Research and innovation park eyed for new mega-hospital site

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Windsor Regional Hospital and the University of Windsor are pursuing a partnership for a health research and innovation park to be included with the new acute care hospital development.

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“Research and education has always been one of the main drivers behind the need for a new acute care hospital in the region,” said hospital CEO David Musyj. “Windsor Regional Hospital looks forward to this planning work with the University of Windsor to advance this concept further.”

The new center would become a hub for health care research, training and private sector health service providers focused on new startup ventures. It would feature connections with the local university’s Schulich School of Medicine, the Faculty of Science and its School of Nursing.

“Through the years, we have continued to build on the vital connections between our institutions,” said university president Rob Gordon.

“Students have all benefited from our long-standing relationship through experiential learning and we have also been exceptional partners in research, innovation and outreach — including the WE-SPARK Health Institute.”

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Proponents even hope the new research park could include hotel space, residential housing for students, a long-term care facility, wellness center and medical office space.

Having such a research center in place — on the grounds of the new hospital — would be among the first of its kind in Ontario, but is increasingly expected to be developed by communities in the future, said Dr. Wassim Saad, chief of staff at Windsor Regional Hospital.

“It’s critical for a couple reasons,” he said. “Having a new innovation park like this will help significantly with recruitment and bringing physicians to the hospital. It’s also very important for patient care.

“It’s not just about research for now, but how to help health care of patients into the future — to keep people out of the hospital and remaining in good health.”

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Discussions are in the early stages within an advisory board that includes representatives from the hospital and university.

“There is no blueprint at this time,” Saad said. “We are in the very early discussions of what to include. That will likely change over several months before it finally starts to be built.

“We know how critical academic instruction and university collaboration with the hospital has become with a teaching component and research. We already have a good connection with Windsor, Western (universities) and St. Clair College.”

Staff and students at the University of Windsor are excited about the potential that would be created through the new research hub, said nursing school dean Debbie Sheppard-Lemoine, who is also a member of the Innovation Park advisory board.

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“The park will build innovative research opportunities and capacity within an inter-professional collaboration model among university undergraduate and graduate students, faculty and practitioners,” she said. “That will also extend from the local to the national and international communities.

It is anticipated the “health innovation park” would open at the same time as the new hospital, Saad said.

“When we collaborate on this, it is not just about the research potential, but also to help attract the best talent to this region,” he said. “Most people realize research advances your abilities, whether it is private industry or health care. This is the next step to advance that objective.”

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