President's Award for Innovation


Maria DiCicco, 2019 Recipient

Maria DiCicco is this year’s recipient of the President’s Award for Innovation. Maria is an Ultrasound Technologist in Clinical Neurological Sciences. 

“I was completely taken by surprise to be named as the recipient,” Maria says.

Maria’s innovation is measuring carotid plaque burden as total plaque area, which she invented at Victoria Hospital in 1989. The process for measurement evolved over a few years, but the technique involved using machine software to accurately measure carotid plaque. 

Maria explains, “this tool is used clinically to care for patients. The visual aid of seeing the plaque measurement can help patients to understand their condition, and also motivate them to make changes to improve their health such as diet and lifestyle improvements.”

Maria created a user’s manual of how to measure carotid plaque, and the technique has been routinely implemented at University Hospital since 1995, and is applied in labs around the world. Maria has trained people from Canada, the Netherlands, Israel, China, and Thailand on how to measure plaque area and they have taken the innovation back to their home countries. 

In more than 500 publications, it is noted that most of her nominator, Dr. David Spence’s, original work is based on Maria’s innovation. This pioneering work led to the reduction of the risk of stroke and heart attacks among high-risk patients. It also led to the development of methods for 3D ultrasound measurement of carotid plaque volume and vessel wall volume, as well as other research innovations.

Maria is described as being trustworthy, detail-oriented, and consistently demonstrates a high work ethic. She treats her coworkers with respect, and she impresses one of her nominators with her gentle way of putting patients at ease when they come in for their ultrasounds.

The impact of Maria’s innovation is being increasingly recognized internationally.