Innovation Junkies Podcast

Barry Brady on Innovations in Pediatric Healthcare

The Jeffs talk with Barry Brady, Chief Operations Officer at Arkansas Children’s Research Institute. Don’t miss it as they discuss: what the culture of innovation looks like at Arkansas Children’s Research Institute, how staff, researchers, doctors & parents submit ideas for innovation, & recognizing & building on successes.

Jeff Standridge: This is Jeff Standridge, and this is the Innovation Junkies Podcast. If you want to drastically improve your business, learn proven growth strategies, and generate sustained results for your organization, you’ve come to the right place. Over the next half hour, we’re going to be sharing specific strategies, tactics, and tips that you can use to grow your business, no matter the size, no matter the industry, and no matter the geography. We’ll be talking about everything from sales and marketing to organization, operational and leadership effectiveness to innovation, digital transformation, and everything in-between. Weekly, we’ll bring in a top mover and shaker, someone who’s done something unbelievable with his or her business, and we’ll dig deep. We’ll uncover the specific strategies, tactics, and tools they’ve used to help you achieve your business goals. Welcome to the Innovation Junkies Podcast.

Hey guys, if you’re looking to put your business on the fast track to achieving sustained strategic growth, this episode is sponsored by the team at Innovation Junkie. To learn more about our strategic growth diagnostic, go to Now let’s get on with the show.

Jeff Standridge: Hey guys, welcome to the Innovation Junkies Podcast. I’m Jeff Standridge.

Jeff Amerine: And this is Jeff Amerine.

Jeff Standridge: Hi, Jeff. Good to be with you again.

Jeff Amerine: Yeah, it’s great to be back.

Jeff Standridge: Hey, I’m really excited about our guest today. Today, we’ve got with us, Barry Brady. Barry serves as the Chief Operating Officer of the Arkansas Children’s Research Institute. I like to call his role a three-legged stool, where he’s got one foot in healthcare, one foot in innovation, and one foot in research. Barry directed the establishment and leads the Arkansas Children’s Innovation Center, which launched last year in July of 2020. And in addition to that, he’s a fellow in the American College of Healthcare Executives. Excited to have him with us. Barry, great to have you.

Barry Brady: Hey, great to be here, Jeff and Jeff. Appreciate the invitation.

Jeff Standridge: Absolutely. Absolutely. So, Barry, we like to start off our podcast with just what we call a random musing, random musing. And today, our random musing topic is favorite flavor of ice cream. What’s your favorite flavor of ice cream?

Barry Brady: Vanilla.

Jeff Standridge: Really?

Barry Brady: It’s pretty boring. Vanilla, yeah.

Jeff Standridge: Just plain vanilla ice cream, not vanilla bean? Wow.

Barry Brady: Yeah. How about you guys?

Jeff Standridge: You put toppings on it?

Barry Brady: No.

Jeff Standridge: Really? Wow.

Barry Brady: Yeah. Yeah. My kids think I’m really boring when it comes to

Jeff Amerine: But a good vanilla ice cream, you can’t beat. No doubt about it.

Barry Brady: That’s right. That’s right. My grandfather used to make it when I was a kid with the old churn the bucket-

Jeff Standridge: Yeah.

Barry Brady: … deal. Maybe that’s why.

Jeff Standridge: That’s probably so, probably. Jeff, how about you?

Jeff Amerine: The one that I’ve really grown to like in the past few years is salted caramel. That’s my favorite, without a doubt.

Jeff Standridge: Very good. Well, I only eat ice cream when I’m by myself or with somebody and so… I’ve recently… Going to those… The popular Italian gelato shops that are starting to crop up in tourist traps around the country, I have stumbled onto a coconut cream ice cream, that is… It is just about one step from heaven. I think. I mean, it’s probably just about the best. Put a little chocolate on it, maybe some chocolate chips sprinkled in it, but it’s that coconut cream. It’s very good.

Jeff Amerine: Well, and gelato is a whole other universe. That’s a whole different deal, and it’s awesome.

Jeff Standridge: Very good. All right, Barry. So we’re talking about innovation on the Innovation Junkies Podcast. You probably didn’t recognize that, but so tell us a little bit more about your role as the Chief Operating Officer of the Arkansas Children’s Research Institute.

Barry Brady: Sure. So the Research Institute is a wholly-owned subsidiary of Arkansas Children’s Inc, and so any grant activity or research activity on the Arkansas Children’s campuses go through our office. And so I’m responsible for the day-to-day operations of the Research Institute. To work closely with the board of directors, help in new program development. But our role is primarily to serve our investigators on our campus and help them just focus on the science. And we help with the pre-award process. We have grant writers, budget people to help with the budget, I mean, with project submission. And then also, we help on the back end with accounting team to help keep track of their grant expenses, et cetera, so. And one thing I might mention too is all of our… All the faculty, all of our investigators on the Children’s campus are UAMS employees. So we worked very closely with UAMS. In fact, the department of pediatrics is actually located on the children’s campus.

Jeff Standridge: Great. So tell us a little bit about the kind of research going on in the Research Center, broadly speaking, of course.

Barry Brady: Yeah. I’m sorry. What was the last?

Jeff Standridge: Broadly speaking, of course.

Barry Brady: Yeah. Yeah. So we have four main focus areas that we have. One is child nutrition and obesity research. We have a large USDA-funded nutrition center here at ACRI. We’ve had it since 1994, so it’s one of the largest USDA ARS-funded cooperative agreements in the country. We also have a large, what is called, a COBRE grant for obesity prevention, held by Dr. Judy Weber. And so that’s one of the areas we have child nutrition and obesity research.

Barry Brady: The other is allergy, asthma, immunology, and cancer research. So we’ve had quite a bit of strong food allergy research here over the last couple of decades. And so that’s a real strong program for us. And then population health is another area that we’re keenly interested in. And we’re recruiting several potential leaders of that program because our most recent leader has moved to another location. And then finally, our fourth area is translational and surgical research. So we have another COBRE large grant led by Dr. Alan Tackett. And that’s related to just translational research, which means taking something from the laboratory to the bedside, to the patient.

Jeff Standridge: Very good. So tell us a little bit about your role at… Not your role specifically, but how you came to lead the Research Institute? Because I know you were a healthcare executive more on the clinical side for a number of years, and you moved into research over at Arkansas Children’s a few years ago. So talk us through that transition.

Barry Brady: Yeah. So I started off. I did a fellowship at Conway Regional, which is just north of Little Rock, after I finished graduate school. And my training is in healthcare administration. So I worked there for several years, worked my way up to one of the three VPs there in the organization. And a really fun part of my job was the entrepreneurial side of things. I was responsible for anything outside the hospital proper. So we actually had a full-profit laundry company that was located in the industrial park, where we did laundry for hospitals and healthcare organizations around Central Arkansas. So we had actually 12 hospitals, including Arkansas Children’s and St. Vincent’s and some of the other hospitals in Little Rock.

Barry Brady: But, also, we had a home health agency, which we expanded through our service area. And then also, an ambulance service, we had. The hospital actually owned the ambulance service, and it was just located in the hospital. And I was involved in the process to expand that to four other locations within our service area. So that was a really great experience for me. And then also after that, I was running a small hospital and a pretty good-sized nursing home in north Arkansas.

Barry Brady: And I happened to know the president of the Research Institute at the time, Dr. Wesley Burks. And he reached out to me about this opportunity here at the Research Institute. And so, as I talked to him and the team, I got really excited about it, helping with the process before people get to the hospital, if that makes sense. Hospitals taking care of things that are kind of downstream from things it could be, in some cases, prevented or research and to develop solutions that make those disease states obsolete.

Jeff Standridge: Awesome. And then-

Barry Brady: Yeah, I love it.

Jeff Standridge: … so you’ve been at Children’s about how long again?

Barry Brady: About 20 years.

Jeff Standridge: About 20 years.

Barry Brady: Yeah. And we’ve grown tremendously in those 20 years, from a research perspective. We do about $25 million each year in grants and contracts.

Jeff Standridge: Got you. And how many researchers you have roughly?

Barry Brady: Yeah, about 120.

Jeff Standridge: Okay. Wow.

Barry Brady: 120. Yeah. And we’ve got about 200,000 square feet of research space on campus. We also have a six-bed clinical research unit within the hospital. And so we also have a research pharmacy there within the hospital.

Jeff Standridge: Got you. Very good.

Jeff Amerine: As our audience is paying attention to what your journey has been and whatnot, what advice would you have for other innovation-assigned executives that may be in healthcare institutions? In terms of how they should manage the journey? And things they could learn from your experience? What are some key points that you’d pass along? Sort of rules of the road that you’ve learned along the way?

Barry Brady: Yeah, I would say… And so, the innovation piece of my job is fairly new. I put together a business plan about a year and a half to two years ago to really expand and develop an innovation center and expand our culture of innovation on this campus or our campuses. And I would say reach out to others. I talked to several people that’s… Were affiliated with healthcare institutions across the country, and how they set up their program, what worked? What didn’t work? But also here at Children’s, we’ve reached out to several of the entrepreneurial support organizations within Arkansas and collaborated with them. So that’s been a big plus for us. You just have that expertise pretty quickly. And so we work with HealthTech Arkansas, Innovation Junkie, Product Junkie.

Barry Brady: And we’re also… Had partnered with U of A’s Office of Entrepreneurship and Innovation in the Walton School of Business in Fayetteville, so all that expertise that we’ve had access to, that’s been very valuable to us. And help us to really move pretty quickly and changing the culture here. And the other thing I would add too is when you’re trying to add something to an organization that has its processes in place, it’s just really trying to develop a cadence of ongoing activities and things to get people involved. So it’s more top of mind than just having a one-time event. So we’ve really tried to develop with our partners a cadence of activities related to innovation.

Jeff Standridge: And we started talking about your aspirations for an innovation center at Children’s, gosh, probably almost five years ago. And had a few conversations about some potential events and what have you. And then I guess it was kind of three years in the making when you ultimately put your business plan together?

Barry Brady: Yeah.

Jeff Standridge: Is that-

Barry Brady: Yeah.

Jeff Standridge: accurate?

Barry Brady: Yeah. I’ve been wanting to do it for a long time. And looking at other organizations and the ability to attract top talent, I think that’s important too. But just the pediatric space, when it comes to innovation, is neglected sometimes. So I’ll give you an example, on the digital health solutions, and I think it was 2018, there was about eight… Let’s see eight billion or something like that invested in digital health solutions. Less than 1% were dedicated to pediatric digital health solutions. And kids make up 20% of the population, so. It’s really an opportunity to help our scientists and our staff members here on campus to move their ideas along and hopefully commercialize and help get those solutions out to the community quicker.

Jeff Standridge: Having been involved with Children’s to some degree for a long time myself, I recognized years ago that Children’s was doing some innovative things, whether it was moving into ECMO and mobile ECMO and even other innovations, but there really wasn’t a culture of commercialization. Can you talk a little bit about what you’re trying to do in generating not only a culture of innovation across the enterprise but also the idea of creating this awareness of the need to think about commercialization with every innovation that does get created?

Barry Brady: Yeah. One thing that we’ve done that I think’s been very helpful is establish a number of innovation captains across the campus. So our initial goal was to find about 25, and we ended up with 40, 42, I believe, across campus. And this can be anybody within a department or section that had an interest in innovation, so that’s been pretty successful, I think. So we’ve had several people, and the idea is for these people to be advocates for innovation. And if they hear or see someone talking about an innovative idea, that they can connect those people with our innovation team.

Barry Brady: Also too, we’ve established a link on our internal site where we can harvest ideas. And we try to make it really easy for people if they have an idea to let us know about it, and we can follow up. And I think since July, we’ve had about 65 to 70 ideas through that mechanism. A couple of other things that we are developing right now is the Biodesign Program. And this is based off of the Stanford model. And we’re looking at a 10-month program where we would recruit a four to five-person team, which would be an MBA student, bioengineering graduate student, a researcher, a data scientist, and a children’s physician, so. And these teams would be embedded for a couple of months in a clinical area within the hospital. And really try to identify what the problems are. And then, at the end of the 10-month period, develop solutions that could be commercialized from that perspective. So those are a couple things that we’ve done.

Barry Brady: We’ve also established a Catalyst Award that we can have funds available to help anybody, whether it’s a physician or a staff member, develop an idea to get a little bit more data or develop a prototype. And we just had our first award at that Catalyst Program just a couple of weeks ago. And so we’re pretty excited about that.

Jeff Standridge: Hey, folks. We’ll be right back with the episode, but first, we want to tell you about a limited opportunity to take advantage of our strategic growth diagnostic. For a short time only, we’re offering a free strategy call to see whether or not our unique diagnostic tool is right for you. Go to to learn more.

Jeff Standridge: So you talk about this cadence of events, this ongoing cadence to keep things top of mind, whether it’s your Biodesign program or your innovation captain training, or your Catalyst Award, what have you. You keep it top of mind by keeping it in front of folks, and then you give them a funnel or a mechanism by which they can actually submit their ideas, irrespective of whether they’re a clinician or a researcher, or a physician. And I might add, you’re also providing that same opportunity for parents. Can you talk a little bit about that?

Barry Brady: Yeah. That’s one thing that surprised me that I did not expect when we kicked off the Innovation Center last July. But often, parents have children with unique or even rare conditions, and they see a need. And so they develop a possible solution for that need. And they actually work with a clinician or team members here at Arkansas Children’s to help develop that idea. So we’ve actually incorporated that opportunity for the parents as well to connect with us, and we can help move those ideas along. So we’ve had several of those ideas come to the surface. And like I said, I was really surprised. I didn’t expect to see that.

Jeff Amerine: As a follow-up, Barry. One of the things we talk about when we think about building a culture of innovation is it’s important to celebrate. And oftentimes, we zero in on celebrating the successes. But what I’d be curious about is how do you include somebody really gave it a good effort? It was close, but no cigar, so to speak, on actually getting something built and deployed. But they still put in a lot of great effort, learned a lot of things. Maybe they can build something as a result of what they learned. How do you celebrate the process of taking that sort of entrepreneurial risk internally to go ahead and try something that may not come to fruition fully in terms of a deployed product or a new service? What are your thoughts about that?

Barry Brady: Yeah, so what we’re really trying to do is encourage those people to continue to innovate and come up with ideas. And I mentioned the Catalyst Award, our first round of that. We had several good applications. And we selected four finalists, and our team worked with them to come up with a presentation to the selection committee. And they were disappointed that their idea wasn’t selected for funding. But we have gotten back with them, talked about what the weaknesses were in the proposal, and encouraged them to continue to work toward moving their idea along. And then also too, we’ve learned that encouraging inventors is that if one idea doesn’t pan out that there are other ideas that they have that might as well. So just, continually to encourage them and recognize their effort has been hugely important.

Jeff Standridge: Some of the innovations that you see, I presume, end up just being perhaps incremental improvements to the way that something’s being done in the health system today. Do you have any specific examples of where you’ve seen some of that take place from folks within the institution?

Barry Brady: Yeah. And so for, I think most of our innovative ideas have been on the device side of things. And so we have a researcher that works in our simulation center that has developed a device for transporting sharps, instead of a clinician placing used sharps or a needle on a tray and taking sharp’s container. It’s a device actually where they can drop these in. It’s much safer. It has a trapdoor, which drops those needles into the sharp’s container. So that was really born out of a problem, or not a problem, but something that was an issue in some of our clinics.

Barry Brady: And so they’ve had zero needle sticks from that point that he developed this. And he used a 3D printer to develop it, but he was really just trying to solve a problem. And so that’s been a pretty exciting device. Then we have another physician and a team of students at a local university who developed a device to help kids that their hand may be constricted due to medical reasons. And this device helps them exercise their hands. So that there are products on the market, but they’re not really doing or addressing the needs for some of these children. So it’s been pretty exciting.

Jeff Standridge: Very good.

Jeff Amerine: Barry, as you look to try to draw inspiration from either other innovators or other innovative institutions or other people that are in the healthcare space, are there some places you’d point to where you’d say, “This is an institution that is…” or “An individual that’s done a variety of things really well.” I mean, there’s some examples like that, whereas you’ve benchmarked and studied other groups. You could maybe name a few?

Barry Brady: Yeah. One I would mention would be University of California in San Francisco, was visiting a scientist here a few years ago. And I talked to him quite a bit about their innovation efforts. And he’s actually connected me to some resources that have been very helpful, but they are very dedicated to providing assistance to people for their innovation. And so they actually give us some of their scientists, part of, it might be a day or half a day, every week for them just to work on ideas that are kind of outside their normal scope of work. And so that’s been very successful for them. But they also have something similar to the Catalyst Award. But they just really have encouraged their faculty and employees to really be on the cutting edge when it comes to innovation.

Barry Brady: And then the second place I would mention would be the Texas Medical Center in Houston. So they’ve developed quite an infrastructure for assisting people having innovative ideas. But also, one of the pediatric physicians there at Texas Children’s has received an FDA grant to help build that infrastructure. So there are only five of these grants across the country, and it’s totally dedicated to pediatric device development. And so they’ve been a big resource for us, but they’ve got lots of support for developing these devices in their area. And so, and I think Arkansas is getting there with your organizations. I think this is going to be a good place for innovators to come and develop.

Jeff Amerine: Absolutely.

Jeff Standridge: So as you think about what you’ve learned over the last several years, moving this idea of an innovation center within a pediatric facility and moving it forward, whether some of our listeners are in healthcare or they’re outside of healthcare. Do you have some things that you think are probably the key learnings that you’ve gleaned that are going to affect the way you move forward over the course of the next few years?

Barry Brady: Yeah. And I tell you, I would mention too that if the faculty members are… Well, all of our faculty members are UAMS. And so we work very closely with Bio Ventures, which is the tech transfer office at UAMS, but I learned quite a bit from that group as well. But one of the things that I’ve learned so far is it’s you get the patent protection. It’s pretty straightforward. But that next step of deciding, “Hey, this product makes more sense as seeking a licensing agreement versus developing a startup to help move that innovation along.”

Barry Brady: So I think, working with the industry on the licensing piece, it’s been a little more difficult and more challenging than I anticipated on the front. So, but I think you really have to have people that are interested in moving that innovation along. The other thing I’ve learned, too, as well as some of the inventors, they have great ideas, but they don’t really want to move that idea along. So, connecting with people like Startup Junkie and UFA… Identifying people that can help move that idea along, whereas the inventor can be a scientific director if there’s a startup involved. So that’s been in my learning process of figuring out how to move that product or device or diagnostic along once you have that intellectual property protected.

Jeff Standridge: Got it. And if you were-

Barry Brady: And I’m just curious, what are your thoughts on what you’ve seen in the state of Arkansas? It varies from-

Jeff Amerine: I think the strength of the ecosystem that it’s too much for any one entity to do. Because there’s too many activities required and most organizations tend to be specialized in one or a few areas. And so, being able to leverage the ecosystem in this kind of federated collaborative model seems to be really powerful, where you can take the best of breed resources across the spectrum of what you need. And you figure out how to build the sort of coalition or a teaming to move something from concept all the way through to the market. And we see that every day. I mean, the collaboration between institutions, between entrepreneurial support organizations, between other service entities, between the universities is pretty strong. And I won’t say that it’s unique to our area, but there’s certainly something that’s in the DNA of this state. Maybe it’s just because of the size of the population where we figure out ways to work effectively together to try to achieve something.

Jeff Standridge: Yeah. And I’ll go on to say, Barry, you achieved something that had not been formally pulled together previously. While all of the entrepreneurial support organizations in the state of Arkansas are collegial and support each other and work together. You were the first to come to me and say, “Hey, we don’t want to choose one of you. We want to work with all of you. Go figure out a way to make that happen.” And we always talk about innovation happens in the context of constraints. If there are no constraints, then there is no need for innovation to occur. And you created a very positive constraint that said, “We want to work with all of you, but we want to have one kind of interface to do that. So can you go figure out how to do that?”

Jeff Standridge: And that constraint you imposed created the need for us to innovate in thinking about how we work together. And so I think you’ve had an impact. And that impact will be even far-reaching in the state going forward as you’ve created a formal mechanism, or we’ve created a formal mechanism in response to your request to figure out how to work together as entrepreneurial support organizations in this formal way.

Barry Brady: Yeah. And I think the relationship’s been fantastic. And I’ll just tell you a story. We had a Ph.D. researcher that worked on a clinical department that was looking to move here. And he actually requested to meet with me. This is several months ago. And he is very entrepreneurial, has some ideas, things that he wants to develop and move through the commercialization process, but he did come here. It was very important to him.

Barry Brady: And that’s just another reason of having a strong Innovation Center can help attract talent. But he came from a large city, and it has lots of resources, but he just has talked about how difficult it was to try to move his idea along. And just how accommodating and the team here has been in the state of Arkansas for helping him go through that process. So he’s now currently starting his company and working to submit a SUTR grant at IH. So he’s been very excited about the infrastructure here at Children’s and within the state.

Jeff Standridge: Well, let’s use that as an opportunity. And if there are other physicians, like this person, or other researchers, or perhaps institutions that would like to explore collaboration, how can they find the Arkansas Children’s Innovation Center? And how can they find very Barry Brady?

Barry Brady: Yeah, we have a website, and then they can go to that. It has my contact information, as well as the team members that we’re working with. And also, on the Arkansas Children’s website, my email and contact information is there as well.

Jeff Standridge: Great. So that’s,

Barry Brady: Yes.

Jeff Standridge: And so that’ll take them to the Innovation Center website and can connect directly with Barry and members of the team. And so, Barry, one final question, given everything that you’ve learned over the course of the last, certainly the last year, but even the last several years regarding this concept of creating an innovation center and a culture of innovation, leave our listeners with maybe a nugget. What’s one thing that you would leave them with that you think would be of highest value?

Barry Brady: Well, I think it’s just been a great experience, and just, it’s a role where you’re trying to help people. And those people are trying to help the kids of Arkansas and around the country and around the world. So I just find it very rewarding, and everybody tends to come together for such a worthy purpose. So I think it’s just been fantastic.

Jeff Standridge: Very good. Jeff, any final words?

Jeff Amerine: Yeah. Just to thank you, Barry, for all that you do for children and not just in Arkansas, but from anywhere that would come to the state to get world-class healthcare. And I think the innovative process that you’re spearheading is going to lead to better care outcomes, an exciting place for the best innovators and researchers to work. And we’re glad to be a small part of that process with you. It’s been a lot of fun for us as well.

Barry Brady: Yeah, I think so. Well, thank you very much for having me on your podcast today. I really appreciate it.

Jeff Amerine: You bet. Thanks for coming on.

Jeff Standridge: Pleasure having you, Barry. Ladies and gentlemen, this is Jeff Standridge with Jeff Amerine and Barry Brady from the Arkansas Children’s Research Institute and the Arkansas Children’s Innovation Center. That is the wrap of this episode of the Innovation Junkies Podcast. We’ll see you next time.

Jeff Amerine: Hey listeners, this is Jeff Amerine, and we want to thank you for tuning in. We sincerely appreciate your time. If you’re enjoying the Innovation Junkies Podcast, please do us a huge favor. Click the subscribe button right now and give us a review. It would mean the world to both of us. Don’t forget to share us on social media.

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