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The newspaper of The Johns Hopkins University February 27, 2006 | Vol. 35 No. 23
Medicine, Engineering Eye New Goal

Plan is to move JHU to forefront of medical technology

By Greg Rienzi
The Gazette

Faculty from the School of Medicine and the School of Engineering will convene today for an all-day conference, the goal of which is to develop a roadmap for how the two schools can put Johns Hopkins at the forefront of medical technology.

The conference, titled Advancing Technology for Patient Care and Safety, will be held in Tilghman Auditorium on the East Baltimore campus. The event was organized by a new university committee called I4M — Integrating Imaging, Intervention and Informatics in Medicine — which is chaired by Chi Dang, vice dean for research at the School of Medicine, and Marc Donohue, associate dean for research for the School of Engineering.

Donohue said that Johns Hopkins, while already a leader in medical imaging, is not where it could be in terms of other medical technology, such as robotic surgery and minimally invasive surgeries and therapies.

"We are certainly not in the dark ages here, but the goal of this conference is to help Hopkins Medicine become the world leader in these areas," Donohue said. "It's about looking ahead to the future, not where we've been."

Donohue said that robotics, for example, promises great advances in surgical accuracy and precision, but the technology is not quite ready for advanced human use. "Imaging modality and CT scans are not where they could be to drive robotic movement operations," he said.

The topics to be discussed fall into two major categories: "The Role of Technology in Advancing Patient Care" and "Advancing Technology Across the Spectrum of Invasiveness." Specifically, the group will discuss how to advance technology to reduce errors, transcend human limitations and improve all types of medical interventions.

Participants also will consider the feasibility of an institute focused on integrating imaging, intervention and informatics.

Imaging takes into account such technologies as X-rays, CT scans and MRI scans. Interventions fall in the realm of doing something to a patient, whether it is providing medicine, or performing surgery or a noninvasive procedure such as ultrasound treatment.

Medical informatics deals with biomedical data and its storage, retrieval and optimal use for problem solving and decision making. "It's the understanding of a person's genomic and medical history, blood chemistry, surgical outcomes and the like, and how they all interact together," he said. "Medical informatics is an important and emerging field at Hopkins and elsewhere."

The conference will consist of lectures and breakout sessions, mixed in with networking opportunities. Introductory remarks will be given by Chi Dang, President William R. Brody and Edward Miller, dean of the medical faculty and CEO of Johns Hopkins Medicine.

Government agency officials and faculty from other universities will present the morning lectures, which are focused on the changing landscape in federal funding for collaborative medical research.

The day will conclude with a Dean's Lecture in Hurd Hall titled "From Magnets to Molecules: A Personal Tale of Spins and Needles" by Jonathan Lewin, professor and chair of Radiology in the School of Medicine.

The two Johns Hopkins schools putting on the conference already share close ties through the Department of Biomedical Engineering, the Whitaker Biomedical Engineering Institute and the new Institute for Computational Medicine.

Donohue said this conference is just one more step toward bringing engineering and medicine closer together.


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