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MaineHealth Establishing Rural Care Research Center With $13 Million Grant

MaineHealth, the parent company of Maine Medical Center, is forming a new center dedicated to improving acute care in rural areas.

The new Center of Biomedical Research Excellence is being made possible by a nearly $13 million grant from the National Institutes of Health. The new center will also conduct clinical research into cardiac care and the use of telemedicine to treat newborns.

Maine Medical Center’s Chief Academic Officer Dr. Doug Sawyer says the results of the research could be of use beyond the state’s borders.

“We are focused in Maine on Maine, but we are hopeful that whatever we learn can be applied to other people’s problems in the rest of the world,” he says. “Key areas for a couple of our investigators are for trying to improve outcomes for people who survive cardiac arrest but aren’t awake. One project will examine how to treat people who are unable to control their airway and are at increased risk of getting bacterial pneumonia. Another study will attempt to determine what drives prognosis at a molecular level and what role recently-discovered inflammatory cells may play in the process. A third project will examine how a person’s location and initial treatment when suffering cardiac arrest may affect their outcome.”

Sawyer says the grant will help establish infrastructure necessary to serve rural communities.

“Maine values our rurality. We have industry that requires rurality to some extent. We think about forestry services, agriculture and, of course, when people go out to work at sea that’s its own form of rurality. We value those things and we want to support the health and care when people have an emergency,” he says.

The center plans to partner with other organizations to develop additional research opportunities. Sawyer says the money will be spent over a five year period with options to renew the grant for up to 15 years.