Research hub dedication signals new round of breakthroughs

The dedication of the Stephens Family Clinical Research Institute at Carle marks a bold step in advancing quality healthcare in our community and beyond.

The new institute will support groundbreaking research, education and clinical trials that focus on impacting patients quickly and effectively.

“I see the Stephens Family Clinical Research Institute as the front door of what goes on within our institution,” said James C. Leonard, MD, president and chief executive officer, The Carle Foundation. “We want a rapid turnaround of research to make a difference in people’s lives.”

Leonard explains that such “translational research,” where new discoveries and ideas can be quickly tested in a clinical setting, is a focus of the Stephens Family Clinical Research Institute. From cancer research to neurological breakthroughs, it will tackle today’s critical healthcare challenges.

“Patients will reap the benefits of this commitment to supporting innovative research, a commitment that is possible because of the tremendous generosity and vision of the Stephens family,” Dr. Leonard said.

Lyn Jones, vice president of Carle Center for Philanthropy, noted that Rick and Jeanene Stephens are longtime Carle benefactors and dedicated community leaders. “Because of their very generous lead gift to establish the new institute, countless patients will benefit from innovative medicine.”

Rick Stephens added, “I think there are moments when you just really have to decide, ‘Is it important to me to have world-class care in my community for the people I know and love? Is it important to solve the problems that no one else is solving and to explore new solutions to global medical issues?’ For us, the answer is yes, unquestionably.”

The Stephens Family Clinical Research Institute is already working with King Li, MD, dean of the Carle Illinois College of Medicine, to develop an innovative project aimed at improving the health of rural residents.

Dr. Li’s discussions with members of the Carle Rural Alliance for Exceptional Care revealed that rural healthcare and community leaders often lack access to information that would help them make better decisions on strategies that address the most significant healthcare concerns.  Providing tools to help rural communities in turn helps achieve Dr. Li’s goal to develop a health system that learns and adapts to rapid changes. 

“It’s very important in health-related research to be able to turn data into knowledge and then determine a course of action to help the population implement that knowledge,” Li said. “Just knowing something doesn’t change outcomes. The knowledge has to be acted on by the patient with support from their physician for it to have an impact.”

The Stephens Family Clinical Research Institute supports this kind of relevant, clinical research. It also creates an environment of innovation that provides exceptional opportunities for the broader medical community, including Carle clinicians, University of Illinois scientists and students in the new Carle Illinois College of Medicine.

“The Stephens’ gift is a game-changer for research at Carle,” said Jennifer Eardley, PhD, vice president for research, The Carle Foundation. “It allows us to pursue the kind of innovative clinical research that you see in preeminent medical centers and bring it to patient care in east central Illinois.”

She explains that the research being conducted will enable real-world application of new discoveries and ideas. It also will establish best practices so Carle can continue to deliver the highest quality healthcare.

Matthew Gibb, MD, system chief medical officer, agrees.

“We’ve made the decision to include research as a strategic imperative within the Carle healthcare system. Developing and nurturing a culture of research within the clinical practice environment provides substantial direct benefits to our patients and the broader medical community. The Stephens Family Clinical Research Institute provides the structure, the support, and the vision for accomplishing that goal.”