Hygienists Win $10,000 in “Shark Tank” Competition

Dentistry Today


Samantha Farley and Kristen Hanlan, recent graduates of the West Virginia University (WVU) School of Dentistry’s dental hygiene program, have won $11,500 in a pair of competitions for a clinical invention designed to improve the efficiency, convenience, and sanitization of crucial equipment used in dental clinics daily and for nearly all oral healthcare procedures.

On May 16, Farley and Hanlan won a $10,000 grand prize from the West Virginia Clinical and Translational Science Institute (WVCTSI). They were among seven groups pitching their ideas at the annual WVCTSI meeting’s “shark tank” session.  

Contestants had to prove to a panel of experts from WVU and Marshall University that their invention could solve inefficiency and procedure issues and provide more effective patient care. Farley and Hanlan presented a four-minute innovation and commercialization pitch as well as a prototype. Proprietary details were withheld from public releases to protect their work. 

“I think the fact that the idea is so simple and yet so pertinent to the everyday work of dental clinicians, it will have a positive impact on the daily productivity of dental professionals,” Hanlan said.

Before completing their bachelor’s degrees, Farley and Hanlan won first place in a WVU LaunchLab Applied Innovation Center competition, where they faced a panel of four judges and collected $1,500 in prize money.

Farley and Hanlan began work on the invention as part of their senior year research projects. In addition to faculty and classmates, they have shared their idea in their nationwide travels. They have been encouraged to expand on their idea for use in hospital surgical settings as well. Now, they will use their winnings to patent and produce their invention.

“It feels good to have other people recognize the worth of your idea. Being able to explain the idea to people who have no experience working with dental equipment, and having them agree that our idea is important, is very validating,” said Hanlan.

“Even before the competition began, I was extremely proud of Kristen and Sam for taking the initiative to explore every possibility of how to make their idea become a reality,” said Amy D. Funk, MSDH, chair of the Department of Dental Hygiene. “They have spent countless hours researching and developing their idea, and I am confident they will be successful.”

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