For many years, medical students and resident physicians educated at the University of Arizona College of Medicine have trained at Phoenix Children’s Hospital. Under a pact approved yesterday by the Arizona Board of Regents, the hospital and the medical school’s Phoenix branch will now launch a far more robust collaboration.
Under the affiliation agreement, which the Phoenix Children’s board authorized last week, the College of Medicine-Phoenix will make Phoenix Children’s its principle pediatric affiliate, while Phoenix Children’s will make the medical school its principle academic affiliate.
In practical terms, the affiliation provides the framework for several kinds of joint endeavors. The College of Medicine will establish a new Department of Child Health and locate it at Phoenix Children’s. Academic and physician researchers from the two institutions will begin conducting scientific studies together. And Phoenix Children’s will steer an allotment of revenue to the College of Medicine, with the medical school directing other funds to Phoenix Children’s to support education programs there.
“Our formal affiliation positions the College of Medicine-Phoenix and Phoenix Children’s Hospital as one of the nation’s premier sites for pediatric health care, training and research,” said Stuart Flynn, dean of the College of Medicine-Phoenix. He added that the partnership aligns well with his institution’s goals.
“If you think of the three major missions of a medical school, it’s certainly patient care, patient-centered research, and education–from medical students to residents to fellows to physicians in continuing education,” Dr. Flynn said in the Phoenix Business Journal.
The revenue that will flow to Phoenix Children’s from the College of Medicine-Phoenix may be the most important element of the new affiliation. Arizona health-care experts have seen expanding residency programs, or graduate medical education (GME), as critical to alleviating the state’s physician shortage, since doctors are most likely to practice in the regions where they complete their residencies. But even existing residency slots have been endangered by recent cuts by the Arizona Legislature to state GME funding.
“There was a push by the Legislature to expand residency programs,” said Robert Meyer, president and CEO of Phoenix Children’s, in the Arizona Republic. “We took the bait and expanded our residency program only to have our funding eliminated. . . . We hope to replace what was taken away from us.”
Meyer and Dr. Flynn said that the affiliation will also give the hospital the research bona fides to attract some of the nation’s most renowned pediatricians.
“The physicians we’ve been recruiting have a strong interest in academics, but we haven’t had that more robust academic affiliation,” Meyer said in the Business Journal.
Academic and physician researchers will now be collaborating from the time that grant proposals are first being formulated, Dr. Flynn said in the Business Journal. “We align the two up front and make them synergize one another and work together,” he said.
Recruiting will remain a top Phoenix Children’s priority for some time, given the massive expansion it is undergoing. The hospital’s current building project will transform it from a 345-bed hospital today into one with 626 beds in 2012. At that point, it will be one of the largest freestanding children’s hospitals in North America.
“During the course of our expansion thus far, Phoenix Children’s has had to recruit many of our pediatric specialists from out of state,” said Murray Pollack, chief medical and academic officer for Phoenix Children’s. “But this new affiliation allows us to train and retain our own top talent.”
A Shifting Landscape in Medical Care
The partnership between Phoenix Children’s and UA is the latest in a string of developments over the past two years that have changed the hospital and medical-education communities in Arizona:
- September, 2008: Banner Health purchases Sun Health Corp., taking over two hospitals and the vaunted Sun Health Research Institute, one of the nation’s most prestigious sites for Alzheimer’s disease research.
- May, 2009: Banner Health and the University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center announce that they will partner to build the M.D. Anderson Banner Cancer Center on the Gilbert campus of Banner Gateway Medical Center.
- June, 2009: St. Joseph’s Hospital and Medical Center and Creighton University announce an academic affiliation under which the Creighton School of Medicine will establish a branch campus for its medical school at St. Joseph’s, placing a total of 84 third and fourth-year medical students at St. Joe’s by 2013.
- April, 2010: Phoenix Children’s and St. Joseph’s announce a strategic alliance under which St. Joseph’s will move most of its pediatric services to Phoenix Children’s by 2011, some Phoenix Children’s researchers will shift their base of operations to St. Joseph’s, and St. Joseph’s will become a minority member of Phoenix Children’s.
- April, 2010: UA and Arizona State University announce that they are ending their partnership on the College of Medicine-Phoenix, though they affirm that joint research projects will continue.
- June, 2010: The Arizona Board of Regents approves creation of a new corporation, UA Healthcare, which will hold as subsidiaries both the Tucson-based University Medical Center and University Physicians Healthcare, the medical practice for UA College of Medicine physicians that manages the University Physicians Hospital at Kino in Tucson.
- August, 2010: Vanguard Health Systems Inc. announces that it is buying the Arizona Heart Institute, a statewide network of cardiac-care offices, and that it is interested in purchasing the Arizona Heart Hospital, located in Phoenix.
For more information:
“UA Expands Affiliation With Phoenix Children’s Hospital,” UA news release, 08/05/2010
“Phoenix Children’s, UA look to join forces on research, education,” Phoenix Business Journal, 08/05/2010
“Pact to build new pediatric unit at Phoenix hospital,” Arizona Republic, 08/04/2010