Two Babson Grads, From Two Programs, Innovating Together Against COVID-19

Nour Al-Sultan ’14 (L.) and Hiyam Nadel MBA’13 have innovated together at Massachusetts General Hospital against COVID-19

It was the second week of March. Across the country, coronavirus cases were about to skyrocket. Nour Al-Sultan ’14 and Hiyam Nadel MBA’13 were stumped and exhausted.

Tasked with bringing a prototype of COVID-19 testing booths developed in a Seoul hospital to Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston, Al-Sultan, Nadel, and their team sought insight to adapt the apparatus to meet the hospital’s specific needs.

A business strategy analyst at the hospital’s Springboard Studio, Al-Sultan wasn’t apt for wasting time. Late one night, she phoned the South Korean hospital. From that call, an email. From that email, detailed answers to her most pressing questions—from the hospital’s president.

“That was a testament to global collaboration in a global pandemic, and how powerful it’s been,” Al-Sultan said, reflecting on how the team successfully adapted the apparatus from feedback with the end users.

They may have different specialties, but as former members of Babson College’s undergraduate and graduate programs, Al-Sultan and Nadel, the director for The Center of Innovations at MGH and a Johnson and Johnson Innovation fellow, use the same entrepreneurial mindset to churn out countless projects at MGH, alleviating cases and facilitating recoveries since the pandemic gripped the country.

“The whole world has had to pivot,” Al-Sultan said. “This is health care’s time to shine.”

Opportunity in an Atypical Field

Unknown is just another word for opportunity. It’s a lesson taught at Babson, and one Al-Sultan and Nadel carry with them today. And, the opportunity in the healthcare industry is both boundless and urgent.

“The Babson spirit, you’re just go-getters,” Nadel said. “We could hit the ground and run, we had to do that with COVID-19.”

“The Babson spirit, you’re just go-getters. We could hit the ground and run, we had to do that with COVID-19.”
Hiyam Nadel MBA'13

As women entrepreneurs in health care, Al-Sultan and Nadel have acted quickly to create change. In the process, they’ve bonded over what they’ve learned from their Babson education.

“She’s been a rock for me,” said Al-Sultan. “We’ve combined our love for entrepreneurship and business mindsets in a field that’s very scientific and academic.”

How They’ve Innovated

Those projects? They’ve been plentiful, the pair says.

As a co-leader of the hospital’s personal protective equipment (PPE) task force, Nadel led an effort to make PPE as the hospital encountered shortages. The pair are in the process of incubating a device to prevent ulcers from developing in the stomachs of coronavirus patients resting face down to breathe better, a device to safely transfer blood that prevents staff exposure, and a system that avoids cross contamination while workers collect and handle lab specimens.

In the future, the team hopes to roll out a mask specifically designed for children with autism and Down syndrome that addresses tactile sensitivities.

“Now is the time for us to adapt and embrace change,” Al-Sultan said.

Gaining Input from All

Since the start of the outbreak, cases at MGH have declined, according to Al-Sultan, all due to the work of doctors and nurses. Their input is vital, and is consistently incorporated into action.

“Front line staff, especially nurses need to be at the table,” Nadel said. “We need to educate them on innovative and entrepreneurial thinking which is one of my goals as I continue to build the infrastructure for the center.”

“You’re with patients 24/7. They’re the ones that will come up with the best solutions.”

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