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CRISPR Babies and an Interprofessional Future

In imagining our future in clinical health, we have two particular challenges.

1. We need to envision the future that we want.

2. We need to anticipate the problems in the future that we do not want, but to which we will need to respond.

In five years, our students will have a new building, and our faculty will have implemented interprofessional curriculum. A new era of care will be in place. We will see health professionals working together. Care will focus not on its source—pharmacy, audiology, social work, nutrition, nursing, dental care, physical therapy, optometry, mental health, legal assistance, medical care, companion animal support, etc.—but on the patient’s needs. At whatever point the patient enters the system, we can pull together a coordinated plan of care to restore that patient to the best health and function possible.

We will have a user-friendly healthcare model that focuses on prevention rather than disease

We will offer science-based, cutting-edge care, and we will deliver it with compassion. Care will be based on value to the patient rather than costs or computer models. Concurrently, costs will be decreased. Communities across Minnesota will receive the highest and most innovative kind of care delivered up close by professionals of our training—professionals who live and work in those communities—and from a distance with telehealth and telemedicine that can reach the most remote locations.

That is the future I envision and ask you to help shape, define, and realize.

Next week there will be the final presidential meeting of the AHC reconstruction implementation plan, and that should give us a clear starting point for 2019. One of the first steps, posting the description for the Associate VP in the Office of Academic Clinical Affairs, has been taken. This role is key to our partnership with the EVPP and OVPR, and I hope that faculty from across the University will consider applying for this position.

The priorities of the OACA are:

  • Broad engagement of students and faculty and staff across the University

  • Enhancement of community and provider partnerships

  • Expansion of interprofessional clinical training opportunities

  • Advancement of interdisciplinary clinical research

As for challenges in our interprofessional future, one of the most unnerving ones surfaced last week at a scientific meeting in Hong Kong: gene-edited babies. Although it is still unknown if this actually occurred, a scientist in China claims to have used CRISPR technology in twin embryos to deactivate a gene and possibly confer resistance to HIV/AIDS. If he truly did this, there are a myriad of concerns, not least of which that it was done without the normal human research or ethical protections of his subjects.

It is only a matter of time before we will have to respond to this or other complex societal issues because universities are one of the very few places that have the scope and depth to handle them. We will need our interprofessional connections in place to create effective, broad-based university groups that span all the expertise needed, from law to social work to education to politics to basic science to medical device development to ethics.

These are the challenges we are working to meet as we create an organization that can respond to a future that will be different and unpredictable in all ways but one: that we continue to serve the state and people of Minnesota as part of our land-grant mission.

We will have a user-friendly healthcare model that focuses on prevention rather than disease.

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