Connectivity, Globalization, Capacity, Service, Outreach are just a few of the words that can be used to describe Medical University of South Carolina president Dr. Ray Greenberg’s vision for the school.
Q: How is MUSC currently operating as a “Globally Connected” University at this time?
A key part of our strategic plan is to expand our global outreach. Basically it’s recognizing the fact the world is now a small community and we have a connectedness to people, and cultures and systems around the world, so we’re trying to do that in all aspects of our activity. For example on the educational front; so many of the pharmaceutical, clinical trials are being off-shored to India, and probably soon China and the rest of Asia, yet they don’t really have the workforce there that’s been trained in the scientific underpinnings of doing good clinical trials research. So we’ve taken our Master of Science in Clinical Research Degree Program, which was only offered on our campus to our own folks, to train them, and we’re now taking that to India, to Singapore and soon I hope to China, where there will be huge important audiences for us to get that MUSC education out to. At the same time from a research point of view, if you look at partnerships that we can develop in say China, just the sheer numbers of patients that you have with sometimes uncommon conditions, it would be very difficult to study here. It becomes much easier to do it in a country where numbers are not a problem. That’s a great opportunity from a research point of view. And then from a service point of view, we have lots of outreach. There’s a program we have in Africa where we’ve partnered with Ghana, Tanzania; a number of countries where we’re trying to build capacity. For years there have been medical missions where people from the United States have gone and provided services for some period of time, often a month, then they’ve disappeared and all they’ve done is help a few people. They haven’t created the capacity to change a culture. And I think we’re recognizing today, we should be focused on training the people within the country to better be able to serve the needs of their population so that when we’re not there the services can be continued.
Q: Many agree that there are longstanding disparities in health care in our state. Some don’t believe they can be changed. What can MUSC do to help address some of these disparities in South Carolina?
We (South Carolinians) think the problems are so big, they’re insurmountable. They’ve been there for decades, if not centuries; there’s no hope of addressing them. I think that’s the first myth. The second myth is even if they’re changeable one person can’t make that much of a difference. The state created the Endowed Chairs Program almost a decade ago now and the idea was to recruit into South Carolina some of the best minds in the country that would help drive our economy forward. One of the people we ended up attracting to(MUSC) was Dr. Robert Adams. He came to us from Georgia and he’s a stroke specialist. At the time South Carolina had the highest death rate from stroke in the world; certainly the highest in the United States.
Q: What was this time period?
Late 90’s; early part of this century. What Dr. Adams had done was, he set up a network where the stroke specialist at the academic institution would be available through telemedicine to be connected to rural emergency departments, so that when a patient came in with a stroke they could immediately get connected to the specialist who would then help the local doctor figure out what tests needed to be done and most importantly, get initiated definitive treatment as quickly as possible. A stroke is really a race against time So you want to get that treatment started very quickly at the first place the patient shows up. This telemedicine network that Dr. Adams basically, singlehandedly assembled in South Carolina has the Medical University at its core, its so called hub, and its spokes go out to 15 hospitals, particularly smaller rural hospitals in the I-95 corridor This program has been in place now for four or five years, over 3000 consultations have taken place, over 500 patients have gotten state-of-the-art treatment who wouldn’t have gotten it before, and now the death rate from stroke (has decreased). We’re still barely in the top 10, but that’s a dramatic change in less than a decade from the number 3 cause of death and certainly one of our leading health problems in the state. Technology is not the answer to all of our problems, but it can be an important connection. Fundamentally telemedicine removes geography as a barrier to getting the best care possible. It should never matter today whether you live in Charleston, Kingstree, Moncks Corner, or Lake City, you should have access to the best specialists that are available. Technology can bridge the geography and that I believe is a huge promise particularly to the rural parts of our state.
Q: How far are we from being at the maximum of providing that telemedicine service?
We are a far ways away from being at the maximum The positive spin on this is that I’ve had conversations with some of our legislative leaders and I think for the first time they will help appropriate money that will help expand the telemedicine effort in this state. Just as other states have done.