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ISU and OSF formalize partnership in health care research

ISU OSF sign agreement
Eric Stock
ISU interim president Aondover Tarhule, left, and OSF HealthCare CEO Bob Sehring signed an agreement for the Connected Communities Initiative as ISU's Crag McLauchlan, upper left, and OSF's John Vozenilek look on.

OSF HealthCare and Illinois State University have formed a new partnership called the Connected Communities Initiative.

The partnership aims to find solutions to improve access to health care and meet social needs that contribute to health and wellness through research.

“This is truly historic as we take on and accept the responsibility to continue to strengthen our community for the benefit of all of us and beyond,” ISU interim president Aondover Tarhule said during a news conference at OSF St. Joseph Medical Center in Bloomington.

Both ISU and OSF will contribute $500,000 annually toward research and development for health care delivery, and patient and provider experience.

“I’m in wonder of the tremendous opportunities that exist for Illinois State and OSF to come together significantly in these areas,” said John Vozenilek, vice president and chief marketing officer for innovation and digital health at OSF HealthCare.

“It will all be about the people. The institutions will provide structure and funding and connection perhaps, but the people together are the ones that are going to make the changes that secure our future.”

The collaboration will bring together clinicians, university faculty researchers, and students to focus on clinical and patient education, health care engineering, data science and cybersecurity.

While collaborating with one another for years, the partnership formally establishes the collaborative efforts of OSF and ISU.

“Now what’s so exciting about today, and what’s so exciting about this agreement, is that it formalizes the collaboration that we’ve had for many years,” said CEO of OSF HealthCare Bob Sehring. “It recognizes the idea that together, we can spur innovation that turns ideas into solutions that will transform health care.”

Craig McLauchlan is the associate vice president for research and graduate studies at Illinois State University.

“It’s about community partnerships,” McLauchlan said. “In communities like ours, we overlap a lot. We have a lot of people that have a neighbor, or have a colleague, etc., and they have a crazy idea when they’re out and about and then they just say, ‘Oh I’d love to work on that,’ so that’s been going on for a long time.”

McLauchlan said the collaborations could lead to curriculum additions at ISU and work with each of the colleges on campus. He noted the Wonsook Kim College of Fine Arts because of its expertise in virtual, augmented and extended reality.

“I can see all of our colleges and all of our departments being involved, if we are creative enough,” McLauchlan said.

Vozenelik said the research will provide an economic boost by fostering investment, possibly through new businesses and nonprofits that can use more precise data to address health care needs.

"This is going to be beautifully messy, and together we will find and invest in the best solutions for our community," he said.

Megan Spoerlein was a reporting intern at WGLT.
Eric Stock is the News Director at WGLT. You can contact Eric at ejstoc1@ilstu.edu.