Some experts are linking ongoing research and medical advancements directly to health care innovations and improvements in the economy throughout the state.
According to Tom Still, president of the Wisconsin Technology Council, Wisconsin can attribute much of its success in medical advancements to the University of Wisconsin-Madison, which has ranked among the top five research universities in the country for the past few decades. Along with the Madison campus, medical schools at UW-Milwaukee and at Marquette University have also been cited in driving innovation.
UW’s contributions to medicine have greatly improved the overall health care in Wisconsin, Still said. Wisconsin has a strong political sector, and its hospitals and health organizations are often among the first that can have these types of innovations available to them, he said.
Michael Abernethy, clinical associate professor at UW and specialist in emergency medicine, said advancements in medical technology have been utilized on UW School of Medicine flights as well. He said improvements in night vision goggles have provided a great safety tool, which “turns night into day” upon landing in the dark.
According to Abernethy, the advantage the state receives from research at the university is part of the Wisconsin Idea
“Whatever we do at the university, whether it’s medicine, research or economics, it should benefit the entire state,” Abernethy said.
Still said the areas in which Wisconsin particularly excels are medical imaging, tomotherapy, stem cell research, regenerative medicine and organ transplantation. He added that an emerging area of research in Wisconsin is cancer treatment.
“Historically, we’ve also been good in the kinds of companies that create the tools that medical researchers use,” Still said. “It can be physical tools that can be used in surgical procedures or it can be diagnostic tools to try to determine the source of a specific disease or pathogen.”
He said Wisconsin stands out in terms of medical advancement because it has the clinical study capacity and the right companies that can help execute new medical discoveries and research by turning diagnostics and therapies into real products that can be used every day.
Janet Kelly, spokesperson for the Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation, said the foundation works very closely with inventors on campus and companies around the world to put university discoveries into use.
WARF supports research on campus by bringing in revenue through commercializing discoveries, she added.
Kelly said WARF has assisted in many breakthrough discoveries, including patenting a process for irradiating food with Vitamin D and irradiating the disease rickets.
According to Kelly, the discovery of tomotherapy has been especially helpful in creating jobs and saving lives around the world. Tomotherapy is a unique way of targeting cancer through regulation, allowing doctors to destroy the cancer cells but not the surrounding tissue.