Courtesy photo

A few years ago, Allysa Dittmar was about to go into surgery, but her interpreter didn’t show up.

Dittmar, who is deaf, was able to lip-read and recognize facial expressions during some of the mandated check that’s required before a procedure, but those were obscured when surgeons, nurses and anaesthesiologists, put on their masks. Things grew more frustrating, and the staff eventually gave up trying.

“At that moment, I could no longer communicate,” Dittmar said Tuesday night at the Johns Hopkins Social Innovation Lab Impact and Innovation Forum.

The experience led to the idea for a company that ended up earning a $25,000 check that night. The ClearMask is a surgical mask that is transparent. It shows the full face, even the sides – which, as Dittmar points out, can still be beneficial for lip-reading.

Read about the team of mostly Hopkins students and alums who came up with the idea over at

Stephen Babcock

Stephen Babcock is the editor of Baltimore and an editor-at-large of Baltimore Fishbowl.