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Grant Will Help ODU, EVMS Build on Decade-Long Collaboration in Medical M&S

A $600,000 grant from the commonwealth of Virginia's Office of Economic Adjustment (OEA) will help the National Center for Collaboration in Medical Modeling and Simulation (NCCMMS) - a joint venture of Eastern Virginia Medical School (EVMS) and Old Dominion University's Virginia Modeling, Analysis and Simulation Center (VMASC) - extend its partnership in medical modeling and simulation into vital new areas.

Founded in 2001 as a joint venture of EVMS and ODU, NCCMMS has worked in several areas of medical M&S collaboration, including creating an informational database specific to medical modeling and simulation available online at www.medicalmodsim.com. The center has also helped encourage collaboration between the physicians of EVMS and the engineers of ODU and VMASC.

The center is under the co-direction of C. Donald Combs, vice president and dean with the School of Health Professions at EVMS, and John Sokolowski, executive director of VMASC.

"We are focused on making Hampton Roads, and specifically ODU and EVMS, the nationwide leaders in medical modeling and simulation technology, training and research," Sokolowski said. "The components to make this happen are already in place." The opportunities are immense. "The U.S. spends over $2.7 trillion on health care," said Combs. "That's more than the rest of the world spends, combined, and our system isn't ranked No. 1." Combs noted that medical modeling and simulation is one technology that can help to reduce costs and improve patient safety by reducing medical errors and ensuring career-long procedural competence.

The NCCMMS recently established a Board of Advisors, which provides expert advice from nationally recognized, interdisciplinary leaders in medical M&S and related fields. The board is focused on growing the capability, capacity and impact of NCCMMS, locally and nationally.

With this new OEA grant, NCCMMS is investing in two initiatives to help position this region as the leader in medical modeling and simulation research and information sharing.

The first initiative is the Laboratory for Investigation, Validation and Verification of Emerging Simulators (LIVES). LIVES aims to be the Consumer Reports of medical modeling and simulation devices and software, providing independent testing and assessment so medical entities have an unbiased view of these kinds of tools. This is a service not currently provided within the medical community. The goal is for the users and purchasers of these devices to purchase the reports provided by LIVES. "LIVES is critical to ensuring that medical simulator investment decisions are influenced by unbiased fact," said Combs. "Purchasing the right medical training simulator to meet your needs will ultimately result in improved patient safety, which is our main emphasis." NCCMMS is currently developing the testing process and protocols to evaluate medical simulators.

The grant funding also established The SimLab, a new research laboratory that aims to act as a hub for collaborative medical modeling and simulation research. It is modeled on The Media Lab at Massachusetts Institute of Technology. The SimLab will conduct basic research in medical M&S in order to solve problems presented by the sponsoring membership of industry partners and the medical community at large. The facility will also seek to commercialize their research, further fostering partnerships between academia and the private sector.

The timing of the OEA grant could not have been better. The M&S industry in Hampton Roads has for the past decade been focused on diversifying modeling and simulation research away from its beginning domain of military applications into a host of multidisciplinary fields - from transportation, to health care, to emergency preparedness.

With more than 10 years of collaboration already in place between researchers from ODU and EVMS, leading to numerous innovations such as the virtual operating room and virtual pathology stethoscope, this region is poised to play a significant role in the introduction of even more modeling and simulation innovations into the $2.7 trillion annually that the United States spends on health care.

NCCMMS is seeking to provide a vital resource in helping this country use its health care dollars more efficiently and effectively.

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