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10 Schools Driving Healthcare Innovation

By Justin Boyle
Published: November 20, 2013

Here's a fact: the Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that, thanks in part to an aging U.S. population, all three of the fastest-growing careers in the country between 2010 and 2020 will come from the health care sector. Healthcare innovation and the future of the medical profession are hot topics among thinkers nationwide, not least of all in major centers of research and inquiry like these 10 trailblazing universities. Check out some of the ways that students and faculty at these forward-looking schools are working to advance health care science and services for generations to come.

  • Binghamton University in Binghamton, NY, works to bring research activities across multiple disciplines into alignment with the school's Healthcare Initiative, which aims to improve health outcomes across New York State and throughout the country. To help further that initiative, the university turned its Innovative Technologies Complex into a host location for the 2013 edition of Healthcare Innovation Days, where panel discussions focused on modern health care issues such as behavioral neuroscience, pharmaceutical development and rural access to health services. At the annual Innovation Day put on by the university, innovations created by students, faculty and staff are put on display.
  • Emory University medical faculty members use their experience in the academic realm alongside their ongoing medical practices to discover, test and refine new procedures and pharmaceuticals in hopes of improving patient care or reducing costs for practitioners around the globe. In 2012, the Atlanta, GA, school's researchers and academic clinicians contributed to groundbreaking work in personalized immunotherapy, cancer treatment, management of type 1 diabetes and controlling hypertension without using medication. One Emory University physician has even discovered a way to address formerly irreparable aneurisms in the brain.
  • Fordham University, with three campuses in the New York metro area, focuses its energy for healthcare innovation on one of the elements of the industry that people are often loath to talk about: cost. Through the Global Healthcare Innovation Management Center, a division of the Business School at Fordham, students and faculty address unsolved problems of healthcare access and affordability on a global scale. The school also hosts a full day's worth of conference activities on the subject each year, featuring guest lectures from experts providers as well as experts in health policy, public health, health care data.
  • Northwestern Health Sciences University may not be a household name yet, but this natural health academy in Bloomington, MN, has set its sights on becoming the most trusted health sciences university system in the country in the next dozen years. Students at Northwestern can choose from a list of traditional concentrations that includes nutrition, massage therapy and diagnostic imaging, or opt to pursue degrees in naturopathic subjects like acupuncture or chiropractic care. Among other ideals, Northwestern promotes the integration of care philosophies from all points in the health spectrum.
  • Stevens Institute of Technology in Hoboken, NJ, launched the Center for Healthcare Innovation (CHI) to help address unique challenges presented by our advancing medical technology. Stevens was already home to more than a dozen research facilities in fields like bio-robotics and chemistry, and the CHI will add new labs focused on molecular biology, computational modeling and bio-imaging technologies intended to enable quicker diagnoses, improved treatments and better patient outcomes overall. What's more, healthcare students at Stevens have access to 30 undergraduate scholarships, five graduate fellowships and a wealth of opportunity to perform leading-edge research alongside members of faculty.
  • The University of Arkansas students have the opportunity to work directly with College of Engineering faculty on research projects that attempt to improve the realm of healthcare supply chain and logistics. Research projects focused on determining ideal forms of medication packaging and performing a thorough accounting of supply chain cost and quality drawbacks can lead to innovations that overcome roadblocks to quality care and foster an industry environment conducive to further progress. By collaborating with interested corporations and government agencies as well as healthcare providers, students at the Fayetteville school can learn to bring a well-balanced perspective to their projects.
  • The University of California - San Francisco is a longstanding hotspot in the world of innovation, especially in the digital world, so it's no surprise that the storied Bay Area school is working to create a Center for Digital Health Innovation (CDHI) to address the implications that today's digital novelties might have in the health care world. Students, as well as faculty and staff, will be encouraged to contribute to the Center's goals of uncovering new high-tech healthcare solutions. Examples of projects at the DCHI include an open-source platform for diabetes management, a collaborative communications platform for clinical personnel and a methodology for using social media to conduct clinical trials.
  • The University of Maryland recently took a competitive approach to innovation, creating a national healthcare solutions contest and offering $30,000 in prizes. Dubbed the Innovate 4 Healthcare Challenge and hosted by the College Park school's Robert H. Smith School of Business, the 2012 competition asked entrants to develop a tech-focused plan that would encourage patients to better engage with their providers. The winning innovation was NeoStream, a "Facebook-like" platform designed to improve outcomes for critically ill infants.
  • The University of Michigan dedicated itself to the quest for better well-being in 2011, when the Ann Arbor university kicked off its Institute for Healthcare Policy and Innovation (IHPI). The crew of more than 400 members, staff and trainees that make their research home at IHRI cover multiple disciplines and work to synergize their various bodies of experience to better address questions of safety, equity, quality and affordability of healthcare services. Particularly compelling projects or research questions are presented in on-campus seminars that are open to both on- and off-site members.
  • The University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill foresees the upcoming transformation of our national healthcare framework, so the university is working to develop a Center for Innovation where new ideas in healthcare can make peace with the old. Center leadership believes that bringing a spirit of creative disruption to issues of emerging healthcare technology can help engender a new harmony between payers, providers and patients. Partners at the Center can find support for the forging of public-private partnerships, aid in implementation for promising ideas and a learning lab where innovations can be tested.

These colleges are all doing great things to innovate healthcare, and they're not the only ones. With a little research of your own, you might find a source of university innovations right in your own backyard.

Sources:

"Fastest Growing Occupations," bls.gov, 2012. http://www.bls.gov/ooh/fastest-growing.htm

About the Author
Justin Boyle is a writer and journalist in Austin, Texas.

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