Thomas Robinson, MD, MPH

Recipient of MCHRI Biodesign Faculty Fellowship

Thomas Robinson, MD, MPH

MCHRI Biodesign Faculty Fellowship project concept: An accessible weight management program to reduce childhood obesity

For the past two decades, Professor of Pediatrics and of Medicine Thomas Robinson, MD, MPH, has focused on designing and testing solutions for the prevention of obesity and diabetes among children. Using "solution-oriented" research, he develops health promotion and disease prevention interventions to help children, adolescents, and their families.

Dr. Robinson was accepted for the 2018 Biodesign Faculty Fellowship, funded in part by Stanford Maternal and Child Health Research Institute. For his Biodesign project, he pitched an idea to make a weight control program widely available for overweight children and their families to help reduce childhood obesity.

“Obesity in children is one of the most challenging problems that children, families, and public health and medical professionals face,” says Dr. Robinson. The number of effective weight management programs are few and far between, he explains. “Thus, there is a great need for scalable, effective, available, accessible, acceptable, and affordable weight control programs for children.”

Throughout the Biodesign process, Dr. Robinson learned a hands-on, step-by-step process for medical innovation, with an eye to the various market, regulatory affairs, intellectual property, and cost and reimbursement constraints to produce a solution that addresses obesity in children.

Since completing the program in summer of 2018, Dr. Robinson has secured a five-year grant from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to implement his project; he aims to help lower obesity among children from lower-income families nationwide. He is the principal investigator on the CDC grant and a member of the MCHRI Executive Committee and MCHRI Education Committee.

Dr. Robinson’s experience with the Biodesign innovation process proved to be a valuable resource in his proposal for the CDC grant.

“I was able to communicate a Biodesign-driven approach to create and scale an innovation in a way that was novel to public health audiences,” says Dr. Robinson. His time spent in the Biodesign Faculty Fellowship allowed him to develop a tool to make a weight control program widely available to children and their families from low-income settings to help tackle childhood obesity.

Now, he and his team are applying that knowledge to the grant and exploring ways to make it both affordable and sustainable over time. Dr. Robinson and his team at the Stanford Children’s Health will use technology, design, behavioral theory, and biomedical business innovation strategies to package and disseminate the Stanford Pediatric Weight Control Program across the U.S.

“The Biodesign Faculty Fellowship was an eye-opening experience. It introduced me to a new mindset and skillset that you don’t necessarily learn as a researcher or clinician,” says Dr. Robinson.

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