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Credit: Ananya Chandra

When people think of innovation at Penn, the School of Nursing might not be the first thing that comes to mind.

A new fellowship linking nursing at Penn and the innovation center is working to change that.

“The purpose of [the Penn Nurse Innovation Fellowship] is really to help develop a different kind of thinking that can be applied to the challenges we see in health care,” Chief Nursing Executive and Associate Executive Director of the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania Regina Cunningham said. “I think it’s an absolutely critical step.”

The fellowship hopes to strengthen the relationship between the Nursing School, the nursing department at HUP and the Innovation Center.

Jennifer Pinto-Martin, an inaugural co-fellow with professorships in the Perelman School of Medicine and School of Nursing, said she sees the fellowship as “a bridge.”

“Nurses are at the bedside and really witness the way patients move through the health care system,” Pinto-Martin said. “Health care is changing so rapidly and I really believe in this idea as a quick response.”

Her co-fellow Nurse Manager for the Cardiac Intermediate Care Unit at HUP, Leah Moran, echoed these sentiments.

“Nurses are in a really unique position to be able to identify problems,” Moran said. “They often come up with solutions that they put into place, but there’s never been a forum for nurses to do that.”

After only a month, Pinto-Martin and Moran have already begun to use their platform at the Center of Innovation to work with various health care initiatives. So far, they have worked with Our Directives, a project concerning end of life decision making, and another project focused on early physical movement during hospital recuperation periods.

Roy Rosin, the chief innovation officer with the Innovation Center, said he was “delighted” to have nursing become more engaged with the center.

“Our group has built bridges with the Engineering School, with the Design School, and Wharton,” Rosin said. “Nursing is really a natural extension of what we’re doing.”

Both Rosin and Cunningham said they felt that the fellowship is truly one of the first of its kind, and credit Penn's resources for innovation.

“It’s not the kind of work that could be done anywhere but in a place like Penn,” Cunningham said.

For their part, the first fellows are excited about the opportunity to be on the forefront of health care innovation.

“I think it’s an incredible honor to be an inaugural Fellow,” Moran said. “I think it’s a wonderful opportunity for me to represent nursing here at Penn.”

Pinto-Martin said she too felt strongly that the program had the potential to truly create change more quickly.

“The nurses really are the innovators, and this is an opportunity to really bring them to the forefront," Pinto-Martin said.