Fourth-year USF medical student patents urethral catheter to reduce recurrent catheterizations, infection risk

In watching his father struggle with kidney stones, William Pearce was inspired to work closely with urologists, which sparked his idea for a new device that greatly reduces the need for recurrent catheterization. Now, about four years later, he is the inventor of a urethral catheter and has a patent securing his idea.

Pearce is a fourth-year medical student in the USF Health Morsani College of Medicine and is one of few medical students who will graduate already owning a patent. His idea was designed, nurtured, modified and perfected while he was in medical school, as part of the Innovation, Entrepreneurship and Business in Medicine section of the College’s Scholarly Concentrations Program (SCP). As an academic elective program, the SCP allows students to focus on areas of interest beyond the medical school core curriculum to enhance their overall training. More than 85 percent of USF medical students take part in one of the program’s 10 tracks.

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William Pearce.

“The main goal for our Scholarly Concentrations Program is to give students an infrastructure for building unique and creative ideas that are integrated with what they are learning from the medical curriculum,” said Susan Pross, PhD, director of the SCP. “William’s project is a prime example of the success students can have with this program.”

Pearce’s patent is part of an active and successful patent program at USF through its Technology Transfer/Patents and Licensing Office. USF is ranked 10th nationally and 13th among universities worldwide for U.S. patents granted in 2014 by the National Academy of Inventors and the Intellectual Property Owners Association.

COPH sound-icon-png Listen to William Pearce speak to the great support he had filing his patent.

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Pearce said the idea for the catheter didn’t happen instantly, but was a process over a lot of time.

“Looking back, it’s not something I could lay a road map for or define a key moment,” Pearce said. “It was a series of steps, that each alone were improbable.”

In following the care his father received for kidney stones, Pearce discovered that a patient could have as many as five attempts by health care providers for inserting a Foley catheter. The recurring insertion attempts results in trauma to the patient, and presents a higher risk for infection.

COPH sound-icon-png Listen to William Pearce explain the dangers of  recurrent catheterization.

“There’s got to be a better way,” Pearce recalled thinking.

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Pearce partnered with a urologist in the Jacksonville area and, following an in-depth literature search, they decided the best approach was to integrate and elaborate on two existing designs. The combined concept resembled the advanced device used by urologists but incorporated a guide that allowed for easier insertion by frontline health care professionals – the people inserting the catheter the first time.

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Pearce filed his application December 2013; and then the waiting began. It wasn’t until mid-2015 when an email alerted Pearce that his patent had been accepted, making is catheter official. But the reality is, his work isn’t done – his next step is to seek approval from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) so the catheter can be tested in clinical settings.

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William Pearce with his patent #8,956,340.

His advice to other students looking to bring their ideas to reality and locking in with a patent: start early and seek advice from experts.

COPH sound-icon-png Listen to William Pearce’s tips for others wanting to file a patent.

“The Scholarly Concentrations Program gave me a head start, to be able to get an award to study possibilities and to do the research to see what patents already existed,” he said. “And the experts at the USF Technology Transfer/Patents and Licensing Office were key to helping me fine tune my application and get it filed. And today, I have my first patent.”

 

Multimedia by Sandra C. Roa, USF Health Communications