Several units at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (Illinois) recently partnered with Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) for research collaboration and joint student training efforts in radiological sciences and molecular imaging.
A memorandum of understanding has been established for the MGH Department of Radiology and the Center for Advanced Medical Imaging Sciences (CAMIS) to work with Illinois and as many as 15 Illinois faculty members.
A group of faculties from several Illinois and MGH units put forth extensive effort to create the partnership. The group included Ling-Jian Meng, Associate Professor of Nuclear, Plasma, and Radiological Engineering (NPRE); Stephen A. Boppart of Electrical and Computer Engineering (ECE), Bioengineering (BIOE) and the Beckman Institute for Advanced Science and Technology; and Georges El Fakhri, MGH Director of the Center for Advanced Medical Imaging Sciences and Co-Director of the Division of Nuclear Medicine & Molecular Imaging.
“MGH has an excellent clinical radiology program, but not necessarily access to students and the science of imaging. Illinois doesn’t currently have access to the same magnitude of clinical radiology expertise—it’s something we hope to build,” said Boppart, Abel Bliss Professor of Engineering and director of Imaging at Illinois, a campus-wide initiative on imaging.
“This is a nice example of how an internationally known, clinical institution recognizes the value of engineering here at Illinois.”
As a leading public research university with one of the top Colleges of Engineering in the United States, Illinois is home to a wide range of cutting-edge biomedical work. The university also boasts several world-class research institutes and laboratories, offering state-of-the-art imaging equipment and facilities for research and advanced technology development.
MGH is regularly ranked as one of the country’s top hospitals, and, with over 700 doctorate level radiologists and scientists, the Department of Radiology is among the largest in the United States. The department encompasses a broad spectrum of clinically oriented and disease-driven research, including the discovery of molecular imaging agents and development of advanced medical imaging technologies to better understand and characterize normal and pathologic conditions and monitor therapy.
Plans are for the partnership to develop a joint platform for training Illinois students for careers in clinical research and the biomedical industry. This program would allow students to participate in Illinois’ rigorous coursework and research activities and, at a later stage of their training, gain concrete research experiences in one of the largest and top-ranked clinical radiology departments.
Meng, whose sabbatical at MGH helped lead to the partnership, said three graduate students will spend Summer 2015 at MGH.
To start, the agreement will drive an exchange of faculty seminars. James A. Brink, MGH Radiologist-in-Chief, and El Fakhri presented the seminar, “120 Years of Innovation in Imaging: The MGH Department of Radiology,” at the Beckman Institute in January as an introduction.
In the longer run, this agreement is intended to develop a Joint Illinois-MGH Program in Radiological Sciences and Molecular Imaging that leverages the strength of Illinois on basic science and technology and the clinically oriented research MGH carries out. This program emphasizes multidisciplinary and integrative research approaches that combine imaging physics, chemistry, biology, nanomaterials and/or advanced computation techniques for future radiological and molecular imaging applications.
Over the past year, Illinois has been working with the locally based Carle Health System to establish a new College of Medicine on the Urbana campus. The vision is to revolutionize health care by infusing engineering into medical education and research to respond to transformative changes in the health care industry. The plan currently is before the University of Illinois Board of Trustees for consideration.
“As the need grows to recruit top physician-scientists and physician-engineers to our university and local medical institutions, partnerships such as this one with MGH will provide a conduit for attracting people who share our vision for integrating engineering with medicine,” Boppart said.