VC Notes Archive Office of the Vice Chancellor
Friday, October 22, 2021

The Valuable MS and MN Connection

Good morning!

The mighty Mississippi River starts in Minnesota and flows more than 1,000 miles on its journey to our state. For generations, it had carried resources, served as a testing ground for science and innovation, and connected people across long distances. That’s still the case, but today the Mississippi-Minnesota links are stronger than ever, thanks to one of UMMC’s most significant partnerships.

The Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota is one of the premier health institutions in the world, and we are proud to be their partner in a number of initiatives aimed to improve clinical care, research and education at both of our institutions. Today, I want to highlight some of the shining points in our relationship and the places where we plan to grow.

First, a bit of background: In 2010, UMMC and Mayo signed a formal agreement to increase our research cooperation. Four years later, we expanded that collaboration. However, our relationship goes back even further. The Genetic Epidemiology Network of Arteriopathy study, GENOA for short, started in 1995 with participants from Rochester and Jackson recruited by our institutions. This work contributed to the creation of The MIND Center at UMMC, now a leader in Alzheimer’s disease research and clinical care. In coming months, we will be announcing the  launch of multiple collaborative research projects with Mayo, including the UMMC MIND Center-Mayo Clinic Study of Aging, which will seek new ways to predict, diagnose and prevent Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia.

VC_Oct_22_MayoAnother star in the UMMC-Mayo relationship is the UMMC Biobank, where we keep blood and tissue samples that can be used for research studies. Through the affiliation agreement, our two biobanks loan each other samples from our respective collections to increase the resources available to each campus. We have facilitated or are exploring joint research opportunities using biobank samples focused on asthma, colorectal cancers, bipolar disorders and other diseases. This work is possible through our “mothership” biobanking project with Mayo: Biobank Mississippi. This study aims to collect blood samples and health data from 10,000 consenting patients and makes them available to Mayo Clinic and UMMC for research on precision medicine and other areas of interest. Volunteering for this research study is a way for anyone at UMMC to participate in our Mayo affiliation! (Email for information.)

We have also built infrastructure and programs that will foster our clinical research ventures. UMMC’s Clinical Research and Trials Unit gives us a physical space to carry out this work. We’ve adapted Mayo’s research staff training to meet UMMC’s needs. Offering a standardized course modeled after the strong program Mayo uses allows investigators and their teams to work together more easily.

As part of our Strategic Plan, UMMC is also considering ways we can leverage Mayo’s relative expertise in cancer care, informatics and marketing to meet our long-term goals.

Even a world-renowned system like the Mayo Clinic has room for growth and improvement, and that’s where UMMC’s unique strengths make this a mutually beneficial partnership. When we first launched this endeavor, Mayo cited our Department of Physiology and Biophysics and our health disparities research, such as the ARIC Study and the Jackson Heart Study, as selling points for our affiliation. This is still the case, and now UMMC has additional points of pride. For instance, UMMC started using Epic as its electronic health record system years before the Mayo Clinic did. Our experience in this regard helped Mayo when they made their own transition to Epic.

UMMC also brings our Center for Telehealth to the table. As one of only two National Centers for Telehealth Excellence in the U.S., our program serves as a bridge connecting patients and health care teams across space. The Mayo Clinic is interested in learning from our renowned program and implementing those lessons. Likewise, UMMC can use telehealth as a tool to have real clinical engagement with Mayo Clinic specialists without having to leave Mississippi. We are especially interested in harnessing the power of Telehealth to augment our obstetrical and maternal-fetal medicine programs.

Our strong and growing collaboration with Mayo Clinic is a point of pride, but I’m especially proud that the relationship is symbiotic. It’s fantastic that they value us as much as we value them. As we look back on the last 11 years and forward to the next ones, I am confident that this flow of knowledge, resources and experience will help us create A Healthier Mississippi.

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