IHSI: Building momentum in 2020

In 2019, IHSI celebrated our fifth year in the Illinois research enterprise, with the mission to ignite and unite health sciences research campus-wide. This five-year mark offered the perfect opportunity to see how our institute has built upon and leveraged past efforts, investments, and assets of the many health sciences-related units at Illinois, and how it serves as a powerful driver of future innovation and impact.Neal J. Cohen, IHSI Director
  
This institute is built upon and thrives with partnerships and through convergence. Looking at some of my favorite “momentum-building” 2019 stories and opportunities for 2020 (below), it’s apparent that together with our many college, institute, center, and clinical partners, Illinois is pushing the boundaries in neuroimaging, providing new opportunities for our researchers, transforming healthcare, and improving health in our community. Together, we are working toward a remarkable health sciences ecosystem that translates scientific discovery into improved healthcare and health solutions. 

In other words, we’re doing what we do best: striving together, fostering new discoveries, and addressing today’s grand challenges in health by overcoming the boundaries of our own knowledge and our own disciplines. 

As we enter the new year, I’m reminded of one of my favorite guiding principles: “Be in the moment, but imagine and create the future”. 

There is no limit to what we can accomplish together! 

Neal J. Cohen
Director, IHSI 

Here are some of our favorite “momentum-building” 2019 stories and opportunities for 2020:

Carle and the University of Illinois have jointly approved funding to purchase a MAGNETOM 7 Tesla (7T) MRI scanner. A culmination of a long-standing Carle-Illinois research collaboration, and a long history of leadership in imaging by the Beckman Institute’s Biomedical Imaging Center, this advancement offers incredible opportunities for both brain health researchers and the community. Led on the Illinois side by Beckman Institute, with support from the Office of the Vice Chancellor for Research & Innovation and IHSI for the research effort, this strengthens our position as global leaders in neuroimaging.

The Carle-Illinois partnership, enriched with the establishment of the Carle Illinois College of Medicine in 2017, continues to benefit Illinois’ educational and research mission. As the inaugural class of Carle Illinois medical students are taking their first exam for medical licensure, we are building the rich clinical and translational research landscape that will allow them and future health innovators to succeed.

IHSI has increased its core infrastructure in support of health-related research with the campus-wide launch of Illinois REDCap in partnership with Research IT, Technology Services, and the University Library; an expansion of expertise for the Illinois Biostatistics Core to now include Biostatistics, Epidemiology, and Research Design (BERD); and continued success with the NIH grant-writing series. In 2020, Illinois REDCap has already made its first upgrade, and we’re looking forward to launching a new DoD Grant Writing Workshop, hosting a discussion toward facilitating success of our mid-career faculty, and partnering for a fall workshop with the Office of Foundation Relations.

The Mayo Clinic & Illinois Alliance, a program of IHSI in association with the Grainger College of Engineering and National Center for Supercomputing Applications, is aligned better than ever with Mayo Clinic’s strategic plan to lead technology-based healthcare. With the hiring of a new program manager, we look forward to an expanded fellowship program and increased philanthropic support to build an even more robust student pipeline for transforming healthcare. And, with increased investment and focus by Grainger College of Engineering and NCSA in AI, computation, and big data applications to health, we are poised to further propel Mayo Clinic’s commitment to technology-based healthcare.

IHSI has launched Community-Academic Partnerships for Health, and in 2019 we welcomed our first cohort of undergraduate Scholars for Health Equity. Arising from the vision of the IHSI-led Health Sciences Strategy Task Force, the Community-Academic Scholars Initiative continues to seek partners to create and strengthen our programs. This summer, programs for Brain Health and Solving Poverty will launch in partnership with the Center for Social and Behavioral Science, Beckman Institute, Chez Veterans Center, Office of the Vice Chancellor for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion, and College of Education. Further efforts to strengthen community-academic partnerships, including a spring workshop and community-based student opportunities, are underway with the Siebel Center for Design and School of Social Work. Efforts with Illinois Extension to enhance brain health programming in our community and with the College of Applied Health Sciences, Beckman, Carle, and Chez Veterans Center to address traumatic brain injury in the Veteran community, hold much promise for life-changing impact.

The Social and Behavioral Sciences Research Initiative was elevated to the Center for Social and Behavioral Science in 2019, sparking a new partnership with IHSI to better address and assess social and behavioral aspects of health. Further, the Illinois Behavioral Assessment Laboratory (INBAL), a partnership between the CSBS, Department of Psychology, and IHSI, hired a clinical director and has now started seeing clients from the community. Going forward, we will leverage partnerships and forge new ones to better evaluate and address issues of mental health on our campus and in the community.

We hope that these examples make apparent that our institute thrives with partnerships and through convergence. We look forward to moving boldly ahead in advancing the health sciences, together, into the new year and beyond.