Washington Adventist and FDA plan to work together in new location
Hospital will serve as site for clinical trials when it moves
Soon-to-be neighbors Washington Adventist Hospital and the Food and Drug Administration hope to team up to work on everything from improving women's health to testing sterilization techniques for surgical equipment, officials say.
The hospital, which plans to relocate from Takoma Park to White Oak in 2013, will be roughly 200 yards from the FDA's expanding campus. The two organizations announced a partnership last December, but they are already taking steps to identify areas where the hospital can act as a site for clinical trials, according to Norton Elson, Adventist's scientific liaison to the FDA. Officials at the current location of Washington Adventist Hospital want to keep an active eye on the hospital's relocation process. The Takoma Park City Council voted Monday to pursue "interested party status" in the Maryland Health Care Commission, which would give the city a voice on what would be left at the current site and the ability to appeal commission decisions, according to city attorney Susan Silber.
The hospital will serve as a real-life setting where FDA officials can test sterilization techniques on arthroscopic surgery equipment, ask doctors for advice on editing insulin pump safety-standard documents and work on long-term projects relating to women's health, Elson said.
The FDA already has plenty of laboratories where it can create and test equipment, he said.
"What they lack is access to clinical information and clinical settings," he said. "And the hope is that there are areas where our resources can fill in their gaps. We're working through the possibilities."
For example, Elson said the FDA wants to observe the hospital's sterilization of equipment used in cartilage-repairing surgery. By examining the recommended cleaning procedure, scientists from the FDA will be able to see whether or not the equipment is fully cleaned and all debris caught in crevices is removed, he said.
Projects like this can start in as little as a few weeks, long before the hospital's relocation is complete. Longer term projects, such as clinical trials comparing outcomes of acute heart attacks in men and women, are still in the planning stages, but they could take place after the move, Elson said. The FDA may work with the hospital to see why women do not react as well to stints as men, he said.
Betsy Bretz, chairwoman of LabQuest, an association of area residents that worked to bring the FDA to the area, said the partnership was one of the reasons her organization wanted the hospital to move to the area.
"This was kind of the driving force behind getting Adventist Hospital, because some of the FDA employees asked me where they were going to practice," she said. A shared helicopter pad and cooperation in bringing conferences to the campus are other benefits of the partnership, she said.
Sources of funding for joint projects are still being discussed, though some of the smaller projects, like observing equipment sterilization, will require minimal funding, Elson said. Possible sources include FDA funding or grants from the National Institutes of Health, he added. He also emphasized that participation in these trials will not interfere with doctors' ability to spend time with patients, and all participation in trials by patients will be voluntary.
"By the time we become their neighbors, we'll have a close relationship," he said. "We're optimistic."