Nova Scotia Health Authority is launching its new Innovation Hub, which has a mandate to partner with the private sector on technology and research initiatives and is helmed by former Dalhousie University professor Gail Tomblin Murphy.

Tomblin Murphy spent a decade and a half running Dalhousie’s Centre on Health Workforce Planning and Research, which is backed by the World Health Organization and the Pan American Health Organization. In Oct. 2018, she became the NSHA’s Vice-President of Research, Innovation and Discovery and Chief Nurse Executive.

Her portfolio includes all of Nova Scotia Health’s research-related initiatives, as well as the potential integration of new technologies into the province’s health services. For example, Tomblin Murphy oversaw 2020’s Health Challenge Pitch Events, which gave startups the chance to compete for $100,000 and sales deals with Nova Scotia Health.

“In a nutshell... I lead up a portfolio where we have all of our research and we move forward with some very cool strategic research opportunities,” she said in an interview.

One of the innovation hub’s main responsibilities will be to liaise with private-sector companies and university researchers more closely than the NSHA has previously managed.

When Tomblin Murphy first joined the NSHA, her work fell under the umbrella of what was then termed “research services” -- a branch that largely focused on funding or otherwise backing clinical research. That mandate has expanded to focus more on technocratic solutions to issues like the family doctor shortage, which the provincial government has been trying to solve partly through telehealth.

An example of the new approach will be the NSHA’s first two Innovation Showcase events, slated to be held online Feb. 22 and 25. The Showcases will be filmed at Halifax startup hub Volta and in New Glasgow, respectively. Anyone interested in watching can register here.

The events will include a fireside chat with interim NSHA Chief Executive Karen Oldfield, who previously helmed the Port of Halifax, as well as presentations from prominent health researchers, such as robotic surgery pioneer Dr. Michael Dunbar.

Tomblin Murphy, who has a PhD in nursing from the University of Toronto, runs a team of five full-time civil servants, not counting the researchers and health sector professionals they collaborate with.

She said a key step in preparing for the launch of the Innovation Hub was recruiting a team with expertise not typically found in a public health agency, such as business acumen. In a coup for Tomblin Murphy, Emera ideaHub Founding Director Margaret Palmeter became the Innovation Hub’s Director of Business Development last summer.

“I have a group of people who are way smarter than I am -- people who perhaps have MBAs, have worked in very different kinds of environments,” said Tomblin Murphy.