Innovator Spotlight – David Gibbs

David Gibbs, MD, MHCM Trauma Director, Professor and Division Chief of Pediatric Surgery


This month, Mi4 had the opportunity to meet with CHOC innovator, Dr. David Gibbs.

Dr. Gibbs, can you share your path to becoming an innovator?

During my lab years in the USCF Fetal Treatment Center I had the chance to work in a hotbed of innovation. I got a patent and had the chance to work on implantable monitors with NASA, which was really exciting. Thereafter, I thought that innovation was part of my past and not my future. I came to CHOC in 2001 focused on providing excellent clinical care. Over the years, working with my partners, including Dr. Guner with his research background and Dr. Kabeer with his successes as an innovator, I became inspired to innovate as a way to improve patient care. Through my experience with the Trauma Program at CHOC, I also had the opportunity to experience ways to innovate utilizing data to create predictive algorithms to improve patient care. My desire to be involved in innovation discovery has always been there, but it’s been over the last few years that I’ve been able to put this into practice, as I realized that I have something to contribute through my clinical expertise.

What advice about innovation can you offer to colleagues?

Once you start asking questions and looking for problems, you begin to envision possible solutions. One thing I would advise is to always seek out opportunities to learn and to continue exploring solutions. Through Dr. Godambe, I recently had the opportunity to participate in the improvement advisor program through IHI. Through this, I realized that we have significant opportunities to decrease cost and better utilize resources. Through Mi4, I see that our Innovation Team includes members from performance improvement, quality/safety, research, data science and IT, along with experts in innovation. I think it’s this collaborative, partnership approach that will result in the most innovative solutions.

Another thing I’d point out to colleagues is to never be afraid to ask questions. Don’t be afraid to look like to you don’t have all of the answers. Innovation is not about good answers, but it’s about good questions, and these questions may lead to solutions that you did not initially anticipate. Also know that you are never too old, too young or early in your career to innovate. For those early in their careers, don’t underestimate the importance of good mentorship. We have a lot of amazing and willing mentors here at CHOC. Finally, I’d advise colleagues to not be afraid of failure. More concepts are likely to fail that succeed, but sometimes what looks like failure actually gives insights that will lead to a better solution.

You are currently working on an innovative project with Mi4. Can you share a little bit about that experience?

Mi4 has provided a really supportive environment in which to innovate. I am working with Mi4 and Eon Reality to create first-of-their kind custom modules to provide better education to our parents and patients. We are starting with education covering four different kinds of hernias, demonstrating how we repair them at CHOC. Through improved education, we will reduce fear and anxiety for our families. Once we complete the hernia modules, we are going to create one on pectus repair.

An important part of this project is collaboration among different experts. I provide the clinical expertise, Mi4 provides the human centered design thinking approach, and Eon and Mi4’s creative director, John Slowsky, offer the creativity and programming expertise. Together, we are going to create an innovative solution for our families. This project can serve as a template for other specialties to adopt. This is a fun project, and it’s very satisfying to know that we will have a direct positive impact on patient care.