Magic Wand Initiative encourages clinicians to embrace research, innovation
Innovation and problem-solving in dermatology are often fueled by clinicians, but with tight restrictions on time, innovation can take a back seat to everyday practice.
The Magic Wand Initiative, a grassroots program that aims to add research and problem-solving back into the clinician’s day, has been working to change that dynamic.
The initiative was started in 2013 by a group of dermatologists at Wellman Center for Photomedicine and the department of dermatology at Massachusetts General Hospital as a way to address the decline in innovation research among clinicians.
“Clinical practice has changed a lot. There’s a lot more bureaucracy, administration and less reimbursement. Clinicians are pushed more and more toward seeing more patients and doing more paperwork, so there’s no time left to do anything creative or innovative research work,” Lilit Garibyan, MD, PhD, one of the initiative’s founders, told Healio.
The program began with asking clinicians and residents to keep a record of problems they encountered in practice.
It got its name from a gimmick made up by another founder, R. Rox Anderson, MD, who decided to use a 3D printer to create “magic wands” the clinicians could carry around in their pockets to remind them to document their questions.
“You need a gimmick, right? Just imagine, you’re a busy clinician, you’re seeing patients all day, you go home tired every night. You’re not really paid or encouraged to stop and pay attention to the problems that you wish you could solve if you had a research capability,” Anderson said in an interview.
After a month, a large brainstorming session with all clinical faculty was held in which about 30 problems were identified.
“The purpose was to truly find a well-defined practical problem, an unmet need we could work on,” Garibyan said.
While some problems were solved in the first meeting, others were singled out and connected with scientists and engineers for feasibility and proof-of-concept studies.
The group partnered with Advancing Innovation in Dermatology (AID) to sponsor two projects, using the money to allow clinicians to spend time with their research. AID continues to support the virtual Magic Wand program in the United States.
While 73% of clinicians said they were extremely interested in getting involved in research, many said they were too busy with clinical duties or they did not know the process for biomedical innovation, according to Garibyan.
Of the 30 problems identified in that first session, eight were being actively pursued, three have had products developed, and one has led to a start-up company, she said. Two others have had prototype devices created and tested.
“There’s a lot of concrete, measurable outcomes we’ve achieved,” Garibyan said. “Clinicians are very smart people. They’re very creative and hard working. They truly know what the problems are, and they are passionate about finding solutions to those problems.”
Now, nearly 7 years later, the program continues to grow with a national virtual program and expansions planned in other dermatology departments. With support from LEO Pharma, the Virtual Magic Wand program will soon expand to Europe with the goal to educate and engage European dermatologists in biomedical innovation.
“In general, the way we counsel and guide people’s careers in academic dermatology is you can either be a clinician or you can do research, and I just don’t buy that,” Anderson said. “I think you can meaningfully do both. For me, the Magic Wand project is a demonstration that clinicians can initiate research projects, sometimes lead them and certainly stay involved in them.”