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Michigan State expands health system partnership, intends research institute, cancer program

June 10, 2020
<p>A student walks into Olin Health Center on Feb. 27, 2020.</p>

A student walks into Olin Health Center on Feb. 27, 2020.

Photo by Lauren DeMay | The State News

Michigan State University and Henry Ford Health System announced on Tuesday a signed letter of intent to significantly expand their partnership to build a joint research institute in Detroit and a fully-integrated cancer program.

The organizations are working toward a series of definitive agreements, which they hope to finalize this fall.

In a release from Henry Ford Health System, President and CEO Wright Lassiter said these partnerships are more important than before amongst the COVID-19 pandemic and ongoing injustices and recent protests in cities across the nation, amplifying the importance for urgency for innovation and discovery that improve the health of vulnerable communities.

This partnership between an academic health system and major state university hopes to redesign care around patients and communities through education, research and clinical care, according to the release. The collaboration will focus on improving access, affordability and outcomes primarily for Detroit and Michigan’s vulnerable populations.

“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,” MSU President Samuel L. Stanley Jr. said in the release. “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 letter of intent was signed following months of discussion.

The plan to build a joint research institute in Detroit will combine research areas including health inequities and disparities as well as social determinants of health, primary care, implementation sciences, precision health and cancer. 

“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," Henry Ford Health System Senior Vice President and Chief Academic Officer Steven N. Kalkanis said in the release. "That’s a truly unique way we can promote economic growth and vitality for Detroit and all of Michigan.”

According to Henry Ford Health System Executive Vice President and Chief Clinical Officer Adnan Munkarah, this will be an opportunity to expand beyond traditional research. This will accelerate the speed at which patients benefit from new discoveries to working with their health plans on new care models to drive down costs while partnering with patients, families and communities across their health care journeys.

The partnership will also include a fully integrated cancer program, which sets to combine research and clinical applications to create national and international destination access to advanced cancer therapies and research, including a joint effort to achieve National Cancer Institute designation.

In this expansion, both parties will be expanding education opportunities for physicians, nurses and other health care professionals, focused on diversity, recruitment and retention, and revolutionized training models.

Office of Health Sciences Chief Business Officer Norm Hubbard said the disruptions in social, economic and health systems have highlighted disparities, inequities and inefficiencies that must be addressed.

“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," Hubbard said "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.”

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