University Communications

A Vision for our State’s Health

Email from President Kaler to all University of Minnesota faculty and staff

April 4, 2013

Dear Colleagues,

Recently, you may have read or heard that Fairview Health Services is talking to Sanford Health about a possible consolidation. Minnesota Attorney General Lori Swanson has expressed interest in ensuring any combination benefits the state of Minnesota, and she will be holding a public hearing this Sunday to learn more.

We have been aware for some time of the Fairview-Sanford discussions. Given our academic mission and given our long-standing affiliation with Fairview, the potential for it to align with any other health system raises serious concerns for the University, and requires a high level of engagement on our part. Before any such merged entity could advance, the University must have its questions answered and perform extensive due diligence.

Fundamentally, our concerns about such a consolidation center on the question of how any new organization would serve the people of Minnesota and advance the University's unique academic mission, our unique role as the state's only public research institution, and our responsibility to educate and train the state's next generation of health sciences professionals.

Given the University's unique strengths and our need to train doctors and other healthcare professionals to work effectively in a changing healthcare landscape, in January we advanced a proposal to Fairview to fully integrate with the University to create a statewide academic health system. Academic health systems are a partnership between universities and health care providers that focus on research, clinical services, education, and training. Our proposal will be reported in the news media beginning today.

We are now beginning the process of more deeply exploring both this option with Fairview, and the implications of a Fairview-Sanford combination. We are excited about our proposal: An academic health system that fully integrates the University and Fairview will revitalize the Medical School, strengthen the state's health sciences workforce pipeline, and serve the broad needs of Minnesota citizens--especially in providing primary care statewide for a growing chronic care and aging population.

We know this model of a fully integrated academic healthcare system works--"best practice" examples include academic health systems at the University of Michigan; University of California, San Francisco; University of Pittsburgh; Johns Hopkins University; and The Ohio State University. All are academic healthcare systems that are meeting their states' needs and effectively responding to the new national healthcare marketplace.

The future of healthcare education, delivery, and research in our state is inextricably tied to the future of the University of Minnesota's health sciences enterprise. We are the state's largest and most important institution for healthcare education, and one of the largest for complex patient care and research. We must ensure that we can deliver on our mission now, and in the future.

Ours is a big vision, and an extraordinary and exciting opportunity for the state.

This is where we need to go and I expect developments to continue to unfold next week and in the weeks and months ahead. I will keep you updated about our progress.

Sincerely,

Eric W. Kaler
President