A passion for innovation and improving patient outcomes.

“I believe there is a scientist in each of us,” remarked the University of Tennessee Health Science Center’s Patti Little, MD, assistant professor in the Department of Anesthesiology and physician at Regional One Health.

“Need drives innovation. But so does thinking outside the box, extrapolating from what is known, observing one’s environment, testing a hypothesis, and optimizing. It is the continual seeking of making processes better – that’s really the core of who I am as a scientist.”

Dr. Little is passionate about science and innovation. After spending years in private practice, caring for patients dealing with chronic pain and opioid use disorder, she accepted a position at UTHSC to pursue neuroscience research and return to the operating room.

At Regional One Health — one of the busiest trauma centers in the country — Dr. Little spends much of her time caring for extremely ill patients. In this environment, she realized a true need for a device that had only been an idea in her mind for several years.

In establishing the key functions of the device, her main objective aims to help fellow physicians actively monitor and optimize cardiac function in an accelerated and efficient way. Ideally, the health monitoring device could be used for both in-patient and out-patient monitoring. A wireless non-invasive device that provides dynamic diagnostic information for the anesthesiologist, cardiologist, or intensivist would minimize the cumbersomeness of bulky equipment and allow for remote monitoring.

Dr. Patti Little, image courtesy of UTHSC

“Patient outcome and treatment is related to proper diagnosis,” Dr. Little said. “Without doubt, the quicker we can properly diagnose and treat the actual problem that is occurring, the better off the patient will be in terms of immediate and future outcomes.”

Interestingly, Dr. Little didn’t always want to be a physician. While she comes from a family of scientists, her father was a physicist and one of the inventors of doppler radar, not a medical doctor. Inspired by her father, she first pursued an undergraduate degree in engineering physics, later switching and graduating with a degree in biomedical engineering.

Even though she was fairly certain she wanted to go to medical school, Dr. Little spent a few years after graduation working in industry to make sure it was the right choice for her: “The personal and financial sacrifice of going to medical school is so great that I wanted to make sure that nothing else would make me truly happy and feed my soul,” she explained. “I enjoyed my time as an engineer, but I knew that working with the human body added an interest level to my quest as a scientist that engineering and physics couldn’t.”

At the moment, Dr. Little is working with UTRF to explore next steps for her device. She is excited about the opportunity to collaborate with scientists in an environment where organizations like UTRF enable her to turn device ideas into a reality.

“I’m so excited to have access to a resource whereby I can develop a team to make this product and conduct the needed research,” she said. “That’s an unexpected gift. Not everyone needs the device, but those that do need it very badly.”

“UTRF is proud to partner with inventors, like Dr. Little, who possess such a clear passion for their work and for innovation overall,” remarked UTRF Licensing Associate Delira Robbins, PhD. “We look forward to working with her on this device.”