Chancellor’s charge: Make UI a ‘global leader’ in health innovation | University-Illinois

CHAMPAIGN — Chancellor Robert Jones sees greater potential in the University of Illinois’ collection of health-related assets and institutions.

That’s why he’s charged a new task force to figure out how to make the UI a “national and global leader in health innovation.”

“This team will propose the future role of Illinois as a pioneer in establishing a new technology-driven academic health research and education model that makes a significant, visible, and sustained impact on human health,” Jones said in a mass email on Wednesday.

The new Health Innovation Visioning Committee will be chaired by Stephen Boppart, a 23-year UI engineering professor.

Boppart’s field concerns the intersection between engineering and medicine.

He’s currently the executive association dean and chief diversity officer for the Carle Illinois College of Medicine and the director of optical molecular imaging at Beckman Institute.

The UI “is really poised to be this epicenter for technology and technology-inspired health and wellness,” Boppart said. “I think the impact this university can make by applying innovation and its progress in technology can make a difference for humanity and the human condition, in a very broad sense.”

Jones and Boppart both held up the UI’s SHIELD saliva testing program in response to the COVID-19 pandemic as a prime example of campus innovation solving a “perplexing” health problem. The hope, Jones said, is for the university to generate “many more examples like SHIELD that improve the human condition.”

The committee will be relatively small — with 15 official members, and six more in ex-officio roles — but the work is “meant to be comprehensive.”

The committee has from July 1 of this year through Jan. 15, 2023, to create a seminal reporter for the chancellor detailing health assets and priorities. A progress presentation is expected by September, Jones wrote in the charge letter.

Here were the long-term charges for the committee listed by Jones in his announcement:

  • Inventory the UI’s health assets and strengths.
  • Define key research themes “that position Illinois to pioneer breakthrough(s)” and “profound social advances.”
  • Proposes innovation-focused changes to the UI’s health academic models.
  • Identify infrastructure, equipment, faculty and research personnel worth investing in for the cause.
  • Identify “key stakeholders” for health innovation partnerships in the community.
  • “Review program statements for the Research Park’s Graduation Facility (including EnterpriseWorks) and the Translational Research Facility” and make a plan to integrate them with the health innovation mission.

Boppart will become the interim director of the Interdisciplinary Health Sciences Institute in August, taking over for Professor Neal Cohen, who has led the institute since its founding in 2019.

“The plan that emerges from their work” should “complement and support” the goals of existing health institutions, like the health sciences institute, the Carle Illinois College of Medicine, the Cancer Center at Illinois, the College of Applied Health Sciences, the Carle -Illinois Strategic Affiliation Steering Committee, the Mayo Clinic and Illinois Alliance, JUMP-ARCHES, the Beckman Institute and the Center for Social and Behavioral Sciences, Jones said.

“I am encouraging them to think comprehensively, including not only direct allied health professions and medicine, but more broadly mental and physical health; public and rural health; agricultural technologies that improve the production, nutrition and safety of our food resources; environmental health for the betterment and protection of our planet and global health, for sustaining the life, health and wellness in all communities, societies and populations around the world,” Jones said.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.