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To help continue the growth in research funding here, the University of Rochester Medical Center (URMC) has formed the Office of Corporate Alliances, or OCA. OCA will in effect serve as a matchmaker, linking up areas of established research within the Medical Center with companies also interested in pursuing similar fields of research.
Over the years, industry has increasingly looked to academia as a way to stretch its limited research dollars by leveraging the scientific expertise and research housed in academic institutions.
"As one of our core mission areas, the pursuit of knowledge and discovery is an integral part of who we are and what we do," C. McCollister Evarts, M.D., CEO, Medical Center and Strong Health, said. "The Office of Corporate Alliances will not change the direction or character of our academic research. Rather, it will bring a methodical approach to determine when our areas of research overlap with the interests of industry, and facilitate the transfer of our discoveries to the benefit of the public."
Over the past eight years, the Medical Center has doubled its National Institutes of Health (NIH) funding—driven primarily by growth in basic science research. However, the NIH funding pool is expected to remain static for the foreseeable future, propelling the Medical Center to develop new ways to finance and grow research capability. The OCA also is in line with the NIH's "Roadmap for Medical Research," which advocates for academic health centers to actively collaborate with industry as a way to convert basic research findings into tangible clinical advances.
In creating OCA, the Medical Center is joining the ranks of other well-established academic health centers, which have operated similar, successful departments for years, or in some cases, decades. Its main role will be to work with outside companies and venture capitalists to determine their focus areas, and when appropriate, to pair them up with interested researchers at the Medical Center. OCA also will stay abreast of industry interests and serve as a resource for URMC scientists looking for potential partnerships. The Offices of Technology Transfer, Research Project Administration, and Counsel will work closely with OCA to finalize details of these relationships.
Leading the OCA effort is Andrew Deubler, senior associate vice president, supported by a research analyst, director and program manager. Deubler noted that while many faculty members throughout the Medical Center already work with industry, the process to forge such affiliations is often cumbersome.
"These relationships, by their very nature, are very complex, and need the input of experts in our tech transfer and legal departments to ensure we are developing an equitable arrangement for all parties," Deubler said. "The goal of OCA is to serve as an entry point, coordinating the steps required to create a meaningful relationship that can ultimately spur the development of new clinical treatments."
Work is already underway. This past January, more than 20 executives and scientists from Johnson & Johnson conducted a site visit at the Medical Center to explore the possibilities of developing a strategic research partnership.
Deubler will rely heavily on OCA's Scientific Advisory Committee to help identify those research areas within the Medical Center that have the greatest fit for partnering with industry, as well as define the parameters of proposed relationships (see below for members of the committee).
"It's critical that our community of research faculty are integrally involved in OCA, and actively shaping the way we interact with industry. The true measure of OCA's success will be in its ability to further the research and discovery occurring at the Medical Center," Deubler added.
OCA Scientific Advisory Committee
Berk, M.D., Ph.D., Chair,
Department of Medicine; Director, Center for Cardiovascular Research
In August 2002, an ICU Patient Safety Taskforce was formed, and using evidenced-based best practices as a foundation, developed a new and comprehensive approach to patient care in the ICU that would standardize care to improve patient safety and outcomes.
"We knew that the processes developed to improve patient safety could have a positive ripple effect on the operation of the entire unit, touching everything from mortality and morbidity rates, to patient outcomes," said Michael Apostalokas, M.D., director of Adult Critical Care, and chair of the ICU Taskforce.
For example, national studies estimate that the prevalence of ventilator-associated pneumonias (VAPs) in ICUs to be between 10-65%, with a fatality rate of 13-55%, and that length of time-on-ventilator correlates with likelihood of contracting this pneumonia. If the taskforce could decrease patients' time on the ventilator (about 60% of the patients in this ICU are on ventilators), it could impact rates of VAPs, and this in turn would produce more positive patient outcomes.
At the heart of the initiative was the development of a Patient Daily Goals Sheet, a detailed checklist of 17 items that have been shown to improve patient outcomes. The medical team was required to perform and document each of the items every day.
Less than three years later, the results are significant. The mortality rate in this unit has decreased by 25%, length-of-stay has been reduced by 23%, and we have virtually eliminated ventilator-associated pneumonia. Today, Strong Memorial is in the process of phasing-in this program in our three remaining ICUs, with plans to also bring components of the checklist to step-down units that care for ventilator patients.
Michael Apostalokas, M.D., Director, Adult Critical
Care, Chair of the Taskforce
Given by the Hip Society, an exclusive member organization comprised of leading orthopaedic surgeons who specialize in total hip arthroplasty, the award is named after England's Sir John Charnley, inventor of the Charnley artificial hip. The award is given each year to author(s) of a publication that outline important clinical or basic research that advances the management of hip disorders.
According to Evarts, as the popularity of hip surgery soared, so did a complication: close to half of all patients undergoing hip surgery were at risk of developing a blood clot, and up to three percent of them might die from a pulmonary embolism. This discovery set into motion decades of research to develop best practices in the management of these venous thromboembolisms, or blood clots. Interestingly, Evarts himself has benefited from his research, after undergoing hip arthroplasty in 2003.
Evarts began his medical career as a graduate of the University of Rochester School of Medicine and Dentistry, before serving his internship and residency in orthopaedic surgery at Strong Memorial Hospital. In 1964, he joined the Cleveland Clinic Foundation and, over the next decade, headed that institution's Orthopaedic residency training program, and ultimately served as chair of its department of Orthopaedics. It was during his tenure at Cleveland when Evarts traveled to England to spend time training with Sir John Charnley, observing him as he performed hip arthroplasties.
Evarts returned to the University of Rochester Medical Center in 1974 as chair of Orthopaedics, where he is credited with transforming the Medical Center's Orthopaedics department into a national hub for research and clinical care. In 1987, Evarts was recruited to serve as chief executive officer, senior vice president for Health Affairs, and dean of the College of Medicine at The Pennsylvania State University and The Milton S. Hershey Medical Center. While at Hershey, Evarts was named to the prestigious Institute of Medicine of the National Academy of Sciences. He retired from Hershey in 2000, and moved back to Rochester in 2002, where he served as a senior advisor at the Medical Center until tapped to lead the organization in 2003.
The new facility is especially important as the group begins to adopt a rehabilitation and recovery treatment approach, using the additional space to accommodate specialized training facilities, expanded areas for group therapy, and alternative services provided by peers.
"We believe that hope and restoration of a meaningful life are possible in spite of severe mental illness. Our goal is to go beyond treating symptoms only," said Joy Koziol, Psy.D., executive director of Strong Ties. "We want to help our clients and their families recover from severe mental illness in a way that allows them to achieve personal goals, and to participate fully in their communities."
The biggest boost in services will be to the STRONG Peer Connections program, which pairs a Peer Specialist with other Strong Ties clients. A Peer Specialist is a Strong Ties client who has received special training in order to use his or her experience with the mental health system to help others to recover. Research has shown that interaction with a peer can be especially helpful in promoting independence of clients affected by severe mental illness, and can significantly reduce relapses.
Eight paid peer specialists and four volunteers currently staff the STRONG Peer Connections program, and they will be able to offer alternative services to clients at the new facility. For example, clients can obtain job skills at the facility's new computer lab, while a new kitchen facility will help clients learn the ins and outs of cooking meals, a necessary step to being able to live independently.
Perhaps one of the greatest improvements to the new Strong Ties facility comes with a more organized layout of space. With the new location, all programs will be grouped together in one area, a luxury not afforded in its previous facility. The Strong Ties pharmacy will be centrally located for convenient access, and the Strong Ties Medicine in Psychiatry Services (MIPS) will occupy an adjoining suite.
The new number for Strong Ties is 585/279-4900.