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Henry Ford Health + Michigan State University Health Sciences Partnership Advances New Ways of Addressing Health Care

Henry Ford Health, one of the nation's leading integrated health systems, providing innovative, quality care for more than 100 years. And Michigan State University, one of the world's leading research universities, focused on advancing the common good for more than 160 years have joined forces to transform healthcare.

The joint venture is a catalyst for change and reimagines how we think about, innovate, and deliver health and wellness. The goal is to set a new standard for how individuals and communities experience care across the state of Michigan and the nation.

The partnership is called Henry Ford Health + Michigan State University Health Sciences (HFH+MSU Health Sciences).

Launched in January 2021 with the bold purpose of advancing a new standard of health care, HFH+MSU Health Sciences has already created critical infrastructure and new pathways for pioneering research, cancer care, education, and equitable care delivery and outcomes.

At that time, I spoke about the collaboration with Dr. Norman J. Beauchamp Jr, MSU executive vice president for health sciences and Adnan Munkarah MD, executive vice president, and chief clinical officer for Henry Ford Health System. Those two gentlemen joined me again today for a progress report.

I think things are doing extremely well,” says Dr. Munkarah. “The excitement that we are seeing among our teams on both sides to deliver on our vision, which is really to be a transformational partnership in health and healthcare across our region and in the nation, is resonating extremely well.

“We’re building on the values that we have independently, and now in this partnership we are seeing that people are really committed to what we want to do together.”

“We had a hope when we started that, done correctly, individuals, students, staff, and faculty would feel more enabled and more empowered to accomplish the mission that brought them to our respective organizations,” adds Dr. Beauchamp. “And that has perhaps been the most delightful part is that we brought people together to bring hope and healing to all people. And we laid out an aggressive set of goals because of a sense of urgency that people deserve and need better. And I would recognize that this is in the setting of a pandemic that people are carving out time to do this work because it's so important. From an MSU perspective, having a partner like Henry Ford with its scope and scale of practice has been very helpful.”

Munkarah and Beauchamp elaborate on the partnership’s achievements and accomplishments so far and about the importance of diversity, equity, inclusion, and justice in reaching the collaboration’s potential.

“We hold deeply, and you can see it in the strategic plans of both organizations, that all people deserve access to equitable, affordable, safe care,” Beauchamp says. “There's an aphorism that's very meaningful. The great Dr. Martin Luther king Jr. said that of all forms of inequality, injustice in health is the most shocking and inhuman. And he uses the term inhuman because it truly is something that's a call to action.

Norman J. Beauchamp Jr, M.D.
Norman J. Beauchamp Jr, M.D.

“Communities of color, for example, do not have equivalent access to or participation in clinical trials, which has two really detrimental effects. One is that as you discover new ways to treat cancer, they may not be as effective in the underrepresented communities that weren't allowed to participate or weren't engaged in participating. But second, clinical trials are also a source of hope when all the common and existing treatments for cancer have not been effective. And individuals through clinical trials can access the most recent and advanced ways to treat cancer. Henry Ford has really established themselves as a leader in clinical trials across communities and we believe we can enhance that.”

“All of us agree that it is really shameful that in one of the most powerful nations, we still have issues with access and equity in care where we have significant disparities,” Munkarah continues. “Recognizing this is extremely important and is the first step in that journey. Part of the solution is to make sure that the most advanced and the best healthcare is available to every single member of the communities that we serve and beyond.

“Clinical trials are going to be extremely important by not only making them accessible but building trust in them. We need to change the way we think, and we need a more diverse group of providers and leaders: women leaders, leaders of color, and people with different backgrounds who can connect with communities that we serve and that the communities trust.

“In order to do that, we need to be able to recruit, matriculate, and retain medical and nursing students who will continue to serve the communities that we are in. And the work that Norm and his team and we are doing here at Henry Ford Health System is extremely focused on that. How do we make sure that we have the brightest people who want to come to this partnership so that they get their medical education with Michigan State University? They get their training with our healthcare system, and then they stay with us to be the future physicians and nurses and providers and healthcare workers who provide the services within our communities. We have a clear plan where we want to go. We are very excited about it because we don't think it is pie in the sky. We really think that it is achievable. We have the dedication and determination to make it happen. We are excited about what we have seen so far from our teams.”

“The other thing that we're excited about is that when MSU completed its strategic plan, it developed the health sustainability pillar,” Beauchamp adds. “And within that, it talks about not just connecting the health colleges to the partnership with Henry Ford Health System but recognizing the incredible strengths that exist across the campus in improving health. How do we connect these strengths? We've already had very compelling conversations with individuals in social sciences, in communication arts, in engineering, and in supply chain. We see that a key part of addressing these disparities comes from engaging the entire MSU campus in a comprehensive approach to improving health where we can leverage our expertise. Now the momentum is starting to build.”

Doctors Munkarah and Beauchamp discuss some next steps in the partnership.

“We want to make sure that we have a physical home for our combined researchers so that they will be able to sit together and collaborate and work on many of the great projects that we are looking at,” says Munkarah. “We identified the need to have that home on our Henry Ford Health System Detroit campus, and we've already started the dialogue and discussion regarding what that building looks like. What kind of research is it going to house? What are some of the general topics that we are going to bring our teams together about? We've started to think about that based on the experience that MSU has had in other markets. What does that kind of design look like? What does it mean? What is the size of that entity?”

Adnan Munkarah M.D.
Adnan Munkarah M.D.

“We want to give a huge thank you to all of those who have helped make this possible by believing in why it matters,” Beauchamp says. “All hands are on deck. This is about how we bring all people together who want to help in this effort, and we want the message to be one of inclusion. This is an opportunity for all; we need the help. We welcome it. Helen Keller said ‘Alone, I can do so little. Together, we can do so much.’ This is truly emblematic of that. Together, we can do so much. Reach out to us.”

“I want to echo what Dr. Beauchamp has said,” says Munkarah. “We have so much gratitude and appreciation for the hundreds of people who have made this possible in the past year. The accomplishments have been beyond what I have expected, and we expected a lot. We put a lot of things on the plate of our teams to make happen. There are not enough words to express our gratitude to them for making that happen. Second, it is one of the things when you get into these relationships and into these partnerships, people tell me, ‘Well, it's great. Now you are in the negotiation phase, or you've signed and now this is where the problems get started.’ I'm not naïve. I don't want to simplify things. There are always problems and hurdles to jump, but honestly, I'm more excited today than I was a year ago when we were going through these discussions. The sky is really the limit.

“I'm a true believer that this partnership of bringing Henry Ford and MSU together is transformational not only for our state, but nationally. I really think that we will be making history in healthcare by bringing our thoughts and values together to make a difference by transforming healthcare in the United States to make it affordable and providing the best outcomes and equity. This is what drives every one of us every day to make sure that we work on this partnership to drive that. It’s important for us to achieve our goal. And as I told you, I'm more excited today and I'm more optimistic today that we are on our way to achieving that goal.”

MSU Todayairs Sunday mornings at 9:00 on WKAR News/Talk and Sunday evenings at 8:00 on News/Talk 760 WJR. Find, rate, and subscribe to “MSU Today with Russ White” on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, and wherever you get your shows.