Making Waves: MIMOSA CEO and co-founder, Dr. Karen Cross honored with the 2022 Innovator Award for bridging gaps in health care inequities

Dr. Karen Cross

Nova Scotia Health appreciates the unique and impactful contributions made by every employee, physician, learner, and volunteer. The organization recognizes that certain individuals or teams display exemplary performance in carrying out their duties, by exhibiting behaviours and producing results that reinforce our vision, mission, values and strategic directions.

Nova Scotia Health is pleased to have a program that’s designed to recognize such outstanding efforts with special awards known as Making Waves.

Dr. Karen Cross is the recipient of the 2022 Making Waves Innovator Award. This award recognizes and encourages a Nova Scotia Health researcher/research team who has developed a new process, product or technology that has potential to make a positive impact on patient health or the health care delivery system.

Q&A with Dr. Karen Cross

Tell us a bit about yourself; what you do, where you are located, and your favorite part about it.

“I’m a plastic surgeon by training and I've spent almost 22 years in the clinical and research environment. After becoming the first surgeon entrepreneur at the University of Toronto, I transitioned back to Nova Scotia as an innovator in residence with Nova Scotia Health. I help other health care providers take their innovative ideas and bring them to the commercial market.

I am also the CEO and co-founder of MIMOSA Diagnostics. We are a coast-to-coast company that provides a proactive approach to early detection of skin injuries. MIMOSA is a handheld, portable class II medical imaging device that looks below the surface of the skin to assess skin health. It allows clinicians to implement earlier interventions to save the tissue, an arm, leg or even a life. The imaging platform and vision for MIMOSA is to provide technology that is inclusive and equitable. We are breaking down barriers to care for people living in rural locations, enabling people to age well in their own communities. MIMOSA is bridging the gap for people of colour by creating technology that can assess skin injuries in any skin tone. Most of these types of technologies have been created for people with light skin. That must change, and we won’t stop until we get it right.

I’ve always been a big thinker and my job enables me to solve big problems. I'm also not afraid to take calculated risks. I also love the people. Team MIMOSA is one of the greatest groups I have had the privilege to work with. I’m proud of how they work together to solve massive and complex problems within our health care system. It is a privilege to be a part of this fast-paced health    care transformation.”

How do you feel your work contributes to the health and wellbeing of Nova Scotians? Why is it important?

“Geographically, patients are spread out in Nova Scotia. We know that if you’re a diabetic or you have poor circulation in your legs, you’re two to three times more likely to have an amputation if you don't live in Halifax. The technology we've created with MIMOSA enables us to bridge that gap.

We are changing the environment by expanding geographic access to care. These collections of images can tell us what’s going on with the patient and allow us to triage that patient for a specific intervention and confirm if they need to see a specialist first.

MIMOSA also bridges the gap in disparities and inequalities that are in the health care system pertaining to people of colour. For the last 20 years we've been building optical imaging technologies in the lab. But we realized that it only benefited people who are white. It's not fair. We then set out to create technology that's equitable for all people.”

What does it mean to you to receive the 2022 Innovator Award?

“It is certainly an honour to be recognized. Everything that I have learned, has been taught to me by great people. They taught me how to do all the clinical, research and commercial facets of my job.

 I’ve been able to take my experience and to bring it back to this province and work to solve existing health care problems.”

As this year’s recipient of 2022 Innovator Award, how do you hope to inspire others who are working to make a difference in the lives of Nova Scotians each day?

“I ask myself what I am fighting for each day. This helps me identify my passion, what I want to change, what I am going to do. Then I put all my energy and knowledge behind it.

My advice to those who wish to make a difference in health care would be to put your passion behind it and then go find the network of people that you need to help move it forward. That's what I did and that eventually gave me the courage to do what I'm doing now.”

Congratulations to Dr. Cross on receiving the 2022 Making Waves: Innovator Award. Through her brilliant image-device innovations, she is striving to bridge gaps between health care access and our communities, particularly those of people of colour.