RIT and Rochester General Health System Strategic Alliance
Dec. 18, 2008
by Bob Finnerty, RIT or Michael Tedesco, RGHS
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Questions and Answers:Q: What is the basis of this strategic alliance?
A: RIT and RGHS are both community-focused, public service, not-for-profit organizations dedicated to the highest levels of education and service.
Because of the rapid pace of advancement in the biomedical sciences and biotechnology, universities and medical centers together must test and research the latest developments in these areas to capitalize on regional, national and international opportunities. Medical science and practice are increasingly benefiting from disciplines once thought to be outside of these domains, such as information science and technology, robotics, service management and digital imaging, all areas of strength at RIT.
Q: Why now?
A: Biomedical science, once a largely empirical science based on the experimental study of biological systems, has moved rapidly in recent years toward a predictive science in which the decoding of the genome, effectively the “software” that determines and operates living things, has allowed us to understand and manipulate organisms in such ways as to make possible an entirely new world of medical treatments and preventative therapies. Thus biomedical science is fast becoming a kind of information science in which RIT’s expertise in areas such as IT, nanotechnology, robotics, and imaging can play an increasingly important role. This is just one area of cooperation between the two organizations.
Q: What does the structure of the alliance look like?
A: The next step in moving the alliance forward would involve RIT and RGHS contributing members to an RIT/RGHS joint steering committee, which would develop the formal partnership.
Under the strategic alliance, both RIT and RGHS would continue to operate as financially independent organizations with fiduciary responsibilities maintained by their respective boards. RIT’s president and/or Board of Trustees chairman would likely join RGHS’s Board of Directors, and RGHS’s CEO and/or Board of Directors chairman would join RIT’s Board of Trustees.
Q: How does this fall in line with RIT’s mission or strategic plan?
A: As well as its signature strengths in computing and information sciences, RIT has a long tradition in the biosciences. In 1983, RIT became the first university in the nation to offer a Bachelor of Science degree in biotechnology. RIT has established academic programs in such areas as medical illustration, biomedical photographic communication, medical informatics, physician assistant education, medical sonography, biomedical science and technology, biochemistry and health management.
In 2007, RIT dedicated its Center for Bioscience Education and Technology. CBET offers comprehensive academic, community and career-training programs in biotechnology and medical sciences. CBET is geared to fill an increasing demand for skilled workers in the regional and statewide bioscience and health care sectors. The facility was built with $8 million in New York state funding to support the growth of the biotechnology and biosciences industry.
Q: What are the advantages for RIT?
- RIT will have an alliance with a strong medical system to support its existing academic disciplines in areas such as medical illustration, biomedical photography, medical informatics, information science, safety technology, physician assistant, medical sonography, biomedical science and technology, biomedical engineering, biochemistry and health management. RIT also offers educational programs and conducts research related to deafness and hard-of-hearing.
- RIT will have access to RGHS expertise and facilities that would support research and additional academic program offerings of mutual interest.
- RIT faculty and students would have access to RGHS medical staff, facilities and patients for studies and tests of advanced biomedical devices developed at RIT.
- RIT’s provision of medical services for its faculty, staff and student populations could be enhanced.
- RIT students interested in biomedical careers might arrange for cooperative education/internships at RGHS.
- RIT graduates could be considered for employment in the RGHS medical system.
Q: What are the advantages for RGHS?
- RGHS will have as its partner a large, technologically focused university with education and research programs in areas of current interest to support RGHS’s education, research and public service programs.
- RGHS might oversee RIT’s Student Health Center and become a medical center of choice for RIT students, faculty and staff.
- RGHS will have access to RIT faculty, facilities and educational offerings (e.g. in imaging or the information sciences) to enhance its existing educational programs for medical students and residents. RGHS would have an affiliated university to work with in offering additional educational programs that would advance its ability to serve the public.
- RGHS will team with RIT on grant proposals to state and federal agencies and private foundations for support of education, research and public service programs.
- RGHS employees would have special access to RIT educational programs.
- RGHS will have direct access to RIT students as prospective employees.
- RGHS professional staff could be offered affiliated faculty positions at RIT.
Q: What are some of the immediate ways in which RIT and RGHS will collaborate?
A: Currently, RGHS provides approximately 42 percent of the clinical training placements for students in RIT’s Physician Assistant program. A number of the program’s clinical instructors and adjunct faculty are affiliated with RGHS. RIT students in the diagnostic medical sonography program train in the Radiology and OB/GYN departments at Rochester General, and the majority of sonographers on staff within RGHS trained at RIT. Under this alliance, RIT and RGHS will work even more closely together to provide clinical training opportunities.
In addition, the two organizations have collaborated to plan and host a series of community symposiums on innovations in healthcare and enhanced service delivery. The intent of this series is to engage community leaders in real discussions about the management of the health and health care of the community through innovative financing, benefit design and clinical management of care. The first of three to four such symposiums will be held in February.
Q: What are some examples of how RIT and RGHS might work together?
A: Physicians and other personnel from RGHS will be able to work with faculty and students from RIT on innovative new medical devices and procedures, move these concepts to commercialization through RIT’s Venture Creations incubator program and share any resulting intellectual property income. RIT’s faculty and students in information science could help RGHS with the enormous information storage and dissemination challenges experienced in contemporary health care organizations.
Q: How will this be funded?
A: This alliance doesn’t necessarily need extra money to be launched. RIT and RGHS are simply linking current programs and services seen as mutually beneficial.
Q: How will this benefit the Greater Rochester Community?
A: A formal association between RIT and RGHS would concentrate intellectual resources in such a way as to draw additional students, professionals, and business ventures to the Rochester area.
The Greater Rochester region is home to about 70 biotechnology and life science-related companies. The Greater Rochester Enterprise has identified this area as a targeted cluster in its business development strategy. The region was identified as one of the top 40 biotechnology locations in the United States by a noted site-selection journal. Education and health care account for 52 percent of jobs in the Greater Rochester region. RIT and RGHS together employ nearly 11,000 and have annual budgets totaling about $1.4 billion. Their combined scale would ensure their inclusion in the most important decision-making processes relating to their constituencies and to their interests regionally, nationally and internationally.
Q: What are the next steps?
A: A joint committee will be formed to create the formal alliance, which ultimately will require the approval from both boards. There will be more to report later.