URI Academic Health Collaborative enters into innovative partnership with R.I. Dept. of Health

State University, state health department launch programs for students, faculty

Media Contact: Dave Lavallee, 401-874-5862 |

KINGSTON, R.I. – October 13, 2016 — The University of Rhode Island’s Academic Health Collaborative and the Rhode Island Department of Health (RIDOH)’s Academic Center have entered into an innovative new partnership to build healthier communities throughout Rhode Island and to strengthen the state’s public health workforce.

The memorandum of understanding signed by the two state institutions will lead to new research opportunities for graduate students and faculty members, internships and training opportunities with the URI College of Business’ master of business of administration degree in health, and outreach collaborations that will include undergraduate students from a variety of health, science, management and economic disciplines.

“This is the Academic Health Collaborative’s first agreement with a critical agency in Rhode Island,” said E. Paul Larrat, dean of URI’s College of Pharmacy and coordinating dean of the collaborative. “This is an important milestone because each agency is charged with serving the citizens of Rhode Island. Because the University is a public University, we are in the trenches—in the communities, the clinics and even people’s homes.”

“This new collaboration between the URI Academic Health Collaborative and RIDOH’s Academic Center will allow our two state institutions to pool talent, resources, and ideas in a way that will help improve health outcomes in every zip code throughout Rhode Island,” said Nicole Alexander-Scott, MD, MPH, director of the Rhode Island Department of Health. “The kind of research and collaboration that will happen through this partnership is the backbone of creativity and innovation that state agencies are striving toward together.”

RIDOH was recently established as an academic health department, or a teaching health department that formalizes the relationship between academia and public health. This is the public health equivalent of a teaching hospital affiliation that formalizes the relationship between medical schools and hospitals.

Through this state partnership, URI and RIDOH will share data for public policy development and resources to aid in health planning across Rhode Island. One of the key elements of the agreement is a public health practicum through which URI students in health disciplines will become Public Health Scholars by working with a faculty mentor from URI and with a faculty supervisor from RIDOH. These scholars will be engaged in on-site, supervised public health work at RIDOH and will be graded by their supervisors. URI College of Pharmacy students who have already started their work as Public Health Scholars are:

  • Coordinating with RIDOH staff to address the opioid overdose crisis by working to make medication dispensing safer;
  • Developing a protocol and process to conduct site visits at pharmacies to ensure the safe storage and handling of vaccine; and
  • Assisting with the implementation of new processes related to RIDOH regulations.

RIDOH’s Academic Center was launched this year to strengthen the integration of scholarly activities with public health practice by instilling a culture of learning and innovative problem solving, along with continuous quality improvement, throughout the Department. In addition, the RIDOH Academic Center is focused on career and workforce development.

Launched last spring by the University, the Academic Health Collaborative links three colleges at URI–nursing, pharmacy and the new health sciences college. It serves 5,000 students in nine health disciplines. The Institute for Integrated Health and Innovation is the hub for innovation across the collaborative, including cross-disciplinary opportunities in education, research, entrepreneurship and service. Such work will engage external health agencies, including hospital systems, and other universities and colleges in the state.

The collaboration between URI and RIDOH will be directed by an oversight committee with representatives from both state institutions.