URI launches Academic Health Collaborative to position University as health reform leader

New College of Health Sciences to be linked to Colleges of Nursing, Pharmacy under plan

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KINGSTON, R.I. – March 28, 2016 – The University of Rhode Island is putting in place a sweeping reorganization of its health programs to maximize cross-disciplinary teaching, research, and outreach and to place the University in a position of strength as health care undergoes rapid change in the United States.

URI has established The Academic Health Collaborative to spur cooperation and innovation in the areas of research, inter-professional education, population health, health promotion and recognition and elimination of health disparities. The initiative could pave the way for faculty-led health clinics, new programs in public health and health policy and worksite health programs. The University already enjoys international prominence for its research on Alzheimer’s disease and other neurological conditions, plant-based pharmaceuticals, premature infant birthing and development, ocean-based organisms for medicinal uses and insect-born diseases.

In large part, the collaborative is a response to the changes occurring across the country as doctors, nurses, pharmacists, mental health professionals, hospitals, community agencies, visiting nurse services and other home care agencies work together to improve care, reduce the need for hospitalizations, promote wellness and reduce costs. As millions of Americans have gained access to health insurance, the need to address delivery and care models has never been greater.

Under the new collaborative, a new College of Health Sciences will join the colleges of Nursing and Pharmacy as the lead academic units. Programs in kinesiology, physical therapy, health studies, nutrition and food science, psychology, communicative disorders, and human development and family studies will be among those housed in the College of Health Sciences. In addition, an Institute for Integrated Health and Innovation will be established to foster multidisciplinary collaboration among faculty, students and professionals in the community from a broad spectrum of health disciplines. The institute can also serve as a hub for health services research and outreach that can serve the state of Rhode Island and its people.

At this time, URI’s health disciplines are scattered within five URI colleges: Arts and Sciences, Environment and Life Sciences, Pharmacy, Nursing, and Human Science and Services. The University has acknowledged that productive collaboration has occurred and continues to occur across departments and colleges, but integrated initiatives have been hampered by traditional academic structure.

Students will benefit from being exposed to interdisciplinary health research, education, and outreach as new academic programs are designed, new lines of research are created, new inter professional experiences are offered, and new entrepreneurial ventures are created, especially in the areas of health care reform, health services, and health data management.

Undergraduate and graduate students will be active participants on cross-disciplinary teams to advance these new educational, research, and service models that will prepare them for the changing nature of work in the health and health care industry.

To ensure the success of the plan, the University sought input and approvals from the health-focused departments, the nursing and pharmacy colleges and the Faculty Senate, all of whom recently voted to approve the plan.

In addition to the three colleges and the Institute for Integrated Health and Innovation, the collaborative will also include an Office of Shared Services, which will facilitate work across departments and colleges.

Implementation began in the fall with task forces charged with developing the plans and actions to create a College of Health Sciences, the Institute for Integrated Health and Innovation, the Office of Shared Services, and the integrative policies and infrastructure of the collaborative as a whole. These task forces consist of faculty, staff, and administrators from the health areas, and the goal is to have the new Collaborative in place and functioning by fall 2016.

Each college dean will have two responsibilities: leading their colleges and leading integrated activities across the colleges and the Collaborative. They will constitute an Executive Committee charged with planning for integrated health programs, research, services, outreach and entrepreneurial activities. Together, the three deans will serve as the Academic Health Collaborative Executive Committee.

The Institute for Integrated Health and Innovation, a central piece of the new organization, is designed to facilitate collaboration among faculty, students and professionals in the community through teams of multidisciplinary health experts. According to a University report on the Health Collaborative, this approach includes multi-level programs that cross health systems and approaches from the perspective of cell, self and society. While traditional medical models have emphasized individual treatment, health care reform is directing attention to population health innovations, for which far too few health professionals are trained, the report says. A director will oversee the institute and report to the executive committee.

Among some of the major initiatives under the Collaborative are:

  • Creation of faculty-run health clinics that integrate research, teaching and outreach activities and involve undergraduate and graduate students in treatment.
  • Development of new interdisciplinary academic health programs, such as health policy, public heath, health literacy, and data and health informatics and “big data”;
  • Disease-based interdisciplinary hubs (cancer, diabetes, obesity) that integrate basic and applied sciences, including work from the molecular to the holistic levels;
  • Development of worksite employee health programs and other public/private partnerships;
  • Drug studies that integrate basic and clinical research or trials and focus areas for drug research that includes basic and applied science;
  • Consultant teams for school settings to address illness prevention, healthy lifestyle changes and violence prevention;
  • Creation of a campus retirement community that provides health services; and collaboration with the state of Rhode Island on Medicare and Medicaid research and policy.

Read more: What they are saying about URI’s Academic Health Collaborative.

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The University of Rhode Island is putting in place a sweeping reorganization of its health programs to maximize cross-disciplinary teaching, research, and outreach. See why this new endeavor puts URI students & faculty in a position of strength as health care undergoes rapid change in the United States and around the world.

Produced by URI New Media and Ocean State Video

Highlights from Academic Health Collaborative launch March 28, 2016.