Ariadne Labs Announces 2022-2023 Spark Grant Recipients

Five grants will support early-stage ideas to make health care safer, more integrated, and more equitable

BOSTON, MA — January 11, 2023 – Ariadne Labs today announced five recipients of the Ariadne Labs Spark Grant innovation awards for the 2022-2023 year. The Spark Grant program provides support for new and early-stage ideas focused on making health care safer, more integrated, and more equitable for all patients. Now in its tenth year, the program has funded more than 20 projects. 

This year’s grantees will focus their efforts on improving equity in maternal health among patients with limited English proficiency, developing new standards for surgical morbidity and mortality conferences, and improving outcomes for stroke patients. Grantees were chosen following a competitive selection process from a diverse pool of candidates.

Two of this year’s projects will be funded by Harvard Medical School (HMS) Dean’s Innovation Grants in Health Care Delivery. These projects, which are both entering their second year of funding, will focus on improving equity in oncology care and optimizing supervision of health workers in remote settings.

“While we often hear of breakthrough innovations that are capable of improving health care outcomes, there is a continued need for new follow-through innovations to get those breakthroughs to every patient, everywhere,” said Asaf Bitton, MD, MPH, Executive Director of Ariadne Labs. “Our Spark grantees play a critical role in continuing to expand Ariadne’s portfolio of follow-through innovations, allowing us to identify and develop new opportunities to make health care safer, more equitable, and more integrated.” 

“When we think about the promise of science to reshape medicine and transform lives, we often envision path-breaking discoveries and next-generation technologies, sometimes overlooking other less dazzling ways to optimize the impact of modern medicine,” said HMS Dean George Q. Daley, MD, PhD. “More than ever, we need precisely such approaches to ensure health care delivery that is equitable, timely, and safe. The work of this year’s awardees promises to address important, long-standing challenges in access, equity, and safety.”

The 2022-2023 recipients of the Ariadne Labs Spark Grant innovation awards are:
Maternal Health Equity Among Patients with Limited English Proficiency

Rose Molina, MD, MPH, Assistant Professor of Obstetrics, Gynecology, and Reproductive Biology at Harvard Medical School; Obstetrician-Gynecologist at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center and The Dimock Center; Core Faculty at Ariadne Labs

Evidence suggests that individuals with limited English language proficiency experience lower quality maternal health care due to structural barriers and communication challenges. Cultural brokers—defined as a person who bridges groups of different cultural backgrounds for the purpose of producing change—play a key role in overcoming these barriers between patients and health care teams. However, it is not always clear how these individuals can most effectively be integrated into health care teams. This project will identify best practices for collaboration among cultural brokers, health care teams, and pregnant patients. The findings will inform co-development of a communication tool to enhance trust and therapeutic alliance among patients with limited English proficiency and their health care teams.

Creating a New Standard for Morbidity and Mortality Conferences

Mary Brindle, MD, MPH, Director of the Safe Surgery Safe Systems Program at Ariadne Labs; Scientific Director of the Province of Alberta Surgery Strategic Care Network; Professor of Surgery and Community Health Sciences at the University of Calgary
Alex Hannenberg, MD, Faculty Member of Safe Surgery Safe Systems Team at Ariadne Labs; Adjunct Clinical Professor of Anesthesiology at Tufts University School of Medicine 

Adverse events in surgery often result from system and team-based flaws, yet strategies to learn from these events are not always focused on these dimensions of care. Nearly all medical centers use departmental Morbidity and Mortality Conferences (MMCs) for case reviews, but there is little standardization in how they are used, what their goals are, and who is involved. This project seeks to create an implementation tool to guide health care systems in running high-quality perioperative multidisciplinary and interprofessional MMCs that will support teams in developing team-based solutions to safety concerns.

Testing a Checklist for Improving Endovascular Thrombectomy for Stroke

Sandeep Kumar, MD, Associate Professor of Neurology, Harvard Medical School
Magdy H. Selim, MD, PhD, Professor of Neurology, Harvard Medical School, Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center

Stroke is a leading cause of long-term disability and death worldwide. Endovascular thrombectomy (EVT) has been shown to be very effective for enhancing recovery from acute ischemic strokes when used appropriately. However, a lack of timely access in community health settings deprives its benefits to a large number of stroke patients, thereby decreasing its effectiveness in real-world settings. In 2021 a Spark Grant funded initial work to develop a checklist to triage potential candidates for EVT. Now in their second year of funding, this team will conduct a study to test the acceptability and feasibility of the tool at community hospitals in Massachusetts.

The Harvard Medical School Dean’s Innovation Grants in Health Care Delivery has renewed funding for work on these projects: 

Improving Equity in Oncology Care Quality with Practice Feedback

Nancy Keating, MD, MPH, Professor of Health Care Policy, Department of Health Care Policy, Harvard Medical School; Professor of Medicine and Practicing General Internist, Brigham and Women’s Hospital
Mary Beth Landrum, PhD, Professor of Health Care Policy, Department of Health Care Policy, Harvard Medical School
Anna Sinaiko, MPP, PhD, Assistant Professor of Health Economics and Policy, Department of Health Policy and Management

While research shows persistent racial inequities in cancer treatments, quality assessments have rarely measured these disparities, and few metrics are available for practices to know if they are providing similar care to all patients. This project was launched in 2021 to develop an audit-and-feedback intervention to provide oncology practices with actionable, race-specific data about their performance in delivering equitable and high-quality care to all patients relative to other oncology practices. In their second year of work, the team will continue to develop their intervention and aim to demonstrate feasibility and acceptability through a pilot study. 

Optimizing Supervision of Community Health Workers in Remote Settings

Matthew Bonds, PhD, Assistant Professor, Department of Global Health and Social Medicine, Harvard Medical School
Karen Finnegan, PhD, Research Associate in the Department of Global Health and Social Medicine, and Managing Director of Pivot Science

Community health that expands beyond the formal health care system is key to achieving universal health coverage, particularly in low-income, rural locations such as Madagascar. Since 2014, Pivot, a nongovernmental health care organization, has partnered with the Madagascar government to strengthen the health system of one district. Community health workers are an integral component of this effort, but global evidence to guide community health worker supervision is lacking. This project aims to develop a new protocol and tools for data-informed supervision of community health workers and to study the impact of this supervision on quality of care and health worker motivation. In year one of this work, the team developed a user-tested version of the supervision protocol and data dashboard. In year two, they will hold a convening to seek final input on the tools from stakeholders, implement the tools with community health workers, and evaluate the impact.

About Ariadne Labs

Ariadne Labs is a joint center for health systems innovation at Brigham and Women’s Hospital and the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. With a mission to save lives and reduce suffering, our vision is that health systems equitably deliver the best possible care for every patient, everywhere, every time. We use implementation science and human-centered design to make health care more safe, equitable, and integrated. From developing checklists and conversation guides to fostering international collaborations and establishing global standards of measurement, our work has been accessed in more than 165 countries, touching hundreds of millions of lives. Visit to learn more.

Media Contact: Brigid Tsai,