Two USF Health nursing doctoral students win Florida Blue Pitch Competition

Their idea to develop a baby-bottle nipple mirroring the natural shape and breast-milk flow rate of the baby’s mother won two USF Health doctoral nursing students the first-place $10,000 prize in this year’s Florida Blue Pitch Competition.

Lauren Wright and Tram Pham say their invention will allow preterm babies to more readily adapt to breastfeeding, which will cut down significantly on postpartum depression. Furthermore, they said, studies indicate that infants who are deprived of breastfeeding may develop anxiety issues in their adolescence.

Lauren Wright, a doctoral student in the USF College of Nursing, speaks to the panel of judges.

The product, called The Natural Nipple, already is in the patent pipeline and Wright, a clinical research nurse, and Pham, an RN on the orthopedic trauma floor of Tampa General Hospital, have already secured funding from the National Science Foundation to further develop their groundbreaking idea and bring it to market.

Wright said the product would be marketed not only to new mothers, but hospitals and clinics. Many times breastfeeding problems begin there, she said, when babies are first fed through bottles in the neonatal intensive care unit. The newborns get used to a nipple that is not the same as Mom and the flow is much greater. Subsequently, they have trouble adapting to the real thing.

The nursing team was among the 27 student finalists from public universities across Florida (including 7 from USF) who pitched their innovative solutions to support the treatment of anxiety and depression before a panel of nine judges, all entrepreneurs or CEOs of health-related businesses.  The finalists pitched ideas under the theme of anxiety and depression, a growing health problem that impacts all age groups, ethnicities, genders and professions.

Tram Pham and Wright answer questions about the natural baby-bottle nipple they invented to help babies more readily adapt to breastfeeding.

Florida Blue, co-sponsors the annual pitch competition and provides the prize money. The nationally-ranked USF Center for Entrepreneurship was co-sponsor and handled much of the logistics of staging the event.

Wright is part of the USF I-Corps program – a public/private partnership program that teaches entrepreneurs to identify valuable product opportunities that can come from academic research – and is pursuing a PhD in psychoneuroimmunology and Pham is studying for a doctorate in nursing practice with a concentration in adult/gerontology primary care.

-Edited from an article by Keith Morelli, Muma College of Business