How Northwell Health used medical research in the face of a global pandemic
Northwell Health implements innovation and technology to lead the industry. One of Northwell Health’s most valued resources is its home of medical research, The Feinstein Institutes for Medical Research. The Feinstein Institutes is comprised of more than 5,000 scientists and staff make groundbreaking discoveries in a number of areas such as, clinical trials, cancer, bioelectronic medicine and health outcomes. Researchers responsible for making key discoveries in autoimmune disease, sepsis, inflammation, and Parkinson’s disease, shifted their focus to help the fight against COVID-19.
As New York became the epicenter of the virus, the Feinstein Institutes went into action immediately. Within a month, Feinstein Institutes staff worked tirelessly to lay the groundwork to enroll more than 1,300 patients in seven clinical trials and programs. By collaborating with pharmaceutical leaders like Gilead, Sanofi and Regeneron, cutting-edge treatment was offered to Northwell Health patients hospitalized for COVID-19.
What’s worth noting here is not only the spirit of collaboration during a state of emergency, but the role medical research played in trying to find a reliable cure. As Dr. Kevin J. Tracey, CEO of the Feinstein Institutes notes, “Medical research will lead in our nation’s ability to reverse the fatal spread of viruses.” The Feinstein Institutes empowers its researchers and they are fully supported in their fields of practice where they are valued beyond measure. For Betsy Barnes, Feinstein Institutes investigator, the opportunities that have been available to her at Northwell have increased her industry knowledge and confidence in working around disease. So when it came to being called upon to help during a time of uncertainty around COVID-19, she was more than ready to begin research. When asked how it felt to know the impact of her work during a global pandemic, she explains, “It is a wonderful feeling to know I am able to apply my knowledge in a way that is beneficial to patients. We are doing everything we can to work quickly and collaboratively with hopes of producing knowledge that will cure COVID-19 and other health issues.”
The Feinstein Institutes partnered with the Mayo Clinic in joining a network that is working on novel, experimental therapy through the use of antibody testing for those who may have been identified with COVID-19, but are no longer asymptomatic. The incredible work wouldn’t be possible without the commitment its staff shares to delivering excellence. Excellence that inspires positive change for patients who trust Northwell every day. At the Feinstein Institutes’ Institute of Health Innovations & Outcomes Research, Professor Joseph Conigliaro, MD, gleams when speaking about his team. He says, “I am proud of the work my research team and I accomplished in such a short time for COVID-19 research – we are exhausted, but exhilarated and fulfilled in knowing conducting research is beneficial to patients in our health system, and to patients around the world.”
Working in the healthcare industry can be trying, especially when a global pandemic is added to the equation. However, with the leadership of Dr. Tracey and others who empower the imaginations of team members like Drs. Barnes and Conigliaro, the Feinstein Institutes will stand firm in their mission to produce knowledge to cure disease.
The need for students to pursue STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) careers is greater than ever and for good reason. Between 2000 and 2010, STEM-related jobs grew three times as fast as non-STEM jobs – a rate projected to increase.
You may be left wondering what STEM jobs you can pursue. STEM careers go beyond just being a doctor or an engineer – the opportunities are endless! So what are some of the major STEM careers you should be exploring?
Imaging technologists are Allied Health professionals that complete a two or four year program from accredited college. Graduates are licensed by the NYS Department Of Health or registered or certified in a sub-specialty area to perform diagnostic imaging examinations. Using the most advanced imaging equipment, imaging professionals are trained to produce high-quality images that enable the Radiologist (physician) to make a critical diagnosis. Without their expertise, care teams wouldn’t be able to diagnose and treat patients effectively.
You can enjoy the flexibility to choose additional specializations such as computed tomography (CT), ultrasound, nuclear medicine, mammography and more. And as an imaging professional, you’d have the ability to work in a variety of settings such as hospitals, diagnostic labs, and ambulatory centers.
Careers to consider:
Nuclear Medicine Technologist
Special Procedures Technologist
2. Certified Surgical Technologist
Surgical technologists have the important task of prepping patients for surgery and ensuring the operating room’s equipment has been sterilized and properly stocked with supplies. Your job as a surgical technologist doesn’t end there – you’d remain in the OR to assist surgeons throughout the surgery and then help to dress wounds. At Northwell, Registered Nurses and the Certified Surgical Technologist function as a subunit within a team, interacting through a unique, dynamic relationship—one sterile role and one nonsterile role, working in collaboration.
Job opportunities for surgical technologists are on the rise as the growth in population and technology leads to an increase in the frequency of surgical procedures. Completing a surgical technologist certification program usually takes around two years, allowing you the unique chance to quickly scrub into your first surgery after school.
Becoming a doctor or nurse isn’t the only option for science majors to join the healthcare industry! Research careers enable professionals to work in programs and partnerships that help study, test and improve clinical breakthroughs. Medical research also includes working on some of the most exciting technology to treat disease and injury, such as bioelectronic medicine. Not all research careers are clinical either – as a medical researcher you can work in engineering, statistics, and more.
Join together research and technology as part of a team working on cutting-edge discoveries in areas such as health outcomes research, translational science, behavioral science and more. As a member of the research team, you’d also have the ability to work on breakthroughs in major diseases from cancer to lupus to sepsis. Your work could help discover new treatments, therapies and technologies for patients to live a healthier life.
Careers to consider:
Associate Research Statistician
Post Doc Research Trainees
4. Telemetry Technicians
Telemetry technicians, also called monitoring technicians or electrocardiograph technicians (EKG or ECG), are important allied health professionals. These technicians use non-invasive electrocardiographic equipment to monitor patients’ heart rhythms and alert nurses and physicians to changes in the patient’s rate, rhythm and the occurrence of dysrhythmias while on the Telemetry Unit.
Working as a telemetry technician allows you to work within a hospital using advanced technology. There are also increasing opportunities for you to deliver compassionate care to patients within a hospital or ambulatory setting. And training programs prepare you for entering the healthcare industry in just a few months!
5. Clinical Laboratory Scientist
To become a clinical laboratory scientist you must obtain your bachelor’s degree from an accredited clinical laboratory science program, pass your ASCP national certification exam and then become licensed by New York State Education Department (NYSED) to practice. As a clinical laboratory scientist, you can work in exciting fields such as:
Fun fact, Northwell has two brand new, state-of-the-art labs. Our Core Lab/Automated Lab is the largest health system-based lab in the region with the largest Roche automated line of its kind in North America, and one of the largest in the world. Our new Microbiology Lab that has the largest Kiestra Micro automated line in the U.S!
Photo (from left to right): Emmelyn is the third women in the front of the photo
From Assistant Clinical Analyst to AVP of the Office of Research Compliance – my career journey
Since joining our team in 2005, Emmelyn has taken every challenge and turned it into an opportunity. Learn how her career progressed over the years and how we supported her along her journey.
Why did you want to become a part of Northwell Health?
My passion has always been in research and public health and because of this, I ended up moving to the New York area to attend a graduate program at Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health. In 2005, Northwell Health offered an opportunity for me to continue working in research as an Assistant Clinical Analyst, focused on regulatory compliance. It sounded like a great opportunity to learn more about the complex regulatory environment of research and work for a very large health care system. This was an exciting new challenge and I was eager to get my feet wet since I was had only had experience working in smaller medical academic centers in Chicago and Boston.
How has your career progressed over the years?
In 2007 I was promoted to a Manager in the Research Compliance department where I continued to work on developing the audit and compliance program and regulatory education and training for researchers throughout the organization. After a few years, I was promoted to Direct the Research Compliance Department and most recently, became the AVP, Research Compliance and Privacy Officer.
What are the biggest projects you are working on right now?
In Research Compliance we regularly perform audits of research throughout the organization and capture metrics. We’re developing ways to more effectively capture data from our reviews and develop analytical tools that can help us better pinpoint areas that may represent operational gaps or challenges leading to compliance issues or areas in need of further education and training. This data can then be presented to leadership and groups for further discussion or actions. At the end of the day, we want to be able to gauge the level of quality and integrity of the research that’s conducted at our organization. Continually evaluating quality and making improvements allows Northwell Health to continue to be a leading organization in research.
The other area I’m involved in is the Business Employee Resource Group (BERG). I’m one of the co-chairs of the Bridges Asian BERG that launched in October of 2016 and we’ve been working closely with the Center for Equity of Care (CEC) and various Service Lines across the organization on a variety of initiatives that seek to provide culturally and linguistically appropriate services and build trust within the communities that we serve. We are working to create a larger impact across the workforce, expand the marketplace and better connect with our communities. This is critical as Northwell Health expands its footprint throughout very diverse neighborhoods and we need to work cross collaboratively to make a substantial impact. I’ve worked in minority health initiatives and research and this has always been another passion of mine. Northwell Health offers an amazing opportunity for its workforce to get involved in organization level projects through BERGs, which is fully supported and encouraged by leadership.
Within your different roles, how did you leverage them to be successful?
I always find value working from the ground up and learning a lot along the way from experience, good and bad. Working my way from an Assistant Clinical Analyst to where I am today took many years with a fair share of challenges, failures, and successes. Over time I’ve learned that it pays to take risks sometimes, be proactive and a self-starter, seek out a mentor and most importantly, to seek and listen to feedback. I was fortunate enough to participate in certain programs within the organization such as the High Potentials Program that exposed me to various management and problem-solving strategies and Corporate leadership. That definitely gave me a different perspective on how our large organization worked and the potential that everyone has within, that could be realized to its full potential with dedication to collaboration, putting in 100% effort, actively networking and seeking mentorship.
In my current role, I’ve found value in communication and being a mentor to others. This includes ensuring a good level of communication with my team, colleagues and with individuals throughout our vast organization. I remember reading an article about how leaders shouldn’t only seek to climb the ladder, but they make sure that they look back and help others up along the way. This rings true as a woman and minority in a leadership position as we definitely have our fair share of challenges in the work place. I always remember the people who have extended their hand to help me along the way to get me to where I am today, and I’d like to do that for others who show the same amount of dedication and enthusiasm working for our organization. I think that truly makes you a successful leader.
Were there any roadblocks you overcame? If so, what are you most proud of?
The hardest thing about career progression is when you advance to the next level. When I was promoted to a Director and had to supervise other employees it was completely new to me and I went through my fair share of trial and error. Fortunately, I had mentors and supervisors who helped me to overcome challenges every step of the way and who serve as role models. Over these years I have worked hard to build the Research Compliance program and expanded the department to where it is today. I am most proud of seeing my staff develop personally and professionally, overcome challenges, and work with me to make the program even better each year.
I have learned so much, met so many people and have grown professionally. Northwell Health has been a terrific place to work and provides so many unique opportunities for the workforce. I’d like to encourage others to seize the opportunities offered at our organization, network and meet with people outside of your department to expand your horizons. Lastly, be engaged and make your career what you want it to be – you are made for this!
We’re sending shock waves throughout the medical world.
What difference can an electrical impulse make in combatting complex illnesses and injuries? Every difference.
Bioelectronic Medicine combines our knowledge of electrical signals and neural pathways to redefine how we predict, diagnose, and treat an incredible range of medical conditions. We’re teaching the body how to heal itself – without side effects.
“We are on the cusp of treating diseases in new ways that we would not have been imagining five years ago.” –Christopher Czura, PhD, Vice President Scientific Affairs
A moving experience.
“There seems to be no limit to what’s possible in this field. We have been able to restore movement in the hand of a paralyzed young man through an electronic brain implant.” –Chad Bouton, Director, Center for Bioelectronic Medicine
Is it possible to set free a person who has been imprisoned in their own body by paralysis? Yes, and we’re doing it. We’re developing devices that create a neural bypass around damaged neural pathways so the paralyzed can regain motion.
What happens in vagus.
A lot of what we’re able to accomplish with Bioelectronic Medicine focuses on the vagus nerve. This system of fibers runs from the brain stem to several major organs, including the heart and digestive tract. By identifying the relevant neural pathways and stimulating the vagus nerve electronically, we’re able to provide healing for conditions such as bleeding and many autoimmune disorders such as rheumatoid arthritis, Crohn’s disease and lupus.
“Many rheumatoid arthritis patients that had failed multiple pharmaceutical treatments, experienced relief from their symptoms with Bioelectronic Medicine,” says Chad Bouton.
Thinking differently about prevention.
“Imagine waking up in the morning to an alert on your smartphone. A tiny device in your body analyzed your blood chemistry overnight and contacted your doctor about a possible issue – and even scheduled an appointment. This is the future of medicine.”–Chad Bouton
Beyond treating existing conditions, bioelectronic devices could have a dramatic impact on our ability to better diagnose disease. By monitoring biomarkers in at-risk patients and listening to the body’s own clues, we can perform real-time diagnostics and track the progress of a patient. This could lead to warning those at risk for cancer, diabetes, and other debilitating dangerous conditions.
Give your career a jolt.
“Seeing how these breakthroughs change real lives — and knowing it’s just the tip of the iceberg — is most exciting. It’s just the beginning.”
–Kevin Tracey, President & CEO, The Feinstein Institute for Medical Research
Are you ready to work on the leading edge of one of the most exciting areas of medical research today? The Feinstein Institute for Medical Research is looking for you to help advance the incredible potential of Bioelectronic Medicine. Our work is opening up exceptional opportunities for:
Molecular Biologists – Identify the targets of disease for treatment
Neuroscientists – Identify the neural pathway to manipulate the target
Neural Electrical Engineers/Computer Scientists – Design the device to manipulate the appropriate pathway
Are you ready to work on the leading edge of one of the most exciting areas of medical research today? Bioelectronic Medicine is revolutionizing health care by replacing drugs with electrons – using devices to guide nerves to control molecular targets. The possibilities for changing and saving lives are limitless.
“We are on the cusp of treating diseases in new ways that we would not have been imagining five years ago.” –Christopher Czura, PhD, Vice President, Scientific Affairs
Our researchers are learning the language of neural signals and using Bioelectronic Medicine technologies to record, stimulate, and block neural signals.
We’re teaching the body how to heal itself – without side effects.
Beyond even this, we’re exploring how bioelectronics can help us perform early diagnosis to enhance treatment and achieve more successful outcomes.
Revolutionizing how we treat illness and injuries.
The amazing work happening at Northwell Health’s Feinstein Institute for Medical Research is opening up exceptional opportunities in a wide range of areas. We use a team-based approach that combines our expertise in neurophysiology, neuroscience, molecular and cell biology, and bioengineering. We identify physiological triggers, develop new research tools, and medical device technology to ‘tap into’ neural pathways in the body to treat disease and injury. Get to know the positions that make up our team:
Under the direction of Chad Bouton, VP of Advanced Engineering and Director of the Center for Bioelectronic Medicine, we’re developing therapeutic breakthroughs for an incredible variety of injuries and diseases, such as:
Bleeding/Hemorrhage – We developed the neural tourniquet, a Bioelectronic Medical device that uses electronic nerve stimulation to slow blood loss.
Paralysis – Limiting damage and providing a pro-regenerative environment to nerve cells after spinal cord injury.
Cancer – We’re discovering and validating new biomarkers which may serve as targets for Bioelectronic Medicine in various cancers.
Rheumatoid Arthritis – Electrically stimulating the vagus nerve could turn off the immune system pathways associated with rheumatoid arthritis and other inflammatory diseases.
Sepsis – We’re developing methods of preventing sepsis and investigating mechanisms underlying the cognitive and physical impairment that occurs in up to 25% of sepsis survivors.
Colitis – Our researchers have shown that activation of the vagus nerve reduces the symptoms of colitis.
Crohn’s Disease – We have developed a device to stimulate the vagus nerve in order to activate the body’s natural inflammatory reflex.
Diabetes – Our research suggests that a small bioelectronics device, implanted on the vagus nerve, may be able to regulate the production of and cellular response to insulin.
Lupus – We’re studying genetic information to identify individuals who are at risk for developing autoimmune diseases such as Lupus.
Obesity and Metabolic Syndrome – Proper regulation of vagus nerve-mediated anti-inflammatory signaling might provide an effective treatment of obesity.
The role you can play.
“We are bringing together people from completely different disciplines, into the same area, working together, collaborating and innovating to create new technologies.” — Chad Bouton, VP of Advanced Engineering and Director of the Center for Bioelectronic Medicine
Molecular Biologists – Target the molecular sources of disease
Neuroscientists – Identify the neural pathway to manipulate the targeted source
Neural Electrical Engineers/Computer Scientists – Design the device to manipulate the appropriate pathway in order to treat the disease
Through this unique approach, our employees are developing effective solutions that are less expensive than pharmaceuticals, easier to administer, non-toxic, and more precise. The innovations you produce will minimize health risks and side effects, while offering an extensible R&D platform.
“It’s an extraordinary time to be here and it’s extremely exciting to think about what’s coming next.” –Kevin J. Tracey, MD, President & CEO
Turning a dream into a reality – the birth of 3D bioprinting
Written by: Todd Goldstein
You might be thinking, what in the world is bioprinting and why would a team spend years developing it? Well, 3D bioprinting is the use of 3D printing technology with materials that incorporate viable living cells. The end product produced is tissue for reconstructive surgery. This type of technology can transform the way medicine is practiced. Just think about a world where organ donors are no longer needed – if you need a transplant of some sort, it can be printed on demand from your own cells while you wait. But before I get ahead of myself, let’s start at the beginning…
My journey within Northwell Health started off 30 years ago when I was born at Long Island Jewish Medical Center. After a brief 20+ year hiatus, I returned in a very stereotypical way – I was a student who needed a side job with lots of shifts and flexible hours. After some investigation I applied to work per diem as a patient transporter at North Shore University Hospital, where I worked at night while I was completing my master’s degree. It was a perfect fit for me; I was able to converse with patients as I wheeled them around the hospital for their various tests and discharges.
As I was completing my degree, I applied and was accepted to the PhD program at the Hofstra Northwell School of Medicine. I wasn’t sure what I specifically wanted to work on, but I knew I had a knack for technology and a new found appreciation for Orthopedics & Radiology. I worked 4 years at the Feinstein Institute for Medical Research completing my degree in the Laboratory of Orthopedics Research under Dr. Daniel Grande PhD. We spent countless hours working on 3D bioprinting of cartilage, bone, and tracheal tissue. The environment I “stumbled into” was one of collaboration, innovation, and patience. It was challenging, but very rewarding. The lab provided an environment filled with students, residents, fellows, physicians, and research scientists all working to further medical knowledge and create new treatments for patients in need. Anyone in the lab was able to “grab the bull by the horns” so to speak, and take on a project they deemed interesting. You took ownership and were able to see it through to the end.
One day, in walked two chief surgeons with the idea of tissue engineering lab grown tracheas. Dr. Lee Smith MD and Dr. David Zeltsman MD were interested in our capabilities within the lab and if we were willing to work with them on a non-orthopedic project. Dr. Grande said “Todd if you want to spear head this project, go right ahead, just let me know what you need.” Over the next two years we worked to build up a protocol to 3D bioprint tracheal replacements in the lab. It was our hope of one day transplanting a replacement into a patient – to restore their breathing would become a reality.
Once I had the support I needed, we began right away. While we are not at a point to transplant lab grown organs, we are well on our way. To kick off this type of project we started to build our own 3D printer that could create our tissue since the commercially available printer options were extremely expensive. We took a desktop 3D printer, stripped it down to its guts, then using design software created new printer heads that could accept living cells within a jello like material. Many early mornings and late nights watching the 3D printer whirl around in circles placing layer after layer of cells, gel, biocompatible, and biodegradable scaffold materials were necessary to get this idea to become reality. After much trial and error we were able to print a living “breathing” lab-grown trachea.
In the beginning of 2016 the 3D bioprinter was submitted into Northwell Health’s Breakthrough contest where the winner received additional funds to further their research and make their scientific dream a reality. All of the 61,000 employees in our organization were able to vote on the breakthrough that they found the most significant in effecting patients care, and the printer happened to be the winner. Without Northwell’s support this project would still be just an idea. I have been able to take away important skills throughout this journey – whether it be about patient customer service, or a complicated statistical analysis of scientific data, without the Northwell Health family like environment I would still be wandering the halls looking for my niche. I have now graduated from the medical school and Northwell has created a unique roll for me as I share my time between the Orthopedics Lab and the Northwell Ventures Team serving as a technical analyst, as the hospital rolls out new innovative business ventures furthering our patient care capabilities. I now get to help shape the innovative future of healthcare, both in and out of the lab, as we take ideas from the bench top and translate them to the bedside.
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