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Liver transplantation innovation wins The Pitch

Organ preservation project awarded $50,000 in District’s innovation challenge.

Four men standing together in front of a media wall; two in the middle holding a giant cheque
SydneyConnect Image: Judge Dr Roger Garsia and Concord Hospital General Manager Joseph Jewitt pose with The Pitch winners Charles Risbey and Daniel Babekuhl.

A new approach to preserving livers for transplantation at RPA Hospital has been chosen as the winner of the latest edition of The Pitch. 

The Pitch is Sydney Local Health District’s innovation challenge that sees staff pitch their ideas, no matter how big or small, to drive positive changes in services, improve patient care or support the community. 

‘Cold, convenient and cheap’, a system for organ preservation developed by a team at the Centre for Organ Assessment Repair and Optimisation (COARO) at the RPA Institute for Academic Surgery was awarded $50,000 in funding. 

The project aims to improve outcomes for liver transplant patients while being financially sustainable. 

“It’s really exciting to be a winner – when we get an injection of funding like this it makes a massive difference to our project,” said Daniel Babekuhl, a PhD candidate at the COARO and one of the team who presented the idea at The Pitch. 

“Organs for transplant are a very precious resource so to use them to the fullest of their potential is really important,” added his colleague Charles Risbey, a Senior Resident Medical Officer at RPA who also pitched the idea. 

An innovation to make virtual healthcare more accessible to people experiencing homelessness was chosen as the runner up in The Pitch. 

‘Virtual Hospital Care Hubs for People who are Homeless or Living in Boarding Houses’, which will aim to install tech devices in crisis accommodation settings, was awarded $39,000 in funding. 

“We’re absolutely delighted. This is going to make a real difference for people experiencing homelessness, to be able to deliver services to them,” said Paul Clenaghan, Program Director of Homelessness and Rough Sleeping in the District, who pitched the idea. 

These projects were among five ideas shared at the March 2023 edition of The Pitch, held at Concord Hospital’s Medical Education Centre. 

Each finalist had  seven minutes to present their idea, followed by three minutes for questions from the judges. 

The judges included the District’s Chief Executive Dr Teresa Anderson ; Clinical Associate Professor John Cullen, the District’s Clinical Director of Aged Health, Rehabilitation and Chronic Care ; Associate Professor Roger Garsia, the District’s Clinical Director of Neurosciences, Bone and Joint, and Trauma; David Norwood, Director of Cloud and Infrastructure with the District’s Digital Health and Innovation team and Consumer Representative Lyn White, who sits on the Balmain Hospital Consumer Advisory Committee. 

The District has awarded more than $1.6 million in funding to over 50 ideas since the challenge’s inception in 2014. 

The next edition of The Pitch is set to take place in July.