Conference Spotlights UM’s Leadership in Healthcare Technology

UM alumna and Olympic athlete Lauryn Williams and Lee Kaplan, M.D., professor of orthopaedics and Director of the UHealth Sports Performance and Wellness Institute, joined for a presentation on UM’s advances in the prevention and treatment of athletic injuries at last week’s eMerge Americas Techweek Expo and Summit in Miami Beach.

Appearing in a session titled “Technology & Sports Medicine: The UHealth Sports Institute Perspective,” the pair discussed UHealth’s innovations and Williams’ own experience as a patient. When Williams, the runner-turned-bobsledder, who introduced herself first, held up her gold and silver medals, she drew applause and loud cheers from the audience.

When it was Kaplan’s turn, he simply said, “I’m Lauryn’s friend.”

Kaplan said his field is changing dramatically. “In South Florida, we see 70-year-olds who are like 45-year-olds were 10 to 15 years ago,” he said. “People have high expectations for what they should be able to do physically. Our first concern is to keep people from getting hurt, but once they’re hurt how do we evaluate the processes necessary to bring them back? ”

The answer, he said, comes from advances in the ability to measure physical wellness — what Kaplan called a fitness snapshot. “We can now perform baseline tests to see where an individual is, not just in terms of fitness but also biomechanically,” he said. “Then we can apply numerical values. This helps us work with people to optimize their performance. But if the person has an injury, we also know what level we have to get them back to.”

Therapy is often a team effort, Kaplan said. “At UM, we’re translating research from the bench to the bedside. We’re working with experts in stem cells, physical therapy, strength conditioning, nutrition and genetic factors that influence arthritis or cartilage damage.”

Williams offered the patient perspective, explaining the frustrations of being an athlete who gets hurt. “I’m not a doctor, and I often don’t know how to explain what’s wrong, other than saying something like, ‘My knee hurts,’ when the pain really may be coming from somewhere else. Dr. Kaplan was the first doctor I spoke to who really listened and broke down the chain to determine where my pain was coming from.”

The sports medicine presentation was part of a significant UM presence at eMerge Americas. In the exhibit area, a large number of professors, researchers and technicians shared UM’s booth. Some of the health and fitness assessments Kaplan described were available to attendees, allowing them to measure body fat, bone density, metabolic and cardiovascular rates, and musculoskeletal development. All are part of the new Guardrails Prevention program to promote healthy behaviors and prevent chronic diseases. The Center on Aging and the William Lehman Injury Research Center also had exhibit space.

One of the most popular “people” in the booth was Harvey, the patient simulator normally found in the Miller School’s Michael S. Gordon Center for Research in Medical Education. Created by the center’s namesake and first introduced in 1968 as a training tool for physicians, medical students, and emergency responders, Harvey used to operate with cams and levers. Now, sophisticated actuators and switches are used to operate the mannequin, explained Oscar Rodriguez, clinical core instructor at the Gordon Center.

UM TeleHealth featured the videoconferencing technology that allows physicians who may be hundreds or even thousands of miles away from their patients to render diagnosis and recommend treatments via live videoconferencing and high-speed networks. “The benefit of telemedicine is that it increases access to services in any geographic area,” said Anne Burdick, M.D., MPH, Associate Dean for Telehealth and Clinical Outreach and a professor of dermatology.

UM TeleHealth, for example, provides dermatological care for ship-based staff of Carnival and Royal Caribbean Cruise lines, and also offers dermatology, nutrition, and psychiatric services for the Dr. John T. Macdonald Foundation School Health Initiative, a partnership with the Miller School to provide primary care for children in the North Miami Beach, North Miami, and Overtown feeder school patterns.

In other seminar presentations, Norma Kenyon, Ph.D., the Miller School’s Chief Innovation Officer and UM’s Vice Provost for Innovation, moderated a discussion on protecting intellectual patent rights in a global economy; Richard M. Awdeh, M.D., assistant professor of ophthalmology, spoke on new healthcare business models; and Steven G. Ullmann, Ph.D., Director of the Center for Health Sector Management and Policy, moderated a discussion on transformation and innovation in healthcare that included UM President Donna E. Shalala.

“We’re going to have robots that go from room to room at night in a hospital checking on patients,” Shalala said, but she predicted a much greater variety of uses for handheld devices, like the smartphone she uses to see if her 103-year-old mother is in bed. “We’re going to have handheld devices that actually can do the examination in someone’s home and transfer the data to experts,” she said. “It’s this handheld technology that’s going to transform the way in which we analyze data to provide services.”

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