We are all aware of the extraordinary challenges to health and wellbeing, and the disruptions of so many aspects of regular life and work, caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. Yet, at the same time, we have also seen the remarkable resilience, teamwork, and innovation at Illinois during this time, leading to various new programs and initiatives all over campus. Most impactful of all, perhaps, is the nation’s most ambitious and comprehensive COVID-19 testing program happening right here—the SHIELD program—which makes us all justifiably proud and hopeful.
Providing testing with sufficient sensitivity, comprehensiveness, and rapidity to ensure the safety of university members and the community of which we are part is a huge challenge. Meeting that challenge has been taken up by a remarkable and still-growing coalition of Illinois people and campus units, and partnerships with city, state, and university entities. This all-hands-on-deck, team-based approach will seem familiar to many—it is the Illinois way! And it, too, makes us justifiably proud and hopeful.
Speaking for IHSI, we are proud to play our small role on two fronts, one regarding the extraordinary data demands of this effort, and the other related to partnering with the community. IHSI recently announced an expansion of the use of Illinois REDCap (secure and robust web-based system for electronic capture and maintenance of clinical and translational research data) on campus, driven by the HIPAA-capable data storage needs of the SHIELD team. Now, in addition to active research projects, Illinois REDCap can be used for administrative and operational projects related to University business, and long-term storage of research data.
Illinois REDCap launched in May 2019 to address campus-wide need for easily and securely collecting and managing high risk data for research studies. IHSI’s joint leadership in this effort (along with Research IT, Technology Services, and University Library) is an example of our ongoing role within the Illinois health research ecosystem of developing core infrastructure to advance our capabilities and strengthen our impact in the health sciences. Building capacity to harness data for research, with SHIELD as the cornerstone, will be a major focus for IHSI in the coming months.
IHSI’s Community-Academic Partnerships for Health core also continues to build capacity for advancing our capabilities and strengthening health impact. Following a successful summer pilot with a focus on responding to COVID-19-related challenges, the Fall 2020 We CU Community Engaged Scholars program kicks off this week with campus-wide support from the Office of the Chancellor, Center for Social and Behavioral Science, College of Education, College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, School of Social Work, Siebel Center for Design, and University of Illinois Alumni Association, together with IHSI. Programs like We CU help to establish and strengthen long-term partnerships that ultimately improve human health through research and practice.
Our health sciences infrastructure at Illinois is a robust network of resources, technologies, and partnerships. By continuing to expand its capabilities, we become equipped for innovation, positioned to take on the next challenge, and poised to advance human health.
Stay healthy, safe, and connected.