Bringing Science Home
USF, The Patterson Foundation announce $5.6 million project to transform chronic illness
TAMPA, FL (June 11, 2010) — USF Health and The Patterson Foundation have embarked on a partnership to help people with chronic illness live happier, healthier lives.
USF Health will use a transformational $5.66 million gift from The Patterson Foundation to launch Bringing Science Home, a model program that will develop new ways of learning and caring to help people approach their lives optimistically.
The project will start by focusing on diabetes, especially in helping people transition through important life stages, and then expand to looking as other chronic illnesses, such as asthma and arthritis.
“I’m delighted that The Patterson Foundation has chosen to join with us to help people with chronic illness take an optimistic approach to their health,” said Dr. Stephen Klasko, dean of the USF College of Medicine and CEO of USF Health. “With Bringing Science Home, we will take health beyond the traditional confines of a doctor’s office and help people bring tools for better health to every aspect of their lives. It will be like giving each person diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes an ‘invisible friend’ at USF Health.”
Through its gift, The Patterson Foundation strives to honor the Patterson family legacy and transform the way people live with chronic diseases, said Debra Jacobs, president and CEO of the foundation.
“My hope is that as we partner with the University of South Florida, we will be able to create new realities of dealing with chronic disease,” Jacobs said. “We hope that patients will learn how they can manage the disease, instead of the disease controlling their lives.”
Nicole Johnson will be executive director of Bringing Science Home. Johnson, who is Miss America 1999, has been working as a director with the USF Health Diabetes Education Center. Johnson has Type 1 diabetes herself and has become a national advocate for people with diabetes.
“Bringing Science Home is all about getting into the heart and soul of people with diabetes and other chronic diseases,” Johnson said. “We want to understand their challenges, understand their frustrations, understand their daily regime and all the things that they go through, and then figure out: What is it that they need? How do we bring something to them that helps them live more optimistically, and in a more empowered fashion?”
People with diabetes often struggle with feeling judged by a number – the number of their blood sugar level. Too often, the care available for them centers only on tracking that number, rather than helping them live with the disease on a daily basis, figuring out how their disease management needs change as their lives do.
Bringing Science Home will start with researchers in the College of Public Health, studying how people with chronic illnesses learn, so as to understand best how to help them change their lifestyles and behaviors.
The project will focus on how people’s needs change as they move through important transitions, or life stages. For instance, teen-agers with diabetes often face conflict with family members and difficulties controlling their blood sugar as they move toward independence.
Bringing Science Home also will seek to better use today’s electronic technologies to help people with disease management.
“I have a pump and a sensor and a cell phone and a log book and a health team who doesn’t download any of them,” Johnson said.
The project will enlist USF scientists to develop devices that combine functions for convenience, are less bulky and more convenient, and can share information on the patient’s health condition with their medical team in real time.
The project also will work to expand the help available to another group that is often overlooked in chronic disease care: patients’ families. A disease that requires daily management challenges them as well. With diabetes, parents struggle to balance their children’s wishes for freedom with safeguarding their health. They have health questions in the middle of the night that nobody can answer. They may suffer from anxiety and depression themselves.
The Patterson Foundation became interested in partnering with USF on a diabetes initiative with USF in part because a Patterson family member had diabetes before his death. But the foundation’s effort expanded into the Bringing Science Home project because the project embodies so many of the foundation’s values, Jacobs said.
“We wanted a partner who would enthusiastically embrace an opportunity,” Jacobs said. “We live in a world of creating new realities…I hope that in a few years, that we will see people with diabetes and find that diabetes no longer owns them, but they own their lives and diabetes just happens to be a part of it.”
Ultimately, USF Health will show the way to a complete rethinking of chronic care. Bringing Science Home aims to serve as the pilot for an even larger project: finding a hospital partner to help create a Center for Lifespan Disease.
“Bringing Science Home is a great step in USF Health’s journey to revolutionize health care,” Dr. Klasko said. “We want to transform the concept of what it means to live with chronic illness.”