Innovation Challenge

Closing the Gap: Addressing the Unmet Need of Cancer Care in Rural Communities

presented by Tampa General Hospital

TGH Ventures, the TGH Cancer Institute and Synapse Florida Announce the Winner of the TGH Innovation Challenge

After narrowing the field down to four finalists, Aayu+ Box was named the winner of the first TGH Innovation Challenge. This monthly subscription service provides an array of diagnostic tools, multilingual information pamphlets and QR code referrals for early cancer screening detection and education. The TGH Innovation Challenge received 75 applications from around the world submitted by established and start-up companies, academia, the medical community as well as individuals who have had their lives impacted by cancer.

Challenge Statement

Tampa General Hospital (TGH) and TGH Cancer Institute are seeking innovative solutions to address the significant unmet need of cancer care in rural communities with the goal of reducing cancer mortality for Americans living in these communities. The Challenge aims to foster partnerships and support projects that can make a significant impact on this goal, whether through care navigation, improved treatments, early detection, novel care delivery or otherwise.

Challenge Prize 🏆

The prize for this challenge will be up to $50,000 in value to support a potential partnership or pilot project with the winning solution in collaboration with TGH Innoventures and the TGH Cancer Institute. This support may include IT resources, project management, subject matter expert guidance to inform the development and enhancement of the solution, implementation costs, and strategic facilitation provided by TGH Innoventures.

Synapse Challenges logo
Synapse Challenge
Tampa General Hospital Cancer Institute logo

Defining the Problem

According to the United States Census Bureau (Census) and the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), a rural area is simply an area that is not otherwise defined as an urban area, which is defined as having greater than 50,000 people.  According to the Census, approximately 15% of Americans reside in a rural area, consisting of 46.2 million people and approximately 70% of the Country’s land.  

Despite decreases in cancer deaths nationwide, rural areas have a slower reduction in cancer death rates (decrease of 1% per year) as compared with urban areas (decrease of 1.6% per year).  Additionally, rates of new cases for lung, colorectal and cervical cancers are higher in rural America, and rural areas have higher death rates from lung, colorectal, prostate and, cervical cancers.  Primary drivers of these discrepancies are related to differences in prevention, screening, treatment and survivorship.  With respect to prevention and screening, rural residents have greater risk factors, including smoking and obesity, as well as less access to preventative programs and care that can reduce these risk factors.  In terms of treatment and cancer survivorship, access to treatment and follow up care is more challenging due to location and number of clinics, lack of transportation and shortage of specialists.  Additional factors contributing to the problem include cultural differences and distrust of urban areas, such as less willingness to enroll in valuable clinical trials that may positively change outcomes for patients. 

In addressing the unmet need of cancer care with the goal of reducing cancer mortality in rural areas, TGH aims to bring all aspects of world class care closer to those in rural communities- to establish joint efforts, build trust, improve access, educate and make an impact in outcomes.

We encourage all innovative thinkers and organizations to participate in this challenge and help make a difference in the lives of those who face barriers to preventive cancer screenings. Together, we can improve healthcare outcomes for our communities and beyond.

About our Selection Committee

Dr. Matthew Anderson, MD, PhD, Associate Director of Shared Resources, TGH Cancer Institute, and Prof of Gynecologic Oncology, USF Health Morsani College of Medicine
Rachel Feinman, VP of Innovation, TGH, and Managing Director of TGH Innoventures
Michael Silver, VP Oncology Operations, TGH Cancer Institute
Usha Menon, PhD, RN, FAAN, FSBN, Dean USF College of Nursing, Associate Director, Community Outreach and Engagement, TGH Cancer Institute
Eduardo M. Sotomayor, MD, Vice president and Executive Director, TGH Cancer Institute

About Tampa General Hospital

Tampa General Hospital is a private not-for-profit academic and research hospital and one of the most comprehensive medical facilities in West Central Florida serving a dozen counties with a population in excess of 4 million.  As one of the largest health systems in Florida, Tampa General is licensed for 1,040 beds, and with more than 8,000 team members, is one of the region’s largest employers.  Consistently recognized for world-class care, Tampa General Hospital is ranked as the #1 hospital in Tampa Bay by U.S. News & World Report for 2023-24 and is nationally ranked among the top 50 hospitals in the nation in six specialties. Additionally, TGH was ranked as “high performing,” or among the top 10% of hospitals in the nation, in five more specialties along with 12 procedures and conditions.  TGH is the safety net hospital for the region, caring for everyone regardless of their ability to pay, and in fiscal year 2021, provided a net community benefit worth more than $224.5 million in the form of health care for underinsured patients, community education, and financial support to community health organizations in Tampa Bay.

TGH Innoventures serves as Tampa General Hospital’s corporate venture capital arm and innovation team. Innoventures seeks to identify, partner with and invest in emerging healthcare companies that are redefining the care experience for clinicians and patients with the goal of supporting entrepreneurs, financially and strategically, who are seeking to solve problems and enhance patients’ lives. These efforts also drive innovation and improve everyday life for TGH team members, clinicians, and patients.  TGH’s flagship venture fund makes direct investments in companies that align with TGH’s strategic vision of making health care affordable, accessible, convenient, and effective. TGH Innoventures adds both financial and strategic value to your cap table.

TGH Cancer Institute is nationally recognized for world-class care that is revolutionizing cancer treatment, and is one of Florida’s few cancer centers backed by academic medicine.  TGH Cancer Institute is in the Top 10% of Hospitals in the Nation for Cancer care by U.S. News & World Report for 2023-24 and is named one of America’s Best Cancer Hospitals by Newsweek.

About Synapse Florida

Synapse is a non-profit that connects and catalyzes Florida’s innovators across industries, technologies, and communities. As a year-round connector, Synapse brings together enterprise innovation leaders, startup entrepreneurs, investors, and resources to accelerate the growth of innovation in Florida. Through its flagship event, Synapse Summit, mission alliances, ecosystem partners, innovation challenges, industry cohorts, academicians, strategic advisors, and Impact Board, the Synapse ecosystem works together to fuel statewide innovation.

Have a question?     Email us at