Editorial | New dream for health care

Editorial | New dream for health care

Today marks the first day of classes for what promoters of the Carle Illinois College of Medicine hope will be a groundbreaking move — one that represents a step forward for Illinois, the nation and, perhaps, the world.

With 32 students enrolled — some of the best and the brightest — the Carle Illinois College of Medicine has transitioned from dream to reality.

The school's curriculum combines a traditional medical education with engineering in the hope that combining these two fields will boost the quality of medical care while spurring the creation of life-changing medical equipment.

The medical school's goal is to create what one medical school administrator characterized as a "physician scientist," one who can help transform health care with the kind of innovative tools that achieve the universal dream of making it better, less expensive and more broadly accessible.

This venture is the result of a vision by former University of Illinois Chancellor Phyllis Wise. She played a singular role in coming up with the idea, persuading UI trustees, not all of whom were supportive, to approve the plan and laying the groundwork for what has come to fruition.

For that, the UI and the larger Champaign County community owe her a debt of gratitude.

If all goes as planned and hoped, that appreciation may someday extend far beyond this state's borders.

For now, however, it's all work and not much play for the hardworking and highly accomplished individuals who make up this stellar class of first-year medical/engineering students.

No one should doubt for a moment Professor Martin Burke's claim that the Carle Illinois College of Medicine has created an "incredible environment."

Professor Burke suggested that it's comparable to "the Paris cafe at the height of the modern art movement."

But the medical school has something that the Paris cafe did not — cadavers, for one. Other attributes include a high-tech mannequin named Sim Sam who appears able to simulate every possible medical scenario and a simulation lab that includes an intensive care unit.

Work on the medical school, of course, is not yet complete.

The college's future headquarters in the UI's Medical Sciences Building won't be complete until 2020, and fundraising ought to be at the top of the UI's priority list.

But don't kid yourselves about what really matters here.

The Carle Illinois School of Medicine is really about putting people — brilliant faculty members and brilliant students — in an atmosphere that encourages the pursuit of big ideas.

That's why each student has or will receive an oversized coin with an engraved message that says, "If you dream it, make it."

That sort of visionary thinking has driven mankind forward since the beginning of time.

It was Prospero in William Shakespeare's "The Tempest" who said, "We are such stuff as dreams are made on."

Today's dream is tomorrow's reality. In other words, the health care of tomorrow will be driven by the limitless creative possibilities represented by the first class of students who are plowing new ground in this fusion of medical and engineering education.

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