Honors Gallery

Patricia Cullum: Converting educational opportunities into improved technology transfer metrics

Award: Rookie of the Year

Year: 2022

Award Type: National

Department of Veterans Affairs, Office of Research and Development (VA)

Patricia (Pattie) Cullum ranks among the top technology transfer specialists at the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) in terms of invention disclosures and other metrics. But her success in addressing educational gaps in the VA technology transfer process is what truly has set her apart.

Cullum came to the VA’s Office of Research and Development in 2019 after 25 years in the biomedical/pharmaceuticals industry. Already armed with a master’s degree in education, Cullum made it one of her first priorities upon joining the VA to obtain a Certificate of Graduate Studies in Advanced Studies in Technology Transfer through the Foundation for Advanced Education in the Sciences at the National Institutes of Health. She is the only technology transfer specialist (TTS) at the VA to have earned this certificate.

More than 50,000 employees have taken Cullum's updated VA Technology Transfer Program course over the past two years, reflecting the sizeable impact the has had on the field of tech transfer. 

Cullum’s unique perspective helped her recognize a need to better educate researchers and administrators within the VA and its university affiliates about their roles as VA dual appointment personnel. At many of the affiliates Cullum had worked with, she had noticed, the idea of a joint appointment in relation to intellectual property (IP) was confusing and even intimidating. She proposed and implemented a multifaceted solution that included a presentation and handouts to help TTSs explain in plain language the federal rules and regulations that can be daunting to non-tech transfer professionals.

Cullum also advocated for a major update to a mandatory technology transfer course for VA employees. The course is now available through an interactive e-learning platform and provides more in-depth information, clearer explanations and more examples of inventions. More than 50,000 VA employees have taken the VA Technology Transfer Program eLearning over the past two years.

The qualitative benefits of Cullum’s education-focused approach to technology transfer are supported by impressive performance metrics for the most recent fiscal year:

  • 132 invention disclosures received in her region. This number — the highest among all 12 TTSs — represents an increase of 174% over the previous fiscal year for the region, and nearly 20% of the total received by all TTSs.
  • 92 invention evaluations completed for her region. This number represents a year-over-year increase of 96% for the region, and 18% of the total completed by all 12 TTSs.
  • One exclusive license secured, out of seven completed by all 12 TTSs.

Cullum’s most recent education-related accomplishment is her selection to lead an educational session at the 2022 AUTM Annual Meeting on how government agencies work with dual appointment personnel and share IP ownership. This Annual Meeting opportunity — a first for the VA — reflects the large impact Cullum has had on the field of tech transfer, according to her supervisor, Dr. John Kaplan.