Tampa Embraces Advance Collaboration to Further Florida Health Care Economic Development
Dr. Stuart Hart, medical director of the Tampa Bay Research and Innovation Center, calls his organization the “model of the future.”
In the room is a collection of top talent across academia, medicine and private industry, all focused on a single objective: shortening the time it takes to develop medical devices.
Welcome to the Center for Advanced Medical Learning and Simulation (CAMLS) in downtown Tampa, where this hub is one of four technology-infused centers of experimentation, creation and uber sophisticated thinking outside the box.
The three-story, 90,000-square-foot CAMLS, affiliated with the University of South Florida, also includes the Surgical and Interventional Training Center; the Virtual Patient Care Center; and the Education Center. CAMLS (pronounced camels) opened in February 2012, with Hart’s Research and Innovation Center the newest addition, having opened last spring.
Hart works with a multidisciplinary team of health care providers and engineers to assist medical device companies during the entire product lifecycle—from device conceptualization, development and pre-clinical/validation testing through sales force and health care provider training.
“I really think it’s the model of the future,” he says. “Academicians working in silos and industry working in silos—I don’t think is the best method for medical device development and for future technology development. I think we all have to work together. It’s all about the team approach. It’s all about collaborations.”
Hart and his associates actively search among industry leaders for partnerships. They also identify other experts and work with groups like the Food and Drug Administration on regulatory approval. Plus, they engage university faculty to gather data with the goal of seamless access to realistic health care environments.
The divergent parts combine to create synergy.
“It’s extremely entrepreneurial…you can get the work that would take many months done in one week,” he says. “I am sure there’s a business model somewhere out there [like this]. But I really haven’t found it. When industry hears about it, they’re so intrigued that it can work within an academic environment, while still being more of an industry setting.
“Typically, in an academic environment if a company wants to work with the university, the company gives the university a grant, some research may be done and [the company] may get some product at the end. We are very different in that we function more like a private entity. We are really a private/public partnership.”
Talk about realistic health care environments. The Surgical and Interventional Training Center houses a surgical skills lab with more than 30 operating stations; an on-site tissue bank; a robotics suite with two da Vinci robots (S and Si); a synthetic cadaver; and a 64-slice CT scanner. Also, a hybrid catheterization lab/operating room, the first such training facility in the world, is designed to allow health professionals to move from performing an interventional procedure to open surgery in the same setting without patients having to go through the additional risk of a time-consuming move.
Another first-of-its-kind trauma operating room can change settings to suit different training purposes, from providing soothing light and sounds for a complex surgery to mimicking the noise of an urban emergency department and even the desert light and explosive noises of the battlefield environment faced by combat medics.
CAMLS uses innovative simulation technology and robotics to enable students, doctors and residents to practice the latest surgical techniques in a safe environment.
Additionally, there is integration or, using Hart’s description, no silos.
Dr. Deborah Sutherland, CEO of CAMLS, points to international interest in CAMLS’ innovation.
All of this is happening right according to plan, cites Dr. Deborah Sutherland, CEO of CAMLS. Industry partners are engaged. Specialty medical societies are using the facilities. Local hospitals and health care systems are receiving assistance. Students are learning. A Department of Defense combat defense training grant is in place. Medical insurers and medical malpractice providers are developing pilot projects for high-risk specialties.
And that’s only a sampling.
One result: a big economic win for Tampa Bay. CAMLS’ first fiscal year brought 12,900 room nights to local hotels, and related discretionary spending was tabbed at close to $3 million. A total of 14,000 visitors arrived in year one.
“Everything that we had planned for is now in place. “Everyone that we expected to be here is here, and they’re coming back,” she says.
Sutherland is quick to point out there are even people she didn’t expect. The organic growth that has emerged, particularly from overseas, has been a surprise. After visiting, some want to return home and implement the CAMLS concept. “I never thought I would be talking about international expansion in the first year of operation,” Sutherland offers.
A feasibility study was conducted for Panama. Two feasibility studies are pending for Brazil. A group from India was scheduled to visit as well. There are serious conversations with the American University of Beirut. Each country is interested in a licensing agreement with CAMLS, where facility development and course content would be developed by CAMLS and made available. “That’s the way we’re heading,” says Sutherland.
Like the activity within its walls, CAMLS is in a continual state of discovery, Sutherland contends: “We are always evaluating and looking at new opportunities for research and training. … This has been a journey, an evolution.”