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The University Magazine

RIT-Rochester General alliance provides opportunities for both

As part of the alliance, RIT is offering a new course, Surgical Photography, that allows third-year and fourth-year biomedical photography students to get experience in Rochester General operating rooms while providing surgeons with images for medical records. The new course is co-taught by Michael Peres, program chair of biomedical photographic communications at RIT, and Dr. Ralph Pennino, above left, chief of the plastic and reconstructive surgery department at Rochester General. (Photo by Michael Peres)

RIT students are now allowed to observe surgeries at Rochester General Hospital as part of class projects. Rochester General physicians and RIT faculty are writing research grant proposals to submit to the National Institutes of Health. And both institutions are coordinating plans related to the H1N1 flu.

These are examples of collaboration between RIT and Rochester General Health System announced in December 2008.

Since the outset of the alliance, RIT President Bill Destler has emphasized: "Bio- medical science is fast becoming a kind of information science in which our expertise can play an increasingly important role. This alliance will create tremendous opportunities for our students, faculty and staff, as well as the Greater Rochester community."

RGHS President and CEO Mark Clement already is seeing the health system tap into RIT's resources and innovation, building on his organization's leading-edge health care services. "We strongly believe that this partnership will better serve our patients, enhance student education at RIT, and ultimately better serve our community," he says.

A steering committee has identified a strategic consulting firm to lead the two organizations in developing a clear vision, goals, and objectives to help produce measurable results.

"By creating a strategic plan, we will have two strong organizations blending cultures in a meaningful way," says Jeremy Haefner, RIT's provost and senior vice president, and co-chair of the steering committee. "Working with RGHS presents RIT with a living laboratory for our students, faculty and staff."

Here is a sampling of some of the achievements that have occurred to date:

  • Research dollars have been funneled to RIT and RGHS via the federal American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. A portion of the funds will be used to enhance the scientific skills of RIT faculty now working with the Rochester General Research Institute.
  • The establishment of a phone line for student health referrals, which makes access easier for students looking for physicians. The number is 585-922-7480.
  • Joint vaccine research in the area related to ear, eyes, nose and throat infections.
  • The development of a radio-frequency identification system to monitor hospital staff for compliance with hand washing hygiene.
  • The creation of a bachelor of science/ master of science degree program in physician assistant studies awaits final approval from New York state. RGHS has agreed to help with the start of the program by expanding its participation in the on-site, clinical internship-training phase of the curriculum.
  • The development of a physician assistant residency training program in surgery, designed for post-graduate physician assistants.
  • A new course offered to biomedical photographic communications students. The class allows students to get hands-on photography experience in Rochester General operating rooms.
  • Creation of a new bachelor's degree program in exercise science. The program is currently under review with anticipation of accepting first-year students into this program in fall 2010.
  • The use of C-Print technology at Rochester General. The medical transcription department at the hospital will train personnel who can be deployed to assist deaf and hard of hearing patients.
  • The creation of co-op opportunities for information technology students to assist RGHS with IT needs.
  • A joint Web site showcases the alliance achievements, as well as serves as a tool to connect students, faculty and staff from both organizations. Visit

Bob Finnerty '07