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OSF and Bradley sign multi-year partnership for health care innovation

Bradley University president Stephen Standifird (left) and OSF HealthCare CEO Robert Sehring sign the multi-year "Innovation for Health" partnership agreement at a press conference on Tuesday.
Collin Schopp
Bradley University president Stephen Standifird, left, and OSF HealthCare CEO Robert Sehring sign the multi-year "Innovation for Health" partnership agreement at a news conference on Tuesday.

OSF HealthCare and Bradley University are partnering to provide funding and facilitate collaboration between faculty and staff at their institutions.

The “Innovation for Health” partnership is a five-year commitment, providing $1 million annually in funding for projects addressing health care challenges like health literacy, equity and cancer prevention.

“In today's constrained environment, because of the pandemic and all kinds of constraints, the tendency would be to go to the safe space to just focus on operations as they exist today,” said Dr. John Vozenilek, OSF chief medical officer for innovation. “If we do not continue to invest in innovation, we will not advance. There is no greater time for investment than today.”

At a news conference on Tuesday, Vozenilek said that investment comes in the form of “seed grants." Officials with OSF said the first round of grants awards up to $50,000, and requests for proposals will be announced soon. These grants fund collaborations between Bradley faculty and OSF clinicians focused on problems determined to be significant.

“That seed investment, we anticipate, will be followed by other grants, dollars investment or philanthropy,” said Vozenilek. “To make it happen in our communities.”

OSF CEO Robert Sehring said collaborations between the two organizations have happened before, but the new agreement should help streamline and encourage the process.

“It is still important to have a document. A structure and infrastructure to help support the work,” he said. “How do we bring folks together?”

Another advantage of the program is those brought together will be from all different educational and disciplinary backgrounds, offering unique perspectives on health care issues. Bradley University president Stephen Standifird uses a professor with an interest in health care literacy as an example.

“I know that one of our faculty in communications is interested in this (health care literacy) as well,” he said. “And imagine now, if you will, people that have expertise in the area of health care combined with people that have expertise in the area of communication. Now, we can start talking about things like health care literacy in a way that we couldn't before.”

Standifird is also excited for the scope of projects made possible by the partnership’s funding.

“We are going to be addressing some of the world's largest problems in some very creative ways. Right here in Peoria,” he said. “And my expectation is, the work that we'll be doing here in Peoria will have an impact well beyond the boundaries of Peoria. Really have a national and global impact.”

Sehring is similarly excited for the results of the program, which he sees as an extension of OSF HealthCare’s overarching mission: “to treat all with greatest care and love.”

“We know better today, that addressing all of the issues that impact folks greatly improves their opportunity to recover,” he said. “So working with Bradley, working with some of the expertise, the areas that they have, really gives that opportunity to think more holistically about the patient’s needs.”

Though the initial agreement is for five years, Sehring said OSF intends to continue the partnership past that.

“We certainly hope it is a forever agreement, meaning we will collaborate for years upon years. And I think that's the greatest part,” he said.

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Collin Schopp is a reporter at WCBU. He joined the station in 2022.