Three standout selections cap off inaugural gamechanger challenge
August 25, 2023
Cash prizes will fund continued mobilization of most polished, most outside-the-box and best designed products.
By Katherine Dumangas MA ’22, OTD ’23
Three standout selections were announced by judges at the closing ceremony of the division’s inaugural gamechanger Knowledge Mobilization Team Challenge, an 8-week effort during which teams of USC Chan faculty, staff and stakeholders created practical products that move academic knowledge into the real world. The standout teams will each be awarded a cash prize to continue developing and deploying their creations.
The gamechanger judges, adjunct faculty member Christopher Laine and Board of Councilors member Terri Nishimura MA ’85, participated in a blind judging process to review and score all seven product submissions. Winners were recognized for being “Most Polished,” “Most Outside-the-Box” and “Best Designed.”
The “Most Polished” award went to the team led by Assistant Clinical Professor Julia Lisle, which developed a decision tree infographic in order to better support clinicians for screening autism in pediatric populations. Additional team members included students Tiffany Cha MA ’22, OTD ’23, Stephanie Magana OTD ’25, Savannah Gluck PhD ’27 and Emily Campi MA ’20, PhD ’24; and faculty members Allison Phillips, Emily Sopkin, Grace Baranek and John Sideris.
“The gamechanger allowed our team to think about new ways to distribute the work that we do in our research lab to collaborators such as fellow clinicians,” Gluck said. “We plan to continue our work by seeking input from clinicians on our product.”
The “Most-Outside-the-Box” award went to the team led by Associate Professor of Research Stacey Schepens Niemiec. They developed a sleep health and hygiene video for late mid-life Latinos addressing sleep health myths and disparities prevalent within that community. Additional team members included promotora Laura Guzmán; students Madison Jimenez MA ’23, Anna Lynch MA ’22, OTD ’23 and Valeria Rios OTD ’25; faculty member Rebecca Cunningham and physical therapist–researcher Matthew Niemiec.
“We worked as a team, including volunteer promotoras from the Coachella Valley, and each of the members contributed their expertise which led to winning the outside-the-box prize,” Guzman said. “From the very beginning we all agreed that sleep very differently affects workers in the rural areas and those who live in the city. Grape pickers or date palm workers have to get up very early to beat the heat in a climate as extreme as the Coachella Valley, with high temperatures reaching sometimes up to 110 degrees in July. And I am very excited that in the near future I hope to be able to bring a sleep study to these communities in need of information like this, presented in a culturally respectful way and in the best way these clients learn: visual, auditory and hands-on.”
“This win means our team can take the prize money and head back out into the community,” Schepens Niemiec said. “We plan to use a good portion of the funds to compensate the community members who are willing to share their life experiences with us, which we will then use to form the foundation of the remainder of our awareness-building modules.”
The “Best Designed” award went to the team led by Assistant Clinical Professor Sonia Trejo, which created an educational toolkit with a video, handout and website that provides Hispanic caregivers with strategies to reduce mealtime stress with “picky” children in order to create more enjoyable mealtime experiences. Additional team members included Children’s Hospital Los Angeles dietitian Hope Wills, non-profit content creator Lindsay Crain and early childhood education director Veronica Montano Sanchez.
“The gamechanger experience was a positive, challenging and exciting experience,” Trejo said. “It pushed the boundaries of what is possible, pulled the best out of each of us through collaboration, allowed each team member to use their strengths and allowed important work to move forward for a good cause.”