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June 9, 2020

Expanded partnership to eliminate disparities in health care

Henry Ford Health System and Michigan State University have announced the two organizations signed a letter of intent to significantly expand their long-term partnership, a unique primary affiliation among the first of its kind for the region between a fully integrated academic health system and major state university.

Committed to redesigning care around patients and communities through education, research and clinical care, the enhanced collaboration will focus on improving access, affordability and outcomes, especially for Detroit’s and Michigan’s most vulnerable populations.

“Partnerships with the potential for greater impact are more important than ever before,” said Wright Lassiter III, president and CEO of Henry Ford Health System. “The COVID-19 pandemic and the ongoing injustices and recent protests in cities across our nation have amplified the importance of and urgency for innovation and discovery that radically improves the health of all of the communities we serve.”

“Health care is one of the most important building blocks of a strong community, and for that we believe every individual deserves accessible, affordable, compassionate, quality care,” said Samuel L. Stanley Jr., M.D., MSU’s president. “We must seek solutions to address disparities across cultural, racial and socioeconomic lines. This pandemic has demonstrated the willingness of individuals from multiple disciplines and from different organizations to unite – the time to build upon that is now.”

The non-binding agreement was signed after months of talks and has several hallmark elements including a primary affiliation for a shared research enterprise, expanded opportunities for health students and long-term plan to build a joint research institute in Detroit. Combined research areas will include health inequities and disparities as well as social determinants of health, primary care, implementation sciences, precision health and cancer.

“As a land-grant institution engaging in the highest level of research, we are defined by working with communities to address areas of greatest need and making a difference through partnerships. This effort will uniquely prepare our students to lead the way in improving health and health care in the future,” said Norman J. Beauchamp Jr., MSU’s executive vice president for health sciences, overseeing the colleges of Human Medicine, Nursing and Osteopathic Medicine, as well as clinical practices. “Aligning the education, clinical and research strengths of Henry Ford with MSU’s strengths campus-wide, we will drive discovery, enhance existing partnerships and ultimately bring more to bear in serving the communities of Michigan.”

Adnan Munkarah, Henry Ford Health System executive vice president and chief clinical officer, said the partnership will also enable the expansion of translational research, already a differentiator for Henry Ford.

“Together, we have a tremendous opportunity to think about the whole care continuum,” Munkarah added. “From accelerating the speed at which patients benefit from new discoveries to working with our health plan on innovative care models to drive down costs – we will partner with patients, families and communities across their whole health care journey, including primary care and prevention to complex specialty care and chronic disease management.”

Another major partnership component includes a fully integrated cancer program, which will combine research and clinical applications to create a national and international destination for access to the most advanced cancer therapies and research, including a joint effort to achieve National Cancer Institute designation.

Additionally, with both institutions sharing a long history of and commitment to medical education and training, MSU and Henry Ford will expand education opportunities for physicians, nurses and other health care professionals, focused on diversity, recruitment and retention, and revolutionized training models.

“One of the things about which I am most passionate is the amazing revitalization we’re continuing to see in our great city of Detroit,” said Steven N. Kalkanis, CEO of Henry Ford Medical Group and senior vice president and chief academic officer of the Henry Ford Health System. “We know that providing a progressive approach to medical education – strongly rooted in early collaboration and integrated care modeling – can attract and retain the best and brightest health care talent. That’s a truly unique way we can promote economic growth and vitality for Detroit and all of Michigan.”

“The current brace of generational disruptions in our social, economic and health systems have highlighted disparities, inequities and inefficiencies that can and must be addressed,” said Norm Hubbard, chief business officer for MSU’s Office of Health Sciences. “Meeting that challenge and rising to that opportunity will require transformational thinking about how our care providers are educated, how we improve and sustain the health of our communities, and how we conduct the research and promote the innovation that will inform and drive not only incremental, but quantum improvements. The combined capabilities of these two great organizations, and importantly the cultural resonance between them, will allow us to create a unique platform with the ability to achieve those vital goals.”

The two organizations will now work toward a series of definitive agreements which they hope to finalize this fall.

Listen to President Stanley discuss the effort on the MSUToday podcast.

By: Emily Guerrant


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