USF Pharmacy announces Healthcare Imaginarium for Exponential Technologies

Kevin Sneed, PharmD, dean of the USF College of Pharmacy, spoke about how exciting new technologies would be integrated into the college’s curriculum starting this fall.

TAMPA, Fla. (Feb. 22, 2018) — USF Health’s Pharmacy Dean Kevin Sneed, PharmD, announced this week several key initiatives intended to integrate advanced technologies into the student curriculum and to keep the college at the cutting-edge of innovation in education, research and patient care. He spoke Feb. 20 to a gathering of business and community leaders, as well as students, faculty and staff.

“We want our USF College of Pharmacy to remain relevant not only today, but for the next 25 years,” Dr. Sneed said.  “Right from the beginning, our mission has been to revolutionize health through innovation and empowerment… Now is the time to reimagine what education will be moving into the future.”

The initiatives are part of a newly created Healthcare Imaginarium for Exponential Technologies™ or HIETs™.   They include the introduction in fall 2018 of virtual reality content to supplement existing curriculum and help make the learning experiences of USF pharmacy students more immersive and life-like than textbooks, online content and traditional videos.

Many of those gathered used mobile device technology to record the event.

Students will put on special eyewear to view computer-generated images they could interact with. So for instance, they might experience in 360-degree, three-dimensional context the growth of plaques in coronary arteries and what happens when a stent is inserted to clear a clogged artery.  In yet-to-be-developed ways, virtual reality technology may also seamlessly combine pharmacology with physiology to simulate the effects of treatment. For example, students could visualize in real-time the action on smooth muscle airways when a bronchodilator drug is inhaled by an asthma patient. Such advanced technology could also be harnessed by health professionals as a more engaging way to educate patients about their diagnoses and care, Dr. Sneed said.

The College of Pharmacy plans to work with MediaLab 3D Solutions, a Tampa-based digital content creator, and BioLucid, a digital health company recently acquired by Sharecare, to develop a combination of virtual, augmented and mixed reality content.

USF pharmacy student Natalie Dehaney demonstrates how virtual reality technology allows students to visualize what happens inside the body when a patient experiences atrial fibrillation. She can trigger and replay the simulation of electrical conduction in the heart. 

MediaLab CEO Bruce VanWingerden said the project will be the first time the company, which works with major corporations, has ventured into academia. “This is an exciting opportunity to work with Dr. Sneed and his staff to really look at different ways to present in a new and exciting fashion information that can be difficult to convey,” VanWingerden said. “We want to take all the innovative technology and make it easy to use to further the educational process.”

Laysa Mena, a student delegate for the College of Pharmacy, describes herself as a “visual learner” who absorbs more by seeing than reading. “So I feel implementing virtual reality with our curriculum would be very beneficial and give us a better appreciation of how drugs work in the body,” she said.

Other HIETs initiatives include:

  • With the College of Engineering, USF Pharmacy will work to advance personalized medicine that tailors therapy based on an individual’s genetic makeup. As the technology of medicine and drug development continues to shrink down to the nanoscale, USF has also started a Pharmaceutical Nanotechnology master’s program to teach students how to deliver medications in new, more precise ways.
  • The College of Pharmacy will join forces with the Muma College of Business to create an Entrepreneurial Academy that inspires innovation and start-up companies.  The aim is to help pharmacists think like entrepreneurs so they can better enhance heath care outcomes and cost-effectiveness.
  • Clinical trials: Through its WE-CARE program (Workgroup Enhancing Community Advocacy and Research Engagement), the College of Pharmacy partners with key stakeholders to increase participation of minority and medically underserved populations in clinical trials.  The program seeks to ensure that all communities have access to genomic clinical research as technology advances.

For more information on these USF College of Pharmacy programs, contact Mark Ketterer at ketterer@health.usf.edu.

-Photos by Torie Doll, USF Health Communications and Marketing