Meeting of the Minds Promotes Teamwork

By Anna Lynn Spitzer

Paul Blair With Students
G.P. Li (left) and Dr. Ralph Clayman were pleased with the event's results.

Irvine, Calif., April 23, 2009 --  A gathering last week added important bedrock to Calit2’s foundation of collaboration.

The brainstorming-and-dinner session held at the new University Medical Center brought together 28 participants from Calit2 with a comparable number from the School of Medicine to meet one another, share their research backgrounds and discuss strategies for teaming up.

Before getting down to business the group toured the new, recently occupied $393 million medical center building. “We were all so impressed,” said Calit2 Irvine director G.P. Li. “The hospital is so advanced; nothing has been overlooked.”

The event was facilitated by Li and Dr. Ralph Clayman, interim dean of the School of Medicine. During dinner, participants introduced themselves one at a time, sharing with the group their research thrusts and the kinds of collaborations they are interested in pursuing. Afterwards, researchers with corresponding objectives and skills paired up to speak more specifically about potential projects.

Paul Blair and student demonstrating the device
Paul Blair and student demonstrating the device

Left: Clayman shows off the new hospital. Right: Calit2's Pai Chou (on left) and a potential collaborator discuss the possibilities.

The discussions helped the group better understand how information technology can benefit translational medical research and patient care.

In at least one case, participants learned that research already underway at Calit2 aligned with their needs perfectly. 

On the doctors’ wish lists: bedside teleconferencing equipment with audio and video capabilities, so they could observe and interact with their patients from a distance. Not only would this facilitate doctor/patient communication, but it would allow patients’ family members to participate.

To their delight, doctors learned that a Calit2 telepresence platform called Telios is currently in development and ready for testing; Li said the hospital hopes to install 15 of the units as soon as possible.

The doctors also expressed interest in visualization, cutting-edge sensor technology and advances in networked systems.

Another useful outcome involved two Calit2-affiliated researchers from different departments. Mark Bachman, a biomedical engineer, is working on an NIH Challenge Grant proposal with medical center acting CIO Jim Murry and Dr. Laura Mosqueda. The team hopes to integrate sensors into exam rooms at the hospital to facilitate electronic record-keeping. Bachman, who wanted to add a computer science researcher to the team, met informatics assistant professor Yunan Chen at the event and the two discussed the project. “That was really helpful,” Bachman said. “I didn’t know her before.”

“There was a lot of energy in the room,” Li summed up. “The program was a really great idea. As a matter of fact, one of the participants told me this should have happened 20 years ago.”

He plans to schedule a follow-up session at Calit2 later this year, an idea participant Athina Markopoulou supports. “Brainstorming is a hard thing,” she said. “This was a good first step and I think a follow-up meeting will really help cement our ideas.”