A crowd of nearly 200 University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign alumni and friends, as well as supporters and leaders from both Mayo Clinic and Illinois, gathered on September 11, 2018, at U.S. Bank Stadium in Minneapolis to celebrate the Mayo Clinic and University of Illinois Alliance for Technology-Based Healthcare. Guests united to share stories and learn more about the Alliance, with the underpinning statement that, "Together, we are transforming healthcare."
Organized in 2010, the Mayo Clinic and Illinois Alliance has supported more than 50 collaborative research projects, 70 undergraduate student fellows, and 20 graduate interns and fellows. The Alliance seeks to advance high-performance computing and technology-driven solutions in medicine with improved diagnostic tests for early detection and treatment, devices that can better monitor patients and deliver treatment, individualized patient care plans using real-time data, and more.
U.S. Bank Stadium proved an inspiring venue for the celebratory event—a progressive and impressive facility in the heart of Minneapolis. Upon entering Mystic Lake’s Club Purple, guests were immediately swept into a sea of orange Illinois pride. More than 300 years of combined excellence were signified prominently throughout the room in side-by-side displays of Mayo Clinic’s Three Shields and Illinois’ Block I.
The program was kicked off by host Neal Cohen, director of the Interdisciplinary Health Sciences Institute at Illinois. "We have many incredible stories to tell," he said, and noted that while past accomplishments and current work would be celebrated, "the Alliance also aims to inspire and imagine the future." Guests were introduced to a brief video highlighting the work and aspirations of the Alliance.
VIEW THE MAYO CLINIC AND ILLINOIS ALLIANCE VIDEO
University of Illinois Chancellor Robert Jones and Provost Andreas Cangellaris expressed Illinois’ and Mayo Clinic’s synergistic abilities to reinvent and reimagine healthcare, with the forward-looking statement that "we have truly just begun."
New Mayo Clinic president and CEO-elect, Gianrico Farrugia, offered his appreciation and endorsement of "this remarkable and important alliance," stating, "I’ve been fortunate to work with this program since its inception in 2010 and I believe in the power of our union, working together to transform both healthcare and the lives of patients. I have seen it work, and it works very well." Nicholas Chia, associate director of Mayo Clinic’s Center for Individualized Medicine Microbiome Program, reinforced this message with his unique perspective as a former postdoctoral researcher at Illinois for Nigel Goldenfeld and the legendary Carl R. Woese.
The audience was then reminded, through a series of stories, what it means for Mayo Clinic and Illinois to be working together. Guests heard from Jim and Dena Vermette, who experienced firsthand the incredible care offered to Mayo Clinic patients. Illinois representatives Bryan White, director of the Alliance; Rashid Bashir, professor of bioengineering and executive associate dean of Carle Illinois College of Medicine; Colleen Bushell, senior research scientist at the National Center for Supercomputing Applications (NCSA); Mikel Hernaez, director of Computational Genomics at the Carl R. Woese Institute for Genomic Biology (IGB); Matthew Hudson, professor of crop sciences and NCSA faculty affiliate; and Jessica Saw, a physiology graduate student and Mayo Clinic School of Medicine medical student, explained the work they do and its impact on healthcare.
Sharing details of real, ongoing collaborative projects helped guests grasp the depth and breadth of work made possible by the Alliance. For example, Bushell collaborates with Mayo Clinic to create software for analyzing and visualizing complex health data to better understand diseases and help doctors and patients make strategic treatment decisions. Hudson's work with Mayo Clinic focuses on computer analysis of genome data to better understand childhood heart problems and other diseases. A particularly unique area of research, recently featured in the New York Times, was presented by Saw, who works with Mayo Clinic using contexts from biology and geology to bring novel targets for kidney stone prevention and therapeutics.
A heartfelt story of gratitude concluded the storytelling. Taylor Crooks, a molecular and cellular biology undergraduate student at Illinois, trained at Mayo Clinic as part of the Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship (SURF) program. He explained how this fellowship not only provided him the knowledge and training needed to tackle cutting-edge research, but forever changed the course of his future. Crooks was recently asked to continue his work as a PhD student in the Mayo Clinic Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences—an incredible opportunity he “never could have dreamed.”
The celebration event, sponsored by the Interdisciplinary Health Sciences Institute, strived to underscore the impact of the Alliance and inspire others to join the efforts of Illinois and Mayo Clinic to solve some of healthcare’s greatest challenges. Learn more by viewing the Alliance brochure and visiting mayoillinois.org.