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Partnership Highlights

Through the Clemson University School of Health Research (CUSHR), faculty members at Clemson and clinicians at Greenville Health System (GHS) partner on a wide array of health research projects and educational initiatives. From apps that improve hospital communication to care strategies for drug-dependent newborns to the creation of infection-resistant surgical screws, Clemson-GHS partners are engaged in projects that build our reputation as a health research powerhouse and enhance our ability to garner external research funding. But most importantly, these projects pave the way for health care transformation and cutting-edge medical advances that make a difference in the everyday lives of patients. Highlighted in this section are examples of the ways Clemson researchers and GHS clinicians are making an impact.

“Who, what and where would I be if I’d never gone to Clemson?

Clemson University kicked off its 123rd academic year with inspirational words from Dr. Spence M. Taylor, a Clemson alumnus and president and chief academic officer of Greenville Health System Clinical University.

  • CVT — Meeting Workforce Needs

    A vital part of cardiac and vascular health care teams, diagnostic medical sonographers use imaging technology to help diagnose heart and vascular ailments. The need for such sonographers is expected to grow by 44 percent between 2010 and 2020, much faster than the average for all occupations.

    Clemson and GHS understood the importance of meeting this workforce need – and responded by developing the cardiovascular technology (CVT) leadership concentration, housed in Clemson’s public health sciences department.

    The department offers the degree in cooperation with GHS, and the program is the only one in the nation that combines CVT training with a comprehensive education in public health sciences and health care leadership. After two years of courses in public health sciences on the Clemson campus, students spend two years at GHS, working alongside sonographers, cardiologists and vascular surgeons.

    Clemson University and Greenville Health System logos

    The program’s broad public health and leadership focus gives students a keen understanding of disease process and health care management, and positions them to contribute in substantial ways to cardiac and vascular care. Upon graduation, students are prepared to enter the field as entry-level cardiovascular sonographers, or obtain jobs in industry, management or research. Wherever they land, they are equipped to become tomorrow’s leaders in health care.

  • GreenMD — Optimizing Medical Device Design

    Operated by Clemson’s Laboratory for Retrieval Research and Reprocessing of Medical Devices (RE-MED), GreenMD is an engineering research and training program focused on optimizing medical device designs for reprocessing and reuse and promoting medical device sustainability.

    Reprocessing involves cleaning, sterilizing and packaging medical devices for reuse during sequential treatments on multiple patients. It helps health care providers enhance patient care by controlling supply costs and maintaining safety and quality control. Studies have shown that up to 50 percent of health care cost related to medical devices, including their disposal as biohazardous waste, can be saved through well-executed reprocessing programs.

    Green MD at Clemson University, Clemson South CarolinaClemson’s bioengineering department, which houses RE-MED, has shown leadership in this field through faculty members involved in the analysis of medical devices that have functioned in patients. The working group includes faculty members in bioengineering, biological sciences, and the College of Business (MBA), as well as various other collaborators throughout the College of Engineering, Computing and Applied Sciences. This program has been developed in close collaboration with Steris Isomedix Services, a leader in medical device sterilization, and Stryker Sustainability Solutions, a leading third-party provider of reprocessing and remanufacturing services and recycling initiatives. 

    GreenMD also encompasses the Medical Device Recycling and Reprocessing Certificate Program curriculum offered through the Clemson bioengineering department. This unique program increases the marketability of students who seek employment in the medical device industry as they will become specialists in a new paradigm in health care.

  • Caring for Wounded Warriors


    • John DesJardins, Ph.D., Bioengineering, Clemson
    • Kyle Jeray, M.D., Orthopaedics, GHS

    Wounded Warriors Project at Clemson University

    John DesJardins, a Clemson bioengineering professor, and Kyle Jeray, an orthopedic surgeon at GHS, received a $1 million grant in 2014 from the U.S. Army to create infection-resistant surface coatings for plates and screws used to treat infection-prone fractures received in battle.

    The grant was funded through the Translational Research Partnership Award, created to partner clinicians, universities and industry to accelerate the development of novel technologies to care and treat wounded warriors. The team's industry partner is EnBIO LLC, located in Dublin, Ireland. They are also collaborating with researchers from the University of Liverpool.

    According to the Pentagon, more than 50,000 U.S. troops have been wounded in action during the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, and up to 75 percent of their injuries included broken bones caused by gunshot or blasts.

    Bones broken in this way often develop bone infections that typically require long-term use of antibiotics and a long recovery time, explains DesJardins. The implants Clemson and GHS partners are developing will deliver an antibacterial effect directly to the break to reduce the risk of infection.

    Clemson, GHS and VA unite in Conference for Warriors and Families

    Clemson University researchers, Greenville Hospital System (GHS) doctors and the Veterans Administration professionals hosted "Coming Home: Key Transition For Warriors and Families," a conference that helped military members transition to civilian life.

    The struggle of today's combat veteran to assimilate back into civilian life has been well documented, and this collaboration harnessed the collective brain power of experts to help find answers to those challenges.

    That cost is measured in the anguish combat veterans suffer as they simultaneously attempt a return to a normal life while processing their experiences at war, said retired U.S. Marine Corps Maj. Gen. Mastin Robeson, chairman of the board of Upstate Warrior Solution and conference presenter. The nonprofit mobilizes the Upstate South Carolina community around veterans to offer guidance and restore them with a sense of purpose.

    "Historically, 80 percent of those who died on the battlefield died from bleed-out," he explained. "Think about that. That is a significant number of wounded, who in prior times would come home in a box, that are coming home looking for care."

    Those numbers make collaborations between academic, welfare and health institutions aiding American's veterans more important — and more urgent — than ever before, he said.

    Read more.

  • Aging with Comfort and Dignity


    • Cheryl Dye, Ph.D., Public Health Sciences, Clemson
    • James Davis, M.D., Geriatric Medicine, GHS

    Cheryl Dye, a professor of public health sciences at Clemson, has spent the past 17 years studying the health of aging adults. Now, as director of Clemson’s Institute for Engaged Aging, she is investigating how she can help people with dementia and Alzheimer’s disease stay at home as long as possible by supporting their caregivers.

    Dye partners with Greenville Health System’s Memory Health Program, which provides comprehensive evaluations of a person’s memory health and, when needed, specialized care for the patient and plans of care for caregivers. James Davis, director of the GHS Division of Geriatrics and Palliative Medicine, leads the Memory Health Program.

    Dye thinks the stress of taking care of a loved one with Alzheimer’s Disease and Related Disorders (ADRD) is often responsible for spouses of those with dementia having a six times greater risk of developing ADRD themselves, compared to spouses of those without dementia. It can be especially difficult for male caregivers, if they are not comfortable asking for help or if they do not have experience in taking care of others.

    Dye and her colleagues at the Memory Health Program provide caregivers stress relief activities and education on how to take care of their loved ones.

    Today, 5 million people in the U.S. have ADRD, and by 2050 that number is expected to increase to 16 million. The cost for caring for people with ADRD is estimated at $214 billion in 2014, increasing to $1.2 trillion by mid-century – a figure that could negatively impact the economy and the finances of millions of families.

    There is currently no cure for ADRD, but Dye and her GHS partners teach that there are things that can be done to reduce risk.

    “What you do in your 40s and 50s will determine how well you’re going to age in your 60s and above,” explains Dye. “Exercise, healthy eating habits, not smoking, and managing hypertension and diabetes are essential for maintaining brain health through old age.”

  • Preparing Tomorrow's Bioengineers


        • John DesJardins, Ph.D., Bioengineering, Clemson
        • Eugene Langan III, M.D., Vascular Surgery, GHS

    In Greenville Health System operating rooms, Clemson undergraduate design teams shadow surgeons to identify surgical tools and devices that could be made better, safer or more effective. The teams then design and develop novel solutions, and many move their creations forward to actual products that will enhance health care nationwide.

    “Having this kind of access to doctors and health care facilities is an amazing opportunity for our students,” says John DesJardins, associate professor of bioengineering at Clemson. “The experience our students get through this GHS partnership produces exceptional thinkers, leaders and entrepreneurs. They leave here knowing what it takes to solve problems and to get their solutions to market.”

    Preparing Tomorrow's Bioengineers at Clemson University, Clemson South Carolina

    The bioengineering student teams have won several national awards, and recently the Clemson-GHS design partnership received grants totaling $250,000 from the National Institutes of Health and the National Collegiate Inventors and Innovators Alliance to expand their medical device design programs.

    “This Clemson-GHS collaboration is vital to creating the tools and devices necessary to address real-world health care needs,” says Eugene Langan, chair of the GHS Department of Surgery. “The discoveries made through our unique doctor-designer relationship will produce innovative solutions that improve patient care in our community and beyond.”

  • Improving Care and Cutting Cost Through Technology


    • Kevin Taaffe, Ph.D., Industrial Engineering, Clemson
    • Lawrence Fredendall, Ph.D., Management, Clemson
    • Gilbert Ritchie, Ph.D., Anesthesiology, GHS
    • Wendell James III, M.D., Anesthesiology, GHS

    Today, health care professionals are charged with a tremendous challenge – to reduce costs and continue to provide high-quality patient care. Partners at Clemson and GHS are developing new technology that will improve communication between hospital staff and help drive their decisions. The result: better care, greater efficiency.

    The technology, now being delivered in a smartphone app, tracks each patient from pre-op through the operating room to post-op, so that each area knows what’s happening in the other. The goal is to enhance cooperation and coordination between staff within and across perioperative departments.

    “This is hugely important in running an OR because one delay can create a domino effect that can impact an entire day’s surgery schedule. Our objective is to not waste time or resources if we can prevent it,” says Wendell James, medical director of perioperative services and chair of the GHS anesthesiology department.

    The app also reminds staff of the tasks that must be done at each step and checks off each as they are accomplished.

    “This is what helps in decision-making,” explains Kevin Taaffe, industrial engineering professor and principal investigator of this project. “The app reminds staff what they need to do, what is left to be done, and if they are causing a delay in the process.”

    The project proposes to create a framework using a combination of mobile technology, learning systems, data analytics, education and training. The smart app will also be used as teaching and training tools to provide instruction on workflow management techniques across a variety of fields, including business, engineering, science and health care.

  • Prenatal Care — in Community


    • Liwei Chen, M.D., Ph.D., Public Health Sciences, Clemson
    • Amy Picklesimer, M.D., Obstetrics and Gynecology, GHS

    Does group prenatal care positively affect expectant mothers and their babies? Chen, Clemson assistant professor of public health sciences, and Picklesimer, maternal fetal specialist at GHS, are working together to explore that very question.

    The duo is investigating the biomedical, behavioral and psychosocial outcomes by race of pregnant women who participate in Centering Pregnancy, an innovative model of group prenatal care, and comparing them to women involved in traditional, individual prenatal care. At the same time, they are finding out if women’s stress, activation and engagement will explain the potential benefits of group prenatal care on outcomes and health disparities. 

    Picklesimer and her team will also implement the Centering Pregnancy group prenatal care model with providers across the state, while Chen and her colleagues evaluate the participants’ health outcomes.

    If the results from their collaboration show that Centering Pregnancy care participation creates better maternal and infant health outcomes and lower pre-term birth rates than conventional, individual prenatal care, it will inform best practices for prenatal care, both in terms of quality and cost.

    “Our collaboration will definitely help to show how we can improve maternal and infant outcomes in primary care,” Chen says.

  • Palliative Care for Narcotic-Dependent Newborns


    • Rachel Mayo, Ph.D., Public Health Sciences, Clemson
    • Lori Dickes, Ph.D., Strom Thurmond Institute, Clemson
    • Windsor Westbrook Sherrill, Ph.D., Public Health Sciences, Clemson
    • Liwei Chen, M.D., Ph.D., Public Health Sciences, Clemson
    • Jennifer Hudson, M.D., Pediatrics, GHS

    neonatal abstinence study highlight

    Babies aren’t supposed to be born addicted to drugs. But over the past 15 years, narcotic use among women during pregnancy has increased dramatically – and so has the number of babies with neonatal abstinence syndrome (NAS), the group of medical issues newborns experience while withdrawing from in-utero drug exposure. Such symptoms include apnea, seizures, irritability, sleeplessness, skin abrasions and weight loss.

    In traditional NAS care models, providers manage babies’ NAS symptoms in the neonatal intensive care unit and observe them to see if symptoms warrant the use of the medical therapy medications, waiting that could mean days of discomfort and separation from their parents.

    Jennifer Hudson, medical director for newborn services at the GHS Children’s Hospital, envisioned a different way to treat NAS babies, and has put that treatment into place over the past eight years.

    In this palliative treatment model, babies receive medication at birth and go home after one week of hospitalization. Home-visiting nurses and outpatient physicians monitor the babies and mothers during medication weaning at home over a four-week period.

    Hudson has seen that newborns and families are thriving under this model, but only has anecdotal evidence to show its effectiveness. So she, along with Rachel Mayo, professor of public health sciences at Clemson, are beginning research to examine the safety, efficacy and economic impact of this palliative treatment model. The S.C. Department of Health and Human Services is funding the research with a $1.3 million grant.

    Mayo will study the health outcomes of babies who received palliative care under Hudson, and compare those outcomes with those of babies who received traditional care at hospitals around the state. Mayo will look at health factors as well as long-term developmental and family outcomes.

    “This research has the potential to impact two lives – both mom and baby – and that has great implications for whole families and communities,” Mayo said.