In the executive summary of “Convergence: The Future of Health,” the authors contend the life sciences “are in the midst of a revolution” they later identify as “convergence.” While the term can generally refer to the integration of technology and any number of processes from any industry, the report singles out the value of convergence as it relates to medical care. In this instance, Convergence in Healthcare represents the accelerated innovation resulting from the integration of the life sciences with the physical sciences, chemistry, engineering, IT and mathematics disciplines.
As a growing global population faces an increasing number of health problems alongside rising costs of care, the ability of technology to provide answers to our most pressing medical problems has never been better. While convergence has yet to become common practice among medical researchers, many leaders in academia fully support the movement and are taking steps to fuel its growth. Listed below are three universities and the ways they are playing an important role in the growth of Convergence in Healthcare.
The Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT)
MIT is one of the leading American learning institutions committed to the advancement of Convergence in Healthcare. In a Science article published online in early 2011, MIT researchers published the school’s first 34-page white paper on convergence and its potential influence on biomedicine. MIT followed the white paper with a longer report in 2016, “Convergence: The Future of Health,” which outlined the potential benefits and challenges the movement faces in greater depth.
Apart from outlining the importance of Convergence in Healthcare to draw greater support for the movement, MIT also established the Institute for Medical Engineering and Science (IMES), which integrates engineering, science and clinical medicine education to promote convergent learning initiatives and research.
The Georgia Institute of Technology (Georgia Tech)
Atlanta-based Georgia Tech has long demonstrated a direct, vested interest in the growth of the Convergence in Healthcare movement. The prestigious school established several institutes dedicated to convergent research, the first of which, the Parker H. Petit Institute for Bioengineering and Bioscience (IBB), was founded more than 20 years ago. IBB offers students and faculty 16 centers established for specific research initiatives related to Convergence in Healthcare, including core facilities dedicated to high throughput DNA sequencing, biopolymer characterization and bioanalytical mass spectrometry. IBB also offers a seed grant designed to facilitate interdisciplinary research between faculty members from different science backgrounds, as well as a seed grant for collaborative initiatives focused exclusively on cell manufacturing research among scientists at Emory University, the University of Georgia and Georgia Tech.
Georgia Tech’s commitment to Convergence in Healthcare is seen in its biannual Convergence Innovation Competition (CIC). The CIC was created to motivate and assist Georgia Tech students in the design and creation of innovative experiences and products made possible through the confluence of science and technology. Specific guidelines vary each semester, but during the past several years, students have created products and apps related to health and wellness, smart products and the Internet of Things (IoT), and community and culture. These projects help students of all levels experience the benefits of collaboration and research across industries, allowing them to become acquainted with the concept of convergence early in their academic careers.
University of Texas at Austin
The city of Austin, Texas, is increasingly earning recognition as a national hub for medical technology and innovation. This is due, in part, to the progressive, convergent interests of the city’s major higher education institution, the University of Texas (UT) at Austin. By the time MIT’s “Convergence: The Future of Health” report was published, UT Austin had already established a convergent graduate research program known as the Institute for Computational Engineering and Sciences (ICES). Here, researchers apply concepts from the engineering and computational sciences to problems in the medical, scientific and engineering fields.
More recently, UT Austin opened Dell Medical School in an area of its campus colloquially called the “Innovation Zone,” which is attracting an array of medical, technology and research institutes and businesses all geared toward collaborating to advance healthcare. As greater numbers of medical technology companies flock to Austin, UT Austin continues to build relationships with them and identify ways they can work together to innovate healthcare research.