Inaugural Innovation Grant Awarded at Kingston Health Sciences Centre

Dr. Kimberly Dow, a neonatologist at Kingston Health Sciences Centre (KHSC), has been named the first-ever recipient of a new fund for innovative practices in the Kingston hospitals.

The University Hospitals Kingston Foundation (UHKF) Health Care Innovation Fund provides seed funding for innovative practices which improve, develop, or expand treatment options for patients, clients and residents of the Kingston hospitals. Dr. Dow’s project aims to create a nipple monitoring device to properly evaluate breast or bottle feeding skills in critically ill infants.

“Breast or bottle feeding is a key milestone that babies in the neonatal intensive care unit must achieve before being discharged home, and of course has an impact on their growth and development” explains Dr. Dow.

Over 40% of infants in the NICU encounter oral feeding difficulties which can lead to a prolonged hospital stay, or long-term feeding disorders. The current clinical practice is to observe an infant’s feeding performance at the bedside. The use of a nipple monitoring device allows for more precise observation of feeding skills, and allows for more accurate treatment recommendations to be made to caregivers and new parents.

“The goal is that we make our diagnosis more efficient and more accurate,” says Dr. Dow. “Ultimately, we hope that the babies and the parents can go home faster and also that the parents will know more about their babies’ feeding habits.”

Right now, similar devices are used in hospitals in the United States for research tools. Dr. Dow and her team will be translating the device from a research tool into a bedside diagnostic tool.

“I’ve worked with a device like this in the US before,” says Dr. Sandra Fucile, a co-leader in the project. “This will bring the NICU here at KHSC to the forefront of care. We will be the only Canadian centre that has a nipple monitoring device for this population”

“Innovations like this are what allows Kingston to continue to provide world-class care so close to home” says Sue Creasy, chair of UHKF’s Extraordinary People, Innovative Health Care campaign. “This project has the potential to impact many, many lives in our region.”