Hetland lands top prize in national pitch competition


Breanna Hetland, PhD, RN

Dr. Hetland

ST. LOUIS, Missouri (August 25, 2023)—Breanna Hetland, PhD, the UNMC nursing professor who’s been gobbling up prestigious awards and accolades in recent weeks and months has added another prize.

A little more than a month ago, on June 29, Dr. Hetland won the Judges Award in the Digital Tools category of a national pitch competition with entrants hailing from places like Columbia, Yale, Ohio State, Wisconsin, Cornell, Tufts, Washington University and Brown, to name a few.

“I wish I could say I was surprised,” said Tyler Scherr, PhD, a licensing specialist at UNeMed, the technology transfer and commercialization office for UNMC and UNO. “I think anyone who’s been around Dr. Hetland for more than 10 minutes knows that her fire just burns brighter and hotter than the rest of us. Honestly, it would have been more surprising if she didn’t win.”

The pitch competition was part of a national mentoring program out of Washington University in St. Louis. Called Equalize, the mentoring program was designed to increase the number of female academic inventors who develop startup companies to commercialize their inventions.

Dr. Hetland invented a digital platform called Remote ICU. It is a software solution that fosters more robust patient and family engagement during acute hospitalizations. Dr. Hetland’s innovation is the basis of her startup company, The Family Room.

“As an ICU nurse, I’ve held many hands of patients and their families as they struggled to navigate the most traumatic experience of their lives…an ICU admission,” Dr. Hetland said during a previous presentation. “Then I became the daughter of an ICU patient and it profoundly changed me. The Family Room App is the result of my experience: A passionate effort to vastly improve the ICU experience for patients and their families.”

Dr. Hetland’s winning presentation capped six months of mentoring in the Equalize program.

“This award means so much to me because it represents the need for and value of nurses’ ideas and influence in healthcare tech innovation and entrepreneurship,” she said.

Prior to claiming the Judge’s prize in the pitch competition, Dr. Hetland secured one of just 16 spots in a prestigious national fellowship program—the Betty Irene Moore Fellowship for Nurse Leaders and Innovators. Sponsored by the University of California-Davis nursing school, the three-year fellowship includes a $450,000 grant, mentoring and professional support.

Earlier this year she was also awarded the Harriet H. Werley New Investigator Award by the Midwest Nursing Research Society. That award recognizes new contributions in nursing research that has the potential to enhance the science and practice of nursing. Dr. Hetland is the first Nebraska recipient of a Midwest Nursing Research Society award since 2009.

One Response to Hetland lands top prize in national pitch competition