutes

The Feinstein Institutes for Medical Research is the home of the research institutes of Northwell Health, the largest health care provider and private employer in New York State. Encompassing 50 research labs, 3,000 clinical research studies and 5,000 researchers and staff, the Feinstein Institutes raises the standard of medical innovation through its five institutes of behavioral science, bioelectronic medicine, cancer, health system science, and molecular medicine. We make breakthroughs in genetics, oncology, brain research, mental health, autoimmunity, and are the global scientific leader in bioelectronic medicine – a new field of science that has the potential to revolutionize medicine. For more information about how we produce knowledge to cure disease, visit and follow us on LinkedIn.


Julianne Mosher Allen


Julianne Mosher Allen