There are three cornerstones on which we will continue to build our innovation culture at Baptist Health.

First is by recognizing, promoting and celebrating innovation. In doing so, we remove the stigma that 'innovation is not for me' and help employees recognize that innovation is a tool to help them better care for patients.

The second is by providing incentives and resources for our innovators to step out of their comfort zones and work on challenging needs. The best innovation cultures reward contributors at both personal and professional levels by incorporating things like employee challenges, innovation fellowships and opportunities to participate in offsite and even global collaborations.

Finally, top-down commitment is required for innovation to permeate the organization. In the most innovative cultures, the C-suite not only endorses innovation, but personally participates in and experiences the impact it brings.

Meet Our Team

Barry T. Katzen, M.D., is the founder and chief medical executive of Miami Cardiac & Vascular Institute, a Baptist Health South Florida center of excellence. He is professor and founding chairman of the Department of Interventional Radiology and professor of Surgery at the FIU Herbert Wertheim College of Medicine. He has had a distinguished clinical career and is considered one of the pioneers of interventional radiology, nationally and internationally. In developing the Institute more than 30 years ago, Dr. Katzen established a long history of innovation within the organization, creating a unique culture of multidisciplinary collaboration to improve patient care, as well as developing numerous new procedures and devices pioneered at Miami Cardiac & Vascular Institute.

Dr. Katzen has participated in and gained experience in the process of innovation throughout his career. From bringing innovative changes to healthcare delivery, the development of transformational devices including vascular stents, endovascular grafts, unique devices for delivery of thrombolytic agents, and all forms of devices for minimally invasive therapies of vascular diseases. His opinions about new technology are regularly sought by established companies and startups from around the world. Dr. Katzen has shown his ability to influence successful development by integrating his fundamental knowledge of medicine and unmet needs, with a strong predictive sense of what might work well in developing technological solutions for clinical challenges.

Dr. Katzen is a graduate of the University of Miami School of Medicine with a residency at New York Hospital-Cornell Medical Center. He studied in London and Rome three distinct times during his educational career. He has been recognized with gold medals and honorary memberships in national and international professional societies and was awarded the Leaders in Innovation Award by the Society of Interventional Radiology.

Dr. Katzen’s passion for innovation led to the formal initiation of an innovation program at Baptist Health in 2016, through supporting changes in the organization’s vision statement to include commitment to innovation as a program and process.

  • Nila Bhakuni

    Nila Bhakuni

    Assistant Vice President

    Nila Bhakuni serves Baptist Health South Florida as assistant vice president for Innovation. Ms. Bhakuni served as director of Technology Transfer at Dartmouth College, where she instituted a new intellectual property policy, increased startups and provided technology transfer services to Dartmouth Hitchcock Hospital.

    Prior to that, Ms. Bhakuni served as the director of Technology Transfer at Rice University for 10 years, growing the office and serving as interim director of Sponsored Research and building and leading an industrial contracts team. She had progressive responsibility at Harvard and Carnegie Mellon in technology transfer.

    Prior to joining Carnegie Mellon, Ms. Bhakuni spent 10 years working in several different areas at Alcoa's Technical Center. She received an Alcoa Merit Award for Team Performance for a joint venture team with Kobe, a Japanese steel company.

    Ms. Bhakuni has a bachelor’s degree in Mechanical Engineering from the University of Akron, a master’s degree in Mechanical Engineering from Ohio State University and an MBA from Carnegie Mellon University's Tepper School of Business.

  • Joseph Jankowski, Ph.D., MBA

    Joseph Jankowski, Ph.D., MBA

    Senior Advisor

    Joseph Jankowski, Ph.D., is a nationally recognized commercialization leader, specializing in early-stage biomedical opportunity assessment, commercial licensing and corporate financing and structuring. Dr. Jankowski is active in corporate-level governance, having served as a founding or current board member and trustee for a myriad of entrepreneurial enterprises, including Arteriocyte, BioEnterprise Corporation, JumpStart, Polgenix and RoadPrintz. He has contributed leadership to multi-party innovation programs that include the Case Coulter Translational Research Partnership, NIH CTSA Key Functions Committee and the Philips Global Advanced Imaging Innovation Center.

    In 2013, Dr. Jankowski was appointed as Case Western Reserve University’s first chief innovation officer. In this capacity, he is a leader of, and contributor to, innovation occurring throughout the university. He focuses on graduate education, teaching entrepreneurial arts to multidisciplinary teams at the university’s schools of business, engineering and law. In 2018, Dr. Jankowski co-founded the Pathway in Health Entrepreneurship and Innovation at the Case School of Medicine to prepare medical students for career-long innovative contributions. Prior to this position, he was the leader of the university’s technology transfer and commercialization activities. Under his direction for nearly a decade, the tech transfer function evaluated nearly 2,000 invention disclosures, enacted more than 300 commercial licenses and option agreements and established 35 spin-off enterprises.

    Dr. Jankowski is a committed advisor to Henry Ford Innovations and was a member of the inaugural Cleveland Clinic Innovations program, which he joined after serving as a technology analyst at Battelle Memorial Institute. He holds a doctorate degree in Chemistry from SUNY ESF, an MBA from the Weatherhead School of Management and dual bachelor’s degrees in Chemical Process and Environmental Engineering Technologies from the University of Dayton.

  • Brittany Shaffer, MBA

    Brittany Shaffer, MBA

    Senior Advisor, Market and Operations

    Brittany Shaffer is president at FirstLink Research and Analytics, overseeing company strategy and project execution. She has more than a decade of experience managing and executing hundreds of analysis projects for the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS), the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD), multiple foreign governments, medical research centers, universities and other clients. Her work has focused on assessing the business cases for technology transfer and transition, program and project management, strategic planning for new programs and business opportunities, capability gap identification and validation, and requirements development.

    Specific highlights of her experience include:

    • Leading, on behalf of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security Science & Technology Directorate (DHS S&T), the Program Management Office (PMO) of the International Forum to Advance First Responder Innovation (IFAFRI) and its associated analyses.
    • Overseeing a team that has facilitated more than 250 technology transfer agreements and returned more than $10 million to clients through technology transfer agreement fees and cost avoidance metrics.
    • Developing and overseeing thousands of business-case analyses for multiple clients across diverse technical areas.

    Ms. Shaffer has taught market analysis at the undergraduate level and prior to joining FirstLink, worked at GE Transportation in International Fleet Program Management, where she served as a liaison between GE engineers and international customers to identify requirements and implement fixes in the field. Ms. Shaffer holds an MBA from Penn State University and graduated summa cum laude from Mercyhurst University with a bachelor’s degree in Business, Marketing and Chemistry. She also completed the Entrepreneurial Fellowship Program at the University of Pittsburgh.

  • Walter DeForest

    Walter DeForest

    IP Transactions Counsel

    Walter DeForest is a senior partner in the firm of DeForest Koscelnik Yokitis & Berardinelli.  Previously he was a partner at Reed Smith Shaw & McClay.

    Mr. DeForest has served as legal counsel for more than 700 licensing arrangements in the technology area, including both out-license and in-license arrangements, covering a wide range of technologies, as diverse as:  hospital equipment tracking systems, heart valve replacement protocols, exosomes, patient care protocols, cardio sensors, medical devices, stem cells, animal models, artificial intelligence; green chemistry; electronic data storage; biotechnology; atom transfer radical polymerization; fuel cells; computer assisted surgery; distance learning; and the 360-degree, spin-effect television camera operation technology for the 2001 Super Bowl, as well as various data licenses.  Mr. DeForest wrote and negotiated one of the first commercial licenses for the Internet.

    Mr. DeForest is involved in complex transactional work and litigation for organizations relating to collaborations and other business relationships, many involving academic and commercial consortia, and he has extensive experience in the business aspects of intellectual property matters.  He has been lead counsel in the spin-off, formation and structure of a wide range of technology-based start-up companies and the formation and qualification for tax exempt status of IRC §501(c)(3) corporations, particularly in the technology area.  Mr. DeForest regularly represents buyers, sellers, licensors and licensees in the acquisition of technology, know-how and other intellectual property.  In addition, Mr. DeForest counsels for-profit and not-for-profit organizations in the decision-making process regarding the protection, utilization and marketing of their intellectual property and in commercial litigation of intellectual property disputes. Mr. DeForest also coordinates with patent prosecution counsel.

    Mr. DeForest has represented research institutions for more than thirty years and has had extensive experience with federal research contracts and in compliance with federal regulations.  He has worked successfully with NASA and other governmental agencies on various sponsored research agreements.  One major innovative project with NASA involved working with NASA (on behalf of Carnegie Mellon University) to build the National Robotics Engineering Consortium which combined NASA funding with commercial funding to build the National Robotics Engineering Consortium in a then economically disadvantaged section of Pittsburgh which has now become a robust source of field robotics inventions and is attracting commercial companies to the area.  A second innovative project with NASA involved negotiating the legal structure under which Carnegie Mellon University became the first participant in the NASA Ames Research Park in Silicon Valley.  He has negotiated consortia and collaborations for other institutions involving for profit and not for profit organizations in the technology development space.

    Mr. DeForest obtained his undergraduate degree from the University of Pittsburgh and his law degree from Harvard Law School.

  • Alejandra Bernal

    Alejandra Bernal

    Executive Assistant

    For over 15 years, Alejandra Bernal has dedicated her career to Baptist Health South Florida. After obtaining her bachelor's degree in Psychology from Florida International University, she began in the Pharmacy department caring for patients as a technician. She expanded her clinical role by spearheading process improvement, including the development of workflow procedures for patient safety, as well as the implementation of substantive training programs for new employees.

    Mrs. Bernal then transferred her talents to the Baptist Health Foundation as a senior development coordinator, where she wrote several educational grant proposals, while simultaneously managing various financial, event planning, and donor projects. Her grant-writing efforts resulted in numerous BHSF employees being able to obtain continuing medical education credits and enhance the quality of patient care in our hospitals.

    Mrs. Bernal now brings her agility, dynamic experience and passion for excellence to the Innovation department as an Executive Assistant. She is committed to streamlining communication between clients, medical professionals, and business partners to ensure that projects can quickly begin to make a tangible impact within our community.  

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