Emory Report

July 24, 2000

 Volume 52, No. 38

Health Sciences

Emory hosts IT conference

By Michael Terrazas

Paul Morris saw it as a perfect fit, and it may be the beginning of a happy relationship between Emory and the Southeastern University Research Association (SURA).

When SURA, of which Emory has been a member for about three years, was looking for a site to hold its July 10­13 workshop on high-speed networking applications in the health sciences, Morris recognized an opportunity.

"Since there was no cost to us-SURA and the other sponsors paid for the whole thing-all it took from my point of view was simply attending some planning meetings," Morris said. "It seemed to be a low-cost, high-reward activity."

Not to mention an opportunity for Emory researchers and technicians to interact with counterparts from around the region on a topic of increasing interest to nearly any healthcare enterprise around. The workshop, held at the Emory Conference Center, highlighted the latest technological advances, with lectures and demonstrations to showcase innovative research and educational initiatives in health sciences.

Emory's own Tom Insel and Tom Gordon, directors of the Center for Behavioral Neuroscience and the Yerkes Primate Research Center, respectively, gave presentations on the possibilities for high-speed networking applications in their organizations.

"Sitting where I do," Gordon told conference participants, "I'm absolutely convinced that the era we're entering into is an era of science. The achievements of the last 50 years, which were incredible, will be dwarfed by the achievements of the next 50 years-but that will only happen with a true partnership between science and technology."

Other presentations centered on a range of health science applications, including an Internet2 demonstration-facilitated by Emory's own Division of Network Operations-that enabled attendees to watch and converse in real time with doctors performing surgery at Ohio State University.

"It's one thing to know in principle that people can do these things remotely," Morris said. "To actually see somebody's intestines being sliced up in living color three feet high in front of you does lend a certain reality to the process."

Max Stachura of the Medical College of Georgia and John Peifer of Georgia Tech talked about the possibilities for telemedicine in the state. Res-ponding to skepticism about whether such remote doctoring could ever replace the personal touch of a physician interacting with a patient, Stachura said such concerns were missing the point. "Telemedicine is simply another tool," he said. "It is appropriate for some healthcare situations and not for others."

Asked whether, as Emory's chief information technology officer, he came away from the conference further enlightened about any of its subjects, Morris said there were a couple of clear messages. "One is that research in health sciences is becoming increasingly collaborative, so collaboration tools will be needed that require high-speed networking. Also, healthcare delivery increasingly is going to be assisted by technology."

Morris said reviews were positive and participants appeared to enjoy both the conference's content and its surroundings. He added he would be happy for Emory to host the event again next year.

For more information, visit SURA at www.sura.org.

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