If You’re a Superstar Specialist or an Ambitious Entrepreneur, Gates Vascular Wants You!

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In 2005, Kaleida Health, Western New York’s largest healthcare provider, was approached by the Jacobs family.

Dr. Larry Jacobs, the pioneering vascular neurologist who discovered a cure for multiple sclerosis by harnessing the human protein interferon, had died from cancer on Nov. 2, 2001. His family wanted to memorialize his life in a manner that reflected the innovative and progressive mindset of his research.

The Buffalo, N.Y., region is one of the areas in the United States to experience some of the highest incidents of vascular disease, and Kaleida, along with the Jacobs, began to explore the relevancy of a groundbreaking vascular center, or as Dr. Nelson L. Hopkins III, president of Gates Vascular Institute, described it, “a vascular center of the future.”

While at a conference in Jackson Hole, Wyo., Hopkins and his team polled 20 of the most innovative cardiologists, vascular surgeons, neurosurgeons, and radiologists in the country about what this center should look like.

They also collaborated with Los Angeles architect Mehrdad Yazdani on how the center they were envisioning should be designed.

“As we talked about things that should be important, one of them was bringing all the disciplines together,” Hopkins said.

Yazdani pointed out to the team that they were talking about “collisions” or a space in which all specialties would co-exist, literally bumping into each other and exchanging information in a lively, collaborative environment.

“We decided that’s exactly what we wanted because medical care now in most institutions around the world is fairly siloed according to individual specialties, and you just don’t see other disciplines very much day to day,” Hopkins said. “Everybody is busy doing their own thing, so you just don’t run into each other.”

It was determined that the building would be sizeable with a one-acre floor plate and eight stories, the vascular center being located on the bottom four floors, the research center on the top floors, and the independent Jacobs Institute in the middle.

The Gates Vascular Institute officially opened its doors two years ago under the Kaleida Health banner in partnership with the University at Buffalo Neurosurgery. By that time, Hopkins and his team had successfully employed a group of three independent cardiothoracic surgeons within the Gates Vascular Institute.

This year, Consumer Reports named Gates as one of only 17 centers in the country where cardiothoracic surgeons were ranked with three stars for all three major cardiothoracic procedures: bypass, bypass plus valve, and valve.

Much of this was made possible, Hopkins said, because of the building’s design and its collisions template.

Bringing industry and inventors into the fold

From the beginning, Hopkins and his team wanted to create an institute that would be a reliable partner for industry and inventors. To achieve this goal, the independent Jacobs Institute was designed to serve as an entry point into the hospital and university environments for those innovators who wanted to participate in the program.

“Sometimes it’s a little forbidding to just walk into a hospital or university and say, ‘I want to see what’s going on here,’” Hopkins said. “But they can come to the Jacobs Institute, which is small, and where they have needs that overlap with the hospital and the university, the JI can become the broker of those needs. It’s a wonderful alternate pathway into the hospital and the university for industry and entrepreneurs.”

In preparation for this progressive environment, Gates developed high-quality training programs for its physicians so each one would be thoroughly equipped with the best knowledge on complex implantable medical devices.

This training also includes industry professionals, nurses, and technicians who are able to view live cases, interact with operating physicians, and perform procedures on simulators and in vascular models, providing them with a greater sense of a particular procedure’s complexity.

Expanding relationships and recruiting providers

Hopkins said the Institute’s long-term plan is to recruit leaders from other provider communities—“superstars” in their respective specialties—to carry out its three-pronged mission of clinical care, innovation, and research.

“From a clinical standpoint, we want to create an environment here that is just geared towards excellence in everything that everybody does,” he said. “And because we have such a high instance of vascular disease, we have an opportunity to embrace it in ways that others don’t, given this fantastic facility that we have.”

Gates is also working with start-up companies in both the United States and Canada to develop products for faster implantation in the human body. Additionally, the Jacobs Institute and the Gates Research Center is forming deeper partnerships with the university’s business school and biomedical engineering group.

“When somebody comes in with a new idea, everything is right there,” Hopkins said. “We can make prototypes, and we have testing facilities so you can work with our physicians. You can take an idea, thoroughly vet it, make a prototype, put it in a model, and simulate it. You can actually do anything you need to test that new idea you’re creating.

“Here, absolutely everything from the nascent idea all the way through to proof of concept to even first human testing can be done in this one facility, so that makes it completely unique from a technology development standpoint.”

Hopkins invites other healthcare organizations to visit the Institute to learn about the program and to explore ways in which they can become involved with Gates’ mission. For more information, please visit the Gates Vascular Institute website at http://www.kaleidahealth.org/gvi/.

by Pete Fernbaugh

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