Op-Ed Archive

Patrick T. Harker, PhD

Patrick T. Harker
University of Delaware

For many years, the University of Delaware (UD), Thomas Jefferson University, Christiana Care Health Systems, and Nemours have been close collaborators, working together on medical education and infrastructure, healthcare research, service delivery, and public wellness campaigns.

It's time that this informal collaboration - which has proved pivotal to offering Delawareans superior health care-benefit from a formal partnership that combines the assets and resources of each organization and applies them to shared priorities: providing the finest healthcare education for all health professionals; conducting interdisciplinary clinical and translational research that generates new knowledge to address our most pressing health concerns; and improving state and regional health and healthcare services.

This partnership, the Delaware Health Sciences Alliance, will help the State deliver accessible, affordable, high-quality health care to its citizens. Furthermore, in uniting its members' efforts and investments on behalf of cutting-edge health research and advanced technologies, the Alliance will help grow Delaware's life sciences, biotechnology, and health and medical services industries and will emerge as a prime driver of the state's economy. The Alliance builds on the commitment that UD and Thomas Jefferson University made last fall to extend their collaboration in health education and strengthen the provision of highly trained doctors, pharmacists, occupational therapists, and public health professionals.

The Alliance partners have already begun several initiatives; others will soon be launched. For instance, the Delaware Rehabilitation Institute (DRI) will be a premier research, training, and practice center in the area of physical rehabilitation. DRI will provide a place for clinicians, scientists, engineers, and policymakers to work side-by-side, creating state-of-the-art rehabilitation medicine. The Institute's focus will be on translational research-moving scientific findings into the clinic, safely but briskly, so that they benefit as many Delaware residents as possible.

Delaware is uniquely poised for leadership in rehabilitation services. Its population is older than that of most other states, and is aging at 1½ times the national rate. World-class rehabilitation expertise and technologies are critical for older residents, the primary users of rehabilitation therapies. Furthermore, Delaware is an international leader in rehabilitation research and training. The rehabilitation expertise among Alliance partners is unparalleled; they already operate renowned programs in orthopedic surgery, biotechnology and biomechanics, physical and occupational therapy, tissue engineering, speech, regenerative medicine, musculoskeletal diseases, neurogenetics, and neuroscience. These existing strengths, brought together through multi-disciplinary research, will secure DRI as an international hub for rehabilitation education, policy, and practice.

The Delaware Health Sciences Alliance will be a key topic under discussion at "Stronger Health-Based Partnerships," a conference to be held at UD on March 24. The conference highlights regional partnership and outreach efforts to improve health care in Delaware. Leaders from the University of Delaware, Thomas Jefferson University, Christiana Care Health Systems, and Nemours will talk about the Alliance's formation, goals, and implementation activities. Using the Alliance as a framework, Governor Jack Markell will share his priorities for strengthening healthcare education, research, and services. Also speaking will be Newt Gingrich, former Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives and founder of the Center for Health Transformation, an organization dedicated to developing policies that generate better health care and more healthcare options at a lower cost

"Stronger Health-Based Partnerships" is the fourth in a series of daylong conferences designed to engage government, community, and business leaders in partnerships that improve the quality of life in Delaware. It will be held at Clayton Hall on the University of Delaware's Newark campus.