1. Education, Patient Care & Discovery

    September 17, 2015

    Keeping the University of Michigan’s Health System at the forefront of patient care, education, and discovery is a major focus of my work to advance excellence at our university.

    A world-class public research university with a premier health system is a combination that few can match. Our health system is built on a solid foundation of strengths – patient care and education linked directly and deeply to leading biomedical research and discovery – that provide a great platform on which to build for our future.

    To take full advantage, we must be organized in a way that fosters effective collaboration across our institution and maximizes quality care for patients.

    Today, the University of Michigan Board of Regents approved changes in the organization of our health system that I believe are necessary to best pursue our ambitions and address the challenges we face.

    The change brings together the roles of the executive vice president for medical affairs and the dean of our Medical School. I recommended that our EVPMA, Dr. Marschall Runge, serve in this expanded role, effective Jan. 1, 2016.

    By explicitly and visibly linking responsibility for the health system’s tripartite mission of research, education and patient care in single leader, we enable a seamless connection among the people and resources of the Medical School and the hospitals and health centers – while creating a transparent structure for timely action and accountability.

    There is proven success with this approach by many top institutions around the country: my alma mater Johns Hopkins University, the University of Pennsylvania and the University of Washington , are examples. All have adopted a structure where the head of the hospitals and health centers also serves as the medical school dean.

    Dr. Runge is an ideal choice. He has deep experience over the course of his career in the kind of integration I believe is necessary moving forward.

    He is a clinician who sees patients and helps to train physicians as well as a leading researcher with a first rate basic science laboratory. He is well-positioned to serve in both roles.   I know he shares my enthusiasm for this enhanced alignment of all aspects of the mission.   And he looks forward to carrying it forward throughout the Health System organization.

    Dr. Runge’s plans to integrate our clinical enterprise and our medical school will drive greater innovation and improve how we deliver patient care. As part of the restructuring, he has expanded the roles of two key leaders in our health system, both of which were also approved by the Regents today.

    Dr. Dave Spahlinger will serve as executive vice dean for clinical affairs and president of the hospitals, health Centers and U-M Medical Group. T. Anthony Denton is now the senior vice president and chief operating officer for hospitals, health centers and the U-M Medical Group.

    We are living in one of the most dynamic periods for health care in the last century, and possibly in human history. We have more to offer patients than ever before, especially at academic medical centers such as ours. An unprecedented level of biomedical discovery and the combination of information technology with medicine and engineering are yielding great progress in our ability to diagnose and treat disease and to keep patients healthy.

    Demand for health care also is increasing due to the growth and aging of our population. The reforms ushered in by the Affordable Care Act have opened the health insurance market to many new patients who could not previously afford it.

    The competitive landscape within our state and region has intensified over the last decade with many excellent hospitals and health centers throughout the state. Federal support of biomedical research has slowed down and in some cases diminished.

    Our ability to stay competitive depends on attracting and retaining the best faculty, competing successfully for research funding and delivering high quality, in-demand medical care in a cost-efficient manner.

    We are on solid footing, but today’s change will help us do even more to position the health system to perform better and be more nimble in this quickly evolving landscape. There is an increased premium on our ability to work across our institution in a seamless, integrated, collaborative fashion.

    Seamless integration is what the regents had in mind when they created the EVPMA position in 1996. Prior to that point, there had been separate leaders of the Medical School and the hospitals and health centers. The EVPMA role combined responsibility and leadership for both under one leader.

    Today’s change to add the duties of dean is a natural extension of this effort. It also reflects the ongoing commitment and guidance by our regents – particularly the Health Affairs Committee chaired by Regent Shauna Ryder Diggs – to excellence in our health system.

    I want to thank Dean Jim Woolliscroft for the leadership he has provided for the Medical School for the last nine years, as well as the many years before that as executive dean, chief of staff of the hospital and health centers, and associate department chair for internal medicine.

    Under Dr. Woolliscroft’s leadership, our Medical School has continued to be ranked among the very best in the country and his efforts have positioned us well for taking the entire academic medical center to a new level with this restructuring. I’m pleased we’ll continue to have his expertise as a senior faculty member in internal medicine.