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Biodesign and Innovator Nurses
Episode

Onike Williams, Director Of Program Development at UCLA Biodesign

Biodesign and Innovator Nurses

There is a massive potential in innovation ready to be tapped. In this episode, we hear from Onike Williams, nurse practitioner and Director of Program Development at UCLA Biodesign, about how the program is working with professionals from the medical field, including nursing, to educate them as innovators and develop new technology. As she still is a nurse practitioner, she also speaks of how that balances and enriches her work and contributions to the Biodesign program. 

 

Onike explains what the program’s health tech accelerator strives for and how the one-year fellowship develops ideas to patent and take to market. She emphasizes that there is no bad idea and encourages medical professionals, especially nurses, to be inspired by those ideas to innovate.

 

Tune in to this episode to listen from Onike Williams about nursing innovation and her work at UCLA Biodesign!

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Biodesign and Innovator Nurses

About Onike Williams:

Onike Williams is a Nurse Practitioner currently practicing as a Nurse at UCLA Santa Monica Medical Center in the Cardiac Intermediate Care Unit. Healthcare research and innovation have been at the forefront of her interests throughout her career, and Onike is an inventor on multiple patents. Her portfolio of work includes projects to combat postpartum depression with alternative therapies, leverage nanotechnology to accelerate wound healing, and augmented reality software to assist surgeons. Onike was a UCLA Health Biodesign Fellow and is now the Director of Program Development in the Biodesign Program. Onike earned her Master’s Degree in Nursing from Charles Drew University, where she was a member of the Sigma Theta Tau Honor Society and earned the award of Excellence in Clinical Nursing Practice. Onike completed her BS in Psychology from Boston University and Nurse Practitioner certification at Charles Drew University, where she was an Albert Schweitzer Fellow.

 

OR_SONSIEL_Onike Williams: Audio automatically transcribed by Sonix

OR_SONSIEL_Onike Williams: this mp3 audio file was automatically transcribed by Sonix with the best speech-to-text algorithms. This transcript may contain errors.

OR SONSIEL Intro:
Welcome to the SONSIEL podcast, where we host interviews with the most transformational nurse scientists, innovators, entrepreneurs, and leaders. Through sharing their personal journeys, we create inspiration, provide guidance, and give you actionable ideas you can use to be a catalyst for change.

Hiyam Nadel:
Welcome to the SONSIEL podcast. Today we have Onike Williams, who I’m really thrilled to talk to because she really has a unique position, but I will go ahead and let her introduce herself, Onike.

Onike Williams:
Hi Hiyam. My name is Onike Williams. I am a nurse practitioner, currently practicing as a nurse here at UCLA Health. I am, currently hold the position of Director of Program Development at UCLA Biodesign, and it’s a newer program we started about three years ago. I had the privilege of being a fellow in the second cohort. It’s a fantastic program that I’m really excited about and so happy to be a part of a leadership team.

Hiyam Nadel:
That’s amazing, but before we get to your current, what you’re currently doing, I would really love to know how you initially got into healthcare? What made you decide to do that?

Onike Williams:
Sure, I have always wanted to be a doctor, since I can remember, I always wanted to be a doctor. My dad is a spine surgeon and that was what I could do since I could remember. But then time passes and I think I got to college and I was like, Well, I don’t know if that lifestyle is for me. So, but I still very passionate about the healthcare field and started to explore the ideas of nursing and was overjoyed with what nursing had to offer and happily joined the mass, wonderful population of nurses.

Hiyam Nadel:
Yes, I would have to agree with that since I’m a nurse myself. What specialty did you go into? Did you go into spinal surgery like your dad or did you?

Onike Williams:
No.

Hiyam Nadel:
What population did you end up taking care of?

Onike Williams:
Sure, I started and I’m still on the intermediate care unit, we’re a cardiac stepdown and we also do stroke as well.

Hiyam Nadel:
And now, as a nurse practitioner, I’m thrilled to hear that you’re still on the front lines because I think that’s, our patients and families really need us. But I also love the idea that you’re doing something else.

Onike Williams:
Yes.

Hiyam Nadel:
So does that give you a good balance?

Onike Williams:
It gives you a fantastic balance. The Biodesign program is, we make Medtech and we educate the future healthcare leaders of tomorrow, it’s our slogan. And we, and it’s really great for me because I’m aiming to get nurses, we are aiming to get nurses into innovation as we rightly belong. And it’s good for me to still be on the floor and be in touch with all the things that are happening and new tech that comes out and seeing the way that we use things and seeing, being inspired by all of my coworkers and nurses and, how we are innovators, and we change the way that we do things and we innovate, you may not call it innovation, but we innovate. So it’s good to still be on the floor with everyone.

Hiyam Nadel:
That’s great to hear, and I want to follow up more about that balance and why you feel it’s still important to be on the front lines because I think it informs the work that you’re doing now. But tell us a little bit more about that UCLA health tech accelerator.

Onike Williams:
Sure, so it’s a wonderful program. We, it’s a one-year fellowship. Well, there’s many tracks. There’s a one-year fellowship that we start from concept, then we shadow on the floors, we take part, figuring out what the problems are and ideate and come up with hundreds of ideas, narrow it down, this is over a year-long, narrow it down to one idea that the group likes and we then do product-market fit, go through the whole process and we patent that idea and hopefully, create a company or sell it or take it to market.

Hiyam Nadel:
And so, go on to tell me a little bit more about why you feel that balance for you, doing both positions, and how it informs each other or does it inform each other?

Onike Williams:
Sure, I think it’s really important for me as a nurse in the Biodesign field, unfortunately, nurses aren’t very common. We’re not, our voices aren’t heard as often. So to be able to represent nurses at the table and be able to go back, we come up with an idea, go back to nurses on the floor, and actually talk to them. What do you think? How does this feel? Would it be better if? Could we change it to this way? I think it’s important to be able to have as much involvement as possible with nurses on the floor in product creation.

Hiyam Nadel:
Do you think that are they interested in what you’re doing or do you feel like more take attention on what’s happening in your, in the accelerator?

Onike Williams:
I do think that nurses, we have these thoughts on our own in general. We often as a population don’t understand that or don’t know that we can do something with that idea. So the UCLA Biodesign program hopes to be able to empower nurses to help them realize you have an idea, and that is, it can be worth something. So let’s figure out and educate how we can take it all the way through.

Hiyam Nadel:
Is the program only available to UCLA nurses? Or do you want to be able to collaborate with other health systems?

Onike Williams:
Sure, so the program is, it’s a multidisciplinary team made of doctors, medical field doctors, nurses, whomever, they usually have MBAs, design team engineers, and we all work together to create the best products. Everybody comes with their specialty, they bring their own uniqueness to the table to create this very strong team. And it’s pretty special in that there are other biodesign programs across the country and other universities, and I think we were one of the first to include nursing in the fellowship, so that just speaks to UCLA’s vision. We have, our health system is run by a nurse, which is pretty special. I know there’s not that many top health systems in the country that are run by nurses, so I think I feel very supported, but we have a lot of support in trying to get nurses to that table. So we’re not there yet where we want to be in involvement of nurses, but that is a goal.

Hiyam Nadel:
That’s fantastic. But when did you recognize in yourself that you needed to do something different, such as the accelerator? Do you see yourself as an innovator? And when did you recognize that in yourself?

Onike Williams:
Well, gosh, I think I’ve always been an innovator. It’s such an encompassing term, right? It’s a broad term that includes so many, so many different thoughts and levels of innovation. I’ve always had thoughts of, what if this worked like this? Why don’t we change it to make it? What if I tweak this? Or, why doesn’t this exist? Why isn’t it made this way? So ever since I was a kid, I’ve always been, had thoughts of innovation. And I, luckily enough, that my dad is also an innovator himself, he’s an inventor in the medical field. So I’m sure that definitely helped my train of thinking on how to always improve things.

Hiyam Nadel:
Right, and it’s, so a little bit of it is in your DNA.

Onike Williams:
Yes, yeah, yeah.

Hiyam Nadel:
So some of the challenges you mentioned is, I think is, having or educating nurses or helping them see themselves as innovators because they’re constantly modifying every day, all day long, as they’re using equipment or implementing processes, etc. But what do you face or what have you seen as challenges and any other unique approaches? I mean, the health tech accelerator is amazing, but there are any other unique approaches that you can tell us about?

Onike Williams:
We do a lot of, we do nursing grand rounds and we have professional governance councils. So we have a new Nurse Knowledge and Innovation Council and we hold a lot of webinars about innovators, nurse scientists, and the how we can progress nursing. It’s a pretty special council that I’m honored to be a part of, and I really enjoy the time spent there being around the nurses that are like-minded thinking in innovation and how we can advance nursing. I think a lot of nursing education is quite, well, I’ll speak for myself, my nursing education was quite siloed. I mean, I’ve been inventing since I was a kid and when I went to the Biodesign program, it’s like I am exposed to all the business aspect and the law side of innovation. And I just, I didn’t even know what I didn’t know. I had no clue that this entire, it’s like, of course, I knew that this education existed, I just didn’t realize that I had none of it. And it would be great to be able to expand the education of nurses because we are in such a special position of being patient-facing. We use a lot of the products we are in touch with all, we have our hands in all aspects of medicine. We are in such a unique position to be able to provide really great feedback on creating the best products. So I think it would be, hopefully, I know there are a lot of nursing programs that have started, including innovation in their education, but if that could become standard, I think that would be very useful and it would advance the medical profession much faster than it’s currently paced.

Hiyam Nadel:
I agree, I agree. And even in my own work, I see how we’re trying, or we’re trying to elevate a lot of the innovation work within the nurses, but once they do it, they just absolutely love it. And many of the staff that I work with want to stay at the bedside just like yourself for that same reason, right? To stay close enough, you still want to take care of patients, but you’re still close enough to the problems and all the challenges so that you can actually solve them. You mentioned having like-minded people. Is that what you find in SONSIEL? I don’t want to put words in your mouth because I hear that a lot, and that’s why we started SONSIEL, it was the like-minded tribe because sometimes as an innovator, you know, you think differently, you do things differently, and finding your tribe is really important.

Onike Williams:
Absolutely, I think that, I use those exact words, obviously. I think it’s really important, especially being exposed to nurses that have already done it is very inspiring. So I joined SONSIEL in hopes to find other nurses that have already done it, are doing it, will do it, and want to know how they’re doing it. And what was their experience, what’s their path, what was the products that they made? I want to know all about nursing innovation, so that way I can, it’s further inspiring for me, but hopefully for others as well in creating a repository. Like, oh you want to know about nursing innovation, come to SONSIEL. We have all of them here, they’re all here, let’s talk about how we do this. And it’s been a very welcoming environment and I’ve already been able to network through SONSIEL, which is pretty special as a newer member, so I appreciate the platform.

Hiyam Nadel:
That’s great to hear as well. So one thing that resonates with me is what you said that courses in traditional nursing curricula should now be standardized and include innovation and business, and alternatively, well, not alternatively, but in addition to. So you take a position like yours or mine here at Mass General Hospital where we actually help them through that innovation methodology so that they learn it. And the hope for me is that I work with one nurse, but she’ll go back to the unit and teach others and hopefully in that way, because I think we have to address it in both prongs where we’re educating, but yet real hands-on learning as well.

Onike Williams:
I fully agree.

Hiyam Nadel:
Right? Until we can get, until it becomes a thing in nursing school and things. So, you know, a couple of more questions. What makes you so excited about innovation, nursing, and science?

Onike Williams:
The potential, the massive potential is really exciting. You know, we have, outside of hospital systems tech is so integrated into daily life, we have a computer in our hand. Ten, twenty years ago, it just wasn’t even a thought. Now, we just need to transition that thinking to the hospital system. So you have all these young nurses that are, I already feel like I’m outdated, I’m not even that old. But, you know, it’s the next generation is coming up and they are so much more ingrained with tech. If we can get that thinking into healthcare and get those ideas flowing, imagine the possibilities.

Hiyam Nadel:
Oh, absolutely, and I see it already, how the ideas have evolved for me, some ideas were not technology, but more and more like-minded of these younger nurses, the next generation, as I like to say, are very tech-savvy and their ideas are generally based on technology. So I agree with you, however, I always tell people we need to be agnostic, right? Low tech, no tech, high tech, because there’s lots of problems that we can solve through that.

Onike Williams:
Absolutely.

Hiyam Nadel:
What is one thing you would like to leave our audience with today?

Onike Williams:
Wow, I would say no idea is a bad idea. It may just need to be refined, but if you have an inkling that things can be done better, explore it. See if there are products that do that, or if there isn’t, what would you do to make it better? Expand those conversations, include other thoughts, and I think it’s always really good to include all different age groups in these conversations because yes, the new generation is coming up and they are super tech-savvy, but the nurses that have been around much longer have such different viewpoints that are rich and full of experience that can really lend depth to your idea. Yeah, just explore those ideas and imagine the possibilities, imagine if your idea is used across the country.

Hiyam Nadel:
Love it, and I think what’s unique about your accelerator is that you actually bring in lots of different perspectives as well. And so engineering, etc, whoever else needs to be involved, because the more diverse perspectives, the richer the solution and the richer the conversation.

Onike Williams:
Absolutely.

Hiyam Nadel:
So, Onike, how would people, if they wanted to talk to you further or reach out to you, how can they contact you?

Onike Williams:
Sure, I am not great with social media, but I am on LinkedIn. I think that is the best way to reach me. It’s O N I K E, it’s my first name, Williams. Onike Williams that, there’s not many of that name, so I can be pretty easy to find.

Hiyam Nadel:
By the way, does your name mean anything?

Onike Williams:
It does, it means the politician.

Hiyam Nadel:
The politician?

Onike Williams:
Yeah.

Hiyam Nadel:
You could say, the innovator.

Onike Williams:
Sure, I’ll change it, yeah.

Hiyam Nadel:
Well, thank you so much, Onike, for joining us today. It’s been really enriching and I’m so happy to hear that there are more biodesign, and accelerators, and programs, and everything for nursing. And I think it’s just really a beginning, isn’t it? I think it’s going to really scale and expand as people learn more about the potential, as you said, the incredible potential that nurses have when you bring them to the table.

Onike Williams:
Absolutely. Thank you so much. This was wonderful.

Hiyam Nadel:
You’re welcome.

OR SONSIEL Outro:
Thanks for tuning in to the SONSIEL podcast. If today’s podcast inspired you, we invite you to join our tribe or support our mission by visiting us at SONSIEL.org. That’s S O N S I E L dot org.

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Things You’ll Learn:

  • There’s a one-year fellowship in the UCLA Biodesign health tech accelerator that takes one idea and then does product-market fit, patents it, and takes it to market.
  • Nurses aren’t very common in the Biodesign field, and the UCLA Biodesign program is one of the first to include them in a tech accelerator fellowship.
  • The UCLA Biodesign program hopes to be able to empower nurses to help them realize ideas can be worth something.
  • The UCLA program is not only for nurses but for a multidisciplinary team made of medical field workers, all working together to create the best innovative products.
  • It’s essential to have as much involvement as possible with nurses on the floor in product creation for nursing innovation.

 

Resources: