Today’s challenges in healthcare cannot be met by researchers working alone in their specialties. Dramatic change in diagnostics and treatments for complex diseases and medical conditions requires technological readiness and imaginative leaps – transformative improvements, not incremental advances. Meaningful results require close collaborations among innovative clinicians, engineers and physical scientists.
To meet these formidable challenges, CIMIT founders created a new paradigm in translational research, a model for innovation connecting the clinical and academic research communities: a network of scientists in medicine, biology, chemistry, mathematics, engineering, physics and industry, each with a passion to reach beyond traditional research and deliver revolutionary outcomes.
A dozen years ago, a few highly motivated Boston-area physicians and technology innovators became convinced that the breakthroughs in modern technology could, and should, deliver more effective solutions for unmet needs in patient care. Promising new tools and technologies for healthcare were taking too long to be developed and integrated into medical practice. Their fundamental belief was that with the guidance of forward-looking clinical champions, cutting-edge technologies from the worlds of entertainment, communications and defense systems could be put to effective use in healthcare. With the signature support of the four founding institutions, these visionaries created CIMIT in 1998, a new kind of consortium designed to accelerate the pace of research and development by leveraging technological expertise – from industry or academia – for targeted medical applications.
THE FOUR HORSEMEN
At the earliest days, what would eventually evolve into CIMIT was a very specific and focused concept. Four innovative clinicians found that they shared a desire to advance the use of technology for minimally invasive surgery in their respective disciplines of radiology, obstetrics, gastroenterology and general surgery. These visionaries became known by their colleagues as The Four Horsemen - Steve Dawson, MD; Keith Isaacson, MD; Norm Nishioka, MD; and David Rattner, MD.
All were deeply embedded in clinical practice, each confronting a similar challenge: how to develop more advanced endoscopic tools, imaging devices and other novel technologies that each could utilize in their individual specialties. Innovators by nature, these future leaders were revolutionaries for their time. They wanted to explore a non-traditional approach to research – building collaborative teams of clinicians and engineers to solve complex medical challenges.
“Medicine must look beyond its traditional borders, take the good from other disciplines and apply those ideas to healthcare,” is how Steve Dawson described their shared beliefs.
Word spread and before long, these Four Horsemen attracted others who believed in the power of a multidisciplinary approach to solve complex medical challenges. In due course their weekly meetings became the Forum, a place where like-minded entrepreneurial clinicians could explore novel approaches to engineering-based solutions.
“We had ideas on how to use technology better and how to cross disciplines, as everything in medicine was very silo-oriented. Through this group we began to reach outside our own traditional boundaries and cross-train each other,” is how David Rattner described the early days leading to the founding of CIMIT.
Together these four crafted a roadmap – a proposal for a multidisciplinary consortium designed to transform healthcare through technology. It would become a core element of the framework for the CIMIT model.
ESTABLISHING THE CIMIT CONSORTIUM
At the same time a powerful white paper emerged out of a MGH-sponsored taskforce on the Future of Medicine organized and led by John Parrish, MD and Ronald Newbower, PhD. That report called for a “place where ideas and people could meet, form teams and receive financial support to achieve their goals.” Dr. Parrish was one the most senior academic-physician leaders amongst the heads of MGH’s clinical departments and its major research centers. Dr. Newbower was one of the most senior Ph.D.’s at MGH, as its Sr. V.P for Research and Technology. Together they had experienced both the joy and the power of MD-Ph.D. collaboration in many efforts.
Their concept envisioned an organization to provide seed funding for early-stage, high-risk ideas leveraged by the experience of commercialization experts to facilitate the progress of these newly formed multidisciplinary teams. Dr. Parrish’s reputation as a successful creator of multidisciplinary, technology-based research consortia at MGH and his track record for attracting major industry and government support, together with Dr. Newbower’s influence within the administrative and budgetary leadership of MGH, Partners and MIT, enabled the creation of this new organization focused on translational research — CIMIT. The joining of these parallel efforts by experienced clinical champions and innovative technology visionaries gave CIMIT its start.
At the earliest days, what would evolve into CIMIT was an idea. Four innovative clinicians shared a desire to advance the use of technology for minimally invasive surgery in their respective disciplines of radiology, obstetrics, gastroenterology and general surgery. These visionaries became known as The Four Horsemen.