Health care on board’s mind
The University has to continue to assess exactly what its role will be in health care and how it will fare against existing establishments in the Houston community, a UH official said at the UH System Board of Regents meeting Thursday.
"I think there’s three areas where the University needs to be involved with: international issues, energy and health," John Antel, dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Social Sciences, said after the meeting. "It all makes sense. It fits in with all our resources."
To move forward with the Health Science Center initiative, the Health Sciences Committee will be meeting every two weeks to detail where and how UH will be proactive in the health and medical community, said Antel, who is also the chair of the committee.
The initiative began under former interim provost Gerald Strickland about three years ago and has picked up speed during Interim President John Rudley’s term, Antel said after the meeting. The initiative could take up to 10 years for completion and will "strive for excellence in all undergraduate, graduate and professional programs, as well as in research and public service," according to its strategic principles.
The committee will eventually report their suggestions to the board, who will determine all final details of how the initiative will be brought forth and what it will entail, Antel said.
The initiative’s "overarching objective" is for UH to become the dominant presence in the Medical Center and to include a full range of academic programs, research and training programs and expand services for UH clinical programs, according to a National Advisory Committee presentation. Antel did not date the presentation other than saying Strickland had been in charge when it was done.
And although that might have been the objective in the past, the University will be looking at all of its options, Antel said.
"We’re going to be doing a project-by-project basis. In general, we want to keep building our own energy and build our presence in health care," he said. "I think we need a presence in the Texas Medical Center, but we need to think about UH as a health team."
Regent Dennis Golden said it was vital for the University to analyze the market and locate the underserved communities and absent forms of medical practice.
"Health delivery service is growing rapidly," he said. "We need to look at individual niches. Go to fill some void in Houston. I don’t know what they are, but we should look at the voids – that would be the first move."
The University is considering utilizing other UH System campuses, such as UH-Victoria and UH- Sugar Land, where the population and need is different because of the suburban demographics, Golden said.
"We can do things there that we wouldn’t be able to do here," he said.
Implementing "chronic care" treatment is another option the University could pursue, Antel said. Antel gave an example of specialized fields of medicine that are more long-term than emergency-oriented, such as weight-loss management. He also said that subjects in those areas could be used for research as well.
"We could be involved in a lot of things," Antel said. "But it’s really up to the regents. Either way, we will continue to grow."
Although planning for the Health Science Center initiative is still in its preliminary stages, UH should utilize this opportunity to set a standard for other Universities, Antel said.
"We can create a new model," he said. "We can deliver a cost effective method and ultimately come out on top. This could morph into a lot of things; it’s about managing health care. We want to be opportunistic and find our niches."
Golden emphasized that although related, the medical school should not be the crux of this initiative, and the center could potentially provide education and professional opportunities in different ways.
"This would be a major plus. There are so many other issues we can address," he said. "Let’s get organized with what we already have."
Antel said that if the University winds up not having a medical school it will seek other ways to get involved in the health care industry.
"We could do things to help manage people’s health care such as training, billing systems and business education," he said.
The University has not solidified any plans or actions yet with Cornell University to create a medical school partnership, although discussions have continued, Donald Foss, vice president of Academic Affairs, said at the meeting.
The idea of a medical school has been on the board’s agenda for more than two years but did not become concrete until UH partnered with Methodist Hospital and the Weill Medical College of Cornell University IN 2006 for the Institute for Biomedical Imaging Science.†
Cornell and UH began discussing a medical school partnership after that.†
According to an April 2006 consultant’s report from DJW Associates, UH would commit $15 million to cover planning and operation costs until state funding could take effect and would seek to raise an additional $50 million through private gifts.
"We still have a number of issues to discuss, and it could include regional needs and what types of responsibility each University would have," he said.
Cornell and UH are looking to establish a "problem-based learning program," although the curriculum has not been detailed, Foss said.
The curriculum would ideally be hands-on so students can learn how to react to different medical situations, Foss said.
"Our focus is to study that kind of curriculum. We’ve had a number of conversations about capability of staff," he said. "We’ve also had discussions across town about clinical aspects."
A challenge both the board and Antel anticipate will be how to fund such operations.