Staying innovative in Madison

Individuals had historic discoveries in the city

While it was the historic discoveries, medical breakthroughs and digital revolutions that made the headlines, at the root of those innovations were the brilliant minds behind them. Here are four of so many people who have changed the way we see and understand four important sectors in greater Madison and beyond, as well as other ways the magazine covered business, science, health and technology over the years.

Jennifer Alexander is one of 76 people recognized to date in the annual Best of Madison Business awards, which was born in 2000 to honor business innovation. Alexander was billed as the leader who brought the Greater Madison Chamber of Commerce into the 21st century. January 2013

This magazine exists because of local businesses. Their impact touches every part of the community, and since the start of this publication, we’ve spotlighted the important thinkers and doers through business features, advertisements and awards. A 32-page business section launched in 2004 “to recognize how new technology, higher ed, a vibrant downtown, innovative leaders, health care, arts and tourism were all fueling economic development,” wrote Neil Heinen in 2006. But what might be the best example of our business coverage is the annual Best of Madison Business awards, a prestigious local awards program born in 2000 that honors business innovation. So far, we have recognized 76 people who have positively and profoundly impacted our region’s business community. “Innovation in business should be boundary-less,” wrote Heinen in 2013. “The late Brian Howell certainly defined it that way when he promoted, as editor of this magazine, the role of the business community in greater Madison’s quality of life.”

Stem cell pioneer and onetime UW-Madison scientist James “Jamie” Thomson changed history by deriving the first human embryonic stem cell line in 1998. He and his team created the first therapeutic products based on human embryonic stem cells — platelets and red blood cells — to make it to the marketplace. November 2001 and January 2007

There are fascinating things happening with stem cell research and other incredible scientific breakthroughs in town. But oddly enough, scientists don’t make the best magazine cover stars. So over the years, Madison Magazine has tried to make science look sexy — we even put the UW Biotechnology Center director on the cover in a leather jacket in March 2004. Getting creative has been worth it, as the ideas behind some of the world’s brightest (and local) minds are stories that needed to be told. Here are just a few things you might not have known:

— Since 2000, all babies born in Wisconsin have had their blood analyzed by tandem mass spectrometry. The analysis is able to test for about 40 disorders, compared to only about seven or eight that were detected before the use of the spectrometer. By 2004, Wisconsin was one of only 26 states that had incorporated the screening program. -“Future Fantastic,” March 2004

— All you can see in the world is less than 5 percent of what’s actually there. The other 95 percent is either dark matter or dark energy, which are mysterious substances that hold our universe together. “Big Ideas at UW-Madison,” August 2017

— The BrainPortV100 device helps the profoundly blind “see” again. Middleton-based company Wicab Inc. created a pair of sunglasses with a built-in video camera that captures objects and translates them to the wearer through electric stimulation on the tongue. Wicab was one of 30 companies named in the 2017 M List. “M List: Health Innovation,” November 2017

Well-being can be learned, according to Richard Davidson, who says you can train your brain to be happy. Davidson, a professor of psychology and psychiatry and director of the Center for Healthy Minds, has studied with Buddhist monks, including the Dalai Lama, and his work in decoding the human brain has been internationally recognized. November 2007

In addition to features on bright minds in the health field, the magazine has published peer-selected lists of the “Top Docs” and “Top Nurses” to help residents find locally trusted health care providers. We’ve also run health-oriented columns and highlighted the high percentage of health-conscious people and service providers — including slow food purveyors and fitness gurus — in our midst. — Here are some excerpts from our health coverage over time:

— “When it comes to what Madison-area doctors eat to stay healthy, over half — 53 percent — said they try to limit their fat, cholesterol and sodium. Only 4.5 percent, meanwhile, said they were vegetarians or near vegetarians.”–From a survey by the magazine responded to by about 250 Dane County physicians, titled “Physician, Heal Thyself,” March 1995

— “Life is forever different on the other side of surgery, chemotherapy, radiation and medication. Bodies are changed. Loved ones are lost. There is no going back. Yet most breast cancer survivors will tell you that despite the sorrows, scars and side effects, post-cancer life can be beautiful, too.” –“Reaching Recovery: Six Women Find New Life After Cancer,” by Jennifer Garrett

— “We’ve burned out poorly compensated docs. When I came out [of med school] you delivered babies, you helped with surgery, you hospitalized your patients, you saw patients in the office, you were involved in the community. You didn’t have a whole lot of life.” –Sandra Kamnetz, a family physician with UW Health, in “Disappearing Docs,” about the looming shortage of primary care providers. By Brennan Nardi, November 2009

— “It shouldn’t be happening, but it is –a roomful of people with autism, confined in a relatively small space with bright lights and cavernous acoustics, calmly engaged in touch, intentional breathing and meditative silence. But for [Scott] Anderson, who created the groundbreaking, low-cost-to-the-public yoga therapy program in 2008, it makes perfect sense.”–“Life in Alignment: The Healing Power of Yoga,” by Maggie Ginsberg, August 2011

— “Amid laughter and razors buzzing, customers gather at the west-side barbershop for grooming and well-being checks. Rebalanced-Life Wellness Association opened its Men’s Health and Education Center in JP Hair Design a little more than a year ago, and the dual service seems to have found a niche.”–2017 M List winner, November 2017. That year’s M List focused on health innovations.

Technology and Innovation
Jignesh Patel, a computer sciences professor who played a significant role in researching how digital information can be used and accessible to all, was Madison Magazine’s face of the “big data” revolution in 2014. January 2014

Patel is an innovator — one of so many in Madison. In an effort to spotlight the community’s innovate thinkers, Brennan Nardi envisioned a different kind of “Who’s Who” listing. “What I had learned over the years at the magazine is that sometimes the most interesting and the most effective people and organizations aren’t the ones that make it to the cover or to the pages of the magazine,” she says.Staying innovative in Madison

Out of that, the M List was born. In its sixth year, the M List has named dozens of people and/or businesses that are innovators in their field. Each year, a different industry or category of professionals are recognized. Check out these M Lists online:

2013: Tech and Bio-Tech
2014: Food Innovators
2015: Social Innovation
2016: Teachers and Mentors
2017: Health Innovation
2018: Innovation in the Arts (Coming this November)

For more on the 40th Anniversary of Madison Magazine, click here.