Arizona Telemedicine Program's 'THealth' Launches Molecular Medicine Center in the Republic of Panama
The Institute for Advanced Telemedicine and Telehealth (THealth), a Division of the national award-winning Arizona Telemedicine Program (ATP), has opened a molecular medicine and telemedicine "Center of Excellence" in Panama City, Republic of Panama.
The THealth initiative in Panama has been developed through a collaboration between University of Arizona and University of Panama faculty members and is funded by research grants and contracts. The Panama facility is linked to the ATP's hub at the University of Arizona Health Sciences Center in Tucson, Ariz., for videoconferencing via broad-band telecommunications. This videoconferencing facility is used for multi-national planning of collaborative clinical research and will be used for distance education.
The THealth Center in Panama serves as a model program for introducing advanced molecular medicine into economically developing countries. THealth develops novel health care delivery systems that leverage telemedicine, information technologies and telecommunications to improve health care worldwide, says Ronald S. Weinstein, MD, Director of the Arizona Telemedicine Program and Head of the THealth program. Dr. Weinstein also is Professor and Head of Pathology at the UA College of Medicine.
The initial clinical research project to be carried out at THealth involves the detection of human cervical cancer using advanced imaging technologies. The Azuero peninsula in Panama has one of the highest incidences of human uterine cervical cancer in the world.
The THealth Center in Panama is housed in a 10,000-square-foot facility in a modern medical office building in downtown Panama City. The Center includes a state-of-the-art distance-learning center, a telemedicine clinic, and a genomics and proteomics diagnostic and research laboratory. The 14-story medical office building also houses the private practice offices of more than 100 physicians, including physician-faculty members from the University of Panama School of Medicine.
The UA College of Medicine has been involved in international telemedicine since 1993, when Dr. Weinstein founded the Arizona-International Telemedicine Program. This program has provided second-opinion telepathology consultations in Mexico, China, and Panama. The UA Department of Pathology has done research on practice models for international telemedicine practices and carried out comparative studies on the diagnostic accuracy of surgical pathology reports in several countries. This work has important implications for multi-national clinical trials of cancer drugs.
Dr. Weinstein has had a career-long interest in international health care. He has served as president of four international medical organizations including the World Health Organization-affiliated International Council for Societies of Pathology, which coordinates the activities of pathology professional societies in 46 countries. He has authored or co-authored more than 400 professional publications. He is credited with introducing the word "telepathology" into the English language, in 1986, and his invention of telepathology diagnostic networks provides the foundation for telepathology services in more than 30 countries worldwide.