Local health-care infrastructure progressing
BY JANET PEARSON Associate Editor
Sunday, October 21, 2012
10/21/12 at 3:58 AM
Birthdays can be important milestones, a time for both looking back and looking forward.
That's true for not only people, but institutions as well. Take, for example, the Tulsa School of Community Medicine, established 40 years ago this year as a branch of the University of Oklahoma College of Medicine.
In the beginning, it didn't even have its own campus. Now thriving at the ever-expanding Schusterman campus - observing its 10th anniversary as OU-Tulsa's home base - the Tulsa School of Community Medicine will soon have its very own campus, from which it will continue to make its mark not only on the region, but the nation and the world.
"For many adults, the 40th birthday is a milestone that heralds middle-age and for some, a sense that maybe their best years are past them. For the School of Community Medicine, nothing could be farther from the truth," said OU-Tulsa President Dr. Gerry Clancy. "Although we are quite proud of our past 40 years, we are even more excited about the next 40 years."
Established by the Legislature in 1972, the Tulsa OU branch would of necessity become the template for an innovative model that is now generating worldwide interest. As Clancy noted in an article celebrating the 10-year anniversary of the Schusterman campus: "Instead of taking the usual approach of a big hospital and a big clinic as a center point, the Tulsa campus was built to be community-based. The community came together with three hospitals - Hillcrest, Saint Francis and St. John - with private physicians and OU to form a three-way partnership."
Other early partners included Laureate Psychiatric Hospital and Jane Phillips Hospital in Bartlesville. In 2008, the newest partner, the University of Tulsa, came on board.
The school's name was changed several years ago to reflect its evolving mission of improving the health of entire communities. The first such medical school in the country, its rigorous recruitment program ensures the school attracts the kinds of students with the skills and desire to address health issues at their roots so as to have an impact on the entire community.
The developing partnership with TU will enable students to obtain all their education in Tulsa. This rare public-private higher-education collaboration also will lead to the creation of a downtown campus, thanks to TU's acquisition of the Hartford Building on Greenwood Avenue.
This rapid and impressive progress would not have been possible were it not for the generous support of local philanthropic foundations, notably the Schusterman, George Kaiser and Oxley foundations. Thanks to their largesse, the school now has $105 million in endowment for expanding its programs. Significant support also has come from Hille, the Herman Kaiser Foundation, Blue Cross Blue Shield, the Saint Francis, St. John and Hillcrest hospital systems, and the Gussman family foundation.
The Tulsa school already has had a huge effect on health care in the region. About half of northeast Oklahoma's physicians are graduates of OU-Tulsa, and there are Tulsa graduates practicing in 55 of the state's 77 counties. Its practitioners provide more than 300,000 contacts a year to patients from 70 of the state's 77 counties, most of them struggling with poverty.
Despite this progress, there's much more to be done. "As we plan for the next 40 years of the School of Community Medicine, we realize that health care will need to transform itself and we will need to transform our medical school training programs as well," noted Clancy. "Although the U.S. is deeply divided over many aspects of our current health care system, there are areas that for the most part few argue over - as the baby boomers age, we need to improve access to care, we need to improve the quality and safety of care and we need to lower the overall cost of care to stay competitive as a state and as a nation."
TSCM already is playing a significant role in these transformations. The school has been an innovator in such efforts as school-based clinics in underserved areas, the Bedlam after-hours clinics for the uninsured, and mobile psychiatric service teams.
These impressive innovations have helped the school and the Tulsa medical community win one of 17 major federal grants for developing pilot health-information infrastructure systems, which will improve care communitywide and help save time and money. Tulsa also is one of seven regions nationally to be awarded a Comprehensive Primary Care Initiative grant for improving care coordination and patient navigation services to help link patients with the right clinicians at the right time. This program also is focusing on improving care for more complex and high-cost patients.
Thanks to key support from the Legislature and Gov. Mary Fallin, the school in partnership with Morton Comprehensive Health Services recently opened the Wayman Tisdale Specialty Health Clinic in north Tulsa, a facility which will greatly help to addressing need beyond primary health care.
"All of this innovation in the clinical setting serves as the right teaching environment for our next generation of physicians," said Clancy.
Happily, the Tulsa program has some extraordinary company in the form of two other medical training programs. The University of Oklahoma College of Medicine in Oklahoma City, known as a premier comprehensive health center, is one of the fastest growing tertiary centers in the nation. Oklahoma State University's College of Osteopathic Medicine - also founded in 1972 - has received national attention for its effective training efforts to place physicians in rural Oklahoma.
While birthdays are a time for celebration, in this instance it's also a time for gearing up for what lies ahead.
"With Oklahoma's health and physician work-force rankings near the bottom nationally, there is plenty of work for our state's medical schools. These schools need to be supported and need to expand to meet our future needs," said Clancy. "We are fortunate that each school is positioning itself to complement the others and each shares a commitment to a healthier Oklahoma."
Original Print Headline: Innovation and transformation
Janet Pearson 918-581-8328