In a move to close the gap between clinical health care research and biomedical engineering education in New Jersey's growing medical field, Hackensack University Medical Center has signed an affiliation agreement with Stevens Institute of Technology, in Hoboken.
"It's very important for us to partner with a New Jersey university like Stevens, because it helps promote our state and keep business in our state," said Dr. Ihor Sawczuk, executive vice president, chief medical officer and chief academic officer at Hackensack. "It allows for Stevens to recruit potentially high-level faculty to be there, because it gives the faculty access to a world-class medical and research center. Before, Stevens didn't really have an affiliation with one, but we're here now, so we can give them that access."
While Sawczuk recognized the hospital is looking to form academic partnerships with other universities located outside of the state — such as Georgetown University, as NJBIZ reported in an April Grapevine column — he noted the affiliation with Stevens "won't conflict, because this is a specialized area with a tech-based institution. It's complementary, not exclusionary like other programs."
According to George Korfiatis, Stevens provost and vice president, while the university has collaborated with Hackensack for undergraduate and graduate design courses since 2009, the new affiliation will "expand beyond senior projects into sophisticated research on the Ph.D. and faculty level, so in five to 10 years, we can fully develop new innovative medical techniques."
"There's a lot of technology in diagnostics and surgery now, but a lot more of that will be happening in the future," Korfiatis said. "As an engineer, unless you have a clinical experience that brings you closer to understanding the nature of problem you have to solve, you will not have results."
Sawczuk said the hospital has opened its 18 clinical departments to Stevens' students and faculty for research purposes, such as drug discovery, medical device development, therapeutic treatment advancement and health care management. Korfiatis said the partnership will continue to expand as medicine and treatment become more personalized, and "the individual tools necessary for the treatment of diseases on the individual level … face a lot of needs and challenges in order to become possible."
"There's engineering people that work with clinicians and medical schools all the time, but I have not seen anything at the interface between an engineering school and a medical center as a flagship for research, and we'll be working towards that," Korfiatis said.