Published on Monday, October 13, 2014
Mayo Clinic, looking to expand its research options and partner with other medical facilities across the globe, began a decades-long collaboration in the 1990s with the University of Mississippi Medical Center.
Now, more than 20 years later, Mississippi’s leading medical research facility and one of the world’s most renowned health-care centers have expanded that collaboration, signing a formal agreement to partner on clinical trials, medical research and education.
Kidney-disease sufferers in Mississippi and beyond will benefit from the work he’s doing hand-in-hand with Mayo researchers, said Dr. Luis Juncos, professor of nephrology.
Juncos said Mayo Clinic also will have access to Mississippi’s diverse population and myriad medical histories.
“They don’t have many African-Americans” in their patient base, he said, adding that lack of diversity hinders research on diseases that affect that population.
Dr. Karl Nath, a longtime collaborator with Juncos, will be able to further his research into sickle cell disease by working even more closely with his UMMC counterparts. The blood disorder affects more than 2,000 of the state’s African-Americans, according to Mississippi Sickle Cell Foundation estimates.
“He does a lot of basic research in sickle cell disease,” said Juncos. “This collaboration is going to help us translate basic research to humans with sickle cell disease.”
Nath said the opportunity to study sickle cell in a human setting allows researchers to better understand the disease and provide “hopefully a better insight into treating this disease and its complications.”
The strengthened agreement, signed Sept. 30 at Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, builds on a 2010 memorandum of understanding that initiated the first formal bond between the centers. This expansion puts UMMC on the map as one of only a handful of medical institutions with such a deep commitment to shared research with Mayo.
“Beyond that, though, Mayo Clinic is the strongest brand in health care worldwide,” said Dr. Dan Jones, University of Mississippi chancellor. “We will benefit from the opportunity to apply Mayo-type approaches to management of a large, public health-care enterprise such as ours.
“We look forward to the prospect that both partners will learn, grow and perhaps influence other public academic medical centers through this relationship.”
Juncos said his ongoing projects with Mayo researchers benefit patients, including Mississippians diagnosed with renal artery stenosis – the narrowing of the artery that brings blood to the kidneys. Patients could travel to Mayo Clinic for studies that require specialized imaging equipment not available here, he said.
That will help expand research, so there will be more support for UMMC to accelerate interactions with patients, added Juncos.
“It will also help us establish some of the techniques that they use at Mayo Clinic here at UMMC,” he said.
More educational options for new doctors and more clinical research trials are planned, thanks to the stronger pact between UMMC and Mayo Clinic.
For example, Juncos said, a program at the clinic trains doctors in treating kidney disease.
“We’re able to get people who are interested from here, who qualify, to go up to Mayo and spend two years and train there,” he said. “Likewise, some of their candidates will be able to come and train with us in areas where we have more expertise.”
It’s obvious, Juncos said, that Mayo Clinic’s partnership brings prestige to UMMC.
“I think overall as an institution, it’s going to help create new ties and new collaborations between investigators. We’ll also have the benefit of learning from them on certain programs.”
The resources, expertise and unique population make UMMC a well-suited and complementary collaborator with Mayo Clinic, said Nath.
“I think there are aspects to UMMC that are truly exceptional,” he said. “I think they’ve got one of the leading and highly recognized departments of physiology in the United States.”
Dr. James E. Keeton, vice chancellor for health affairs, signed the historic agreement on the Mayo campus in Rochester.
“Mayo Clinic is the gold standard among academic medical centers worldwide,” Keeton said. “Strengthening our partnership is a huge win for Mississippi.”
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