New NEOMED President Plans to Train the Next Generation of Health Care Leaders

Nov 25, 2019

Northeast Ohio Medical University’s new president is no stranger to innovation.

Dr. John Langell is not only a surgeon, he’s an inventor with more than a dozen patents.

Langell’s last job, before taking the reins last month at NEOMED, was head of the University of Utah’s Center for Medical Innovation.

We joined Langell in a tour of NEOMED’s newest expansion.

Part of Dr. John Langell’s job, since he started in October, has been learning to navigate NEOMED’s maze of buildings. 

“We have over a million square feet of building space," Langell said, "so you can easily get lost on this campus.”

The central quad is the landmark leading to the research wing, home to the REDIzone, short for Research, Entrepreneurship, Discovery, and Innovation.

It's NEOMED’s business incubator and like a lot of the Rootstown campus, it's growing.

“Right now they’re redoing the HVAC systems to ensure that we have good air quality management within the building,” said Langell.

We dodge ladders and tools along the hallway where half-a-dozen business operate.

Crystal Diagnostics is one of the biggest," said Langell. "They have plans on a commercial launch in the first quarter of this coming fiscal year.”   It’s a system that uses liquid crystals to test for food-borne pathogens.

But commercial ventures are only part of the activity.

Research expansion
We take the stairs to the fourth floor of the new research wing and enter an open space, 17,000 square feet of bare walls and duct work that Langell says will soon house a new research enterprise.

Researchers from Akron Children’s Hospital who will join NEOMED staff here, studying pediatric hearing disorders.

Langell says it’s one of many long-standing collaborations…

NEOMED president Dr. John Langell stands in the soon to be completed fourth floor of the new research wing which will host Akron Children's Hospital researchers studying pediatric hearing disorders.
Credit JEFF ST.CLAIR / WKSU

“We have partnerships with Cleveland State University, Youngstown State University, University of Akron, Kent State University, and Stark State community college is also one we’re working with very closely.”

Langell says they’re even working with the Pro Football Hall of Fame Village in Canton in studying how to treat aging athletes.

“We’re creating the next generation of health care leaders and scientists," he says.

“Our goal isn’t to produce practitioners and researchers who do things the way they’re done now, because if we do that, we’re stuck in what is arguably a broken health care system with costs that are out of control.”

Langell says the $16 million NEOMED spends each year on research, along with work at other institutions, should make health care delivery cheaper.

“So as we do research, we’re not only improving outcomes in health care, we're actually improving the financial viability of our health care system.”

New thinking is needed
But Langell recognizes that research is only part of the solution to bringing down costs.

“We know that the best way to take care of people and the best way to reduce costs are around wellness and prevention."

Unfortunately, "wellness and prevention are not incentivized financially for existing systems as treating the patient with the disease process,” Langell said.

“If we really want to be effective in changing the health care system, we have to figure out how to redo that business model."

He acknowledges that changes on that scale present formitdable challenges, "because it’s a massive part of our GDP.”

Langell says the old adage about an ounce of prevention vs a pound of cure, doesn’t reflect today’s health care economics.

“Instead of preventing something for a dime, we’re treating it for a dollar.”

Training change leaders
As president of NEOMED, Dr. John Langell believes the solution to a broken system can be found in medical education.

“I think the best way to change the way we deliver health care and improve outcomes is to create the future that’s going to do it.”

His plan for improving NEOMED's education model include teaching future doctors to prescribe prevention, to better understand the business of health care, and most importantly, to become leaders.

“These are the things they have to understand to be able to make a difference," Langell said.

"Instead of just practicing medicine," Langell surmised NEOMED graduates will soon be, "actually changing medicine.”