A Message from the Director – T. Kesh Kesavadas

The health care and engineering fields are home to some of the world’s brightest minds and most groundbreaking technologies. When combined, I believe that we can rise to the challenge of conquering the most difficult and frightening of tasks. Today, we have COVID-19 consuming every facet of our lives, testing our health care systems and our abilities to work together.

The Health Care Engineering Systems Center at Illinois (HCESC) is proud to contribute in the fight against COVID-19. Most prominently, we have formed a COVID-19 Task Force to assist both the local and the university community in planning for and predicting the spread of COVID-19 in the state of Illinois. The Task Force consists of leading computer scientists and health care professionals from The Grainger College of Engineering and the Carle Illinois College of Medicine. The Champaign-Urbana Public Health District and OSF HealthCare have been extremely helpful in collecting and distributing data to the Task Force on a daily basis.

The Task Force has launched a COVID-19 webpage on the Health Care Engineering Systems Center site to share the latest information and resources.  The webpage also provides direct connections to various centers and faculty in the campus community with expertise in community health and data analytics. The page is updated daily with local data and regularly with blog features regarding developments in the campus community towards COVID-19.

HCESC has been working with Carle Foundation Hospital and OSF HealthCare’s COVID-19 preparedness groups to assist them through tele-medicine. Our tele-medicine group has been working to identify and deploy sensors that will monitor patients at home with the goal of reducing the influx of patients to emergency departments. This will have a tremendous impact on our community’s ability to combat COVID-19 and allow hospital capacity for anyone in need of treatment. Additional areas being explored are computation modeling different patient physiological conditions to test ventilators as a cyber-physical system.

Jump Simulation Center at the University of Illinois, an important part of HCESC, is actively engaged in several COVID-19 research projects, most notably the Illinois RapidVent. We have been testing the Illinois RapidVent on patient simulators as well as creating a virtual reality training module on using the device. I would like to extend praise to HCESC and Jump Simulation Center team members Harris Nisar and Shandra Jamison for their hard work on this project. Anusha Muralidharan is also working hard on the PPE stream to test fitness and performance of the filtration systems in the simulation center.

In early March, we announced a Jump ARCHES priority call for proposals in need of immediate funding for COVID-19 and pandemic-related research projects. Over the last two weeks we have helped over twenty investigators to form research teams while also setting immediate research goals for the COVID-19 priority call. We are impressed at the wide range of research that investigators have proposed in this priority call from design of new techniques for rapid testing of viruses to using AI for modeling. We are expecting to make several high-impact awards in the coming days. One award we are excited to contribute towards is to address the needs of N95 masks for front line healthcare providers in our local community. Jump ARCHES has funded this proposal by primary investigator Jeremy Guest of UIUC and co-primary investigators Jared C. Rogers and John F. Kreckman of OSF HealthCare, and Brent Cross of Jump Education and Simulation Center. You can read more about this project here.

I am also pleased to note that we plan to continue the popular Jump ARCHES summer internship this year as a virtual internship program. We plan on providing students with kits that they can use at home to work on health care projects.

Finally, we are happy to report that the COVID-19 Virtual Summit, which was held on April 6, 2020, was very productive and informational. This summit brought together healthcare providers, industry professionals, and experts in data to discuss research, ideas, outcomes, and challenges regarding COVID-19. The summit was open to the public and over 125 people participated. If you would like more information or to view a recording of the summit, please visit this page.

We are working with the campus to provide a safe community for students this fall. I am confident that the health care engineering field will make significant contributions in combatting COVID-19 and future pandemic illnesses that our world may face. While times may be difficult now and in the near future, I trust that we will emerge from this situation with groundbreaking technologies and a profound sense of community that will assist us in facing any challenges the future may bring.

Thank you for reading. Stay safe, stay healthy, and do your part.

Sincerely,

T. Kesh Kesavadas

Director, Health Care Engineering Systems Center