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Keeping Academic Hospital Crucial UConn Health Merger Best For School, State

CATO T. LAURENCIN

April 05, 2009

The proposed partnership between the University of Connecticut Health Center and Hartford Healthcare Corp., the parent of Hartford Hospital, seeks to boldly transform medical education and the quality of patient care in our region.

As we discuss the benefits of the partnership with community leaders and elected officials, we are often asked about the so-called "distributed model" of community-based medical schools, where teaching takes place only at community hospitals. These schools might provide excellent health care to their communities, but they are ranked among the lowest in the country in research and lack the capacity to drive innovation or regional economic growth.

Make no mistake, any consideration of such a model would be a huge disservice to the people of our state.

The UConn Health Center is the only academic medical center in the Hartford region and the state's only public academic medical center. It is a place where research, teaching and clinical care are equally cherished and "hard-wired" into everything we do. No other hospital in the region comes close to that.

In our area, the majority of medical and dental student teaching takes place at the health center. Our centralized oversight enhances the quality of the educational experience as our students and residents complete their training in community hospitals in the region. Moreover, the academic medical center model attracts outstanding clinicians and scientists who seek an environment where the pursuit of academic medicine occurs every day. It is the constant interaction between scientific discovery, patient care and education that is so vital and exhilarating. It is a quiet excellence that can be found right here, throughout our health center.

The health center environment is strikingly similar to Harvard Medical School, where I received training. At Harvard, most of the hospitals were adjacent to the medical school facilities. All the hospitals there had extensive research facilities coupled with graduate medical education facilities, a combination that fosters outstanding clinical care. More important, all those hospitals embrace all three missions all the time a culture identical to ours at UConn.

The partnership proposes replacing the worn John Dempsey Hospital with a new academic hospital on our Farmington campus. That new facility would be integrated with Hartford Hospital to form a new university hospital on two campuses.

But the partnership envisions more than just a merger of two entities. Under the plan, Hartford Hospital would join us as a true partner in our quest for excellence in research and education.

Understanding that any successful partnership starts with a shared vision, UConn President Michael Hogan and I spent several months in long discussions with Hartford Healthcare. This involved a certain level of soul searching. Could they embrace our academic culture and mission? The answer, we concluded, was yes. Hartford Healthcare is prepared to join UConn in leading a transformational change for the health center and for the region.

It must be underscored that the process for selecting Hartford Hospital was an open one chartered by the General Assembly and monitored by the Connecticut Academy of Science and Engineering. All hospitals in the region participated. Only Hartford Hospital proposed a clinical partnership and hospital merger with us.

A larger academic hospital on two campuses will lead to greater growth in research, which will bring greater funding from the federal government and other outside sources to the state. It will lead to better and more innovative treatments for patients. It will lead to economic growth for the state.

Instead of fearing the future and holding on to old ways, our region should embrace the proposal to bring together Hartford Hospital and UConn's John Dempsey Hospital.

Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant. To view other stories on this topic, search the Hartford Courant Archives at http://www.courant.com/archives.
| Last update: September 25, 2012 |
     
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