During the Arizona Board of Regents' April 12 meeting on campus, the University of Arizona Health Sciences presented their portion of UA's Strategic Plan.
The main campus plan was unveiled last fall. UA President Dr. Robert C. Robbins told the board that when he first arrived at UA he wanted to bring the community together for a strategic plan, but there was no permanent leader of the Health Sciences at that point.
Now, Dr. Michael Dake, senior vice president for UA Health Sciences, was able to give an update on what the plan for Health Sciences is.
Robbins first did a review of the five pillars of the original Strategic Plan, saying they cover student success, research, re-imagining the land-grant university, UA Global and running the university more efficiently. He said the Health Sciences plan will primarily intersect with the second pillar, research, but will have components that fit into all five pillars.
"Our areas of endeavor would be around space and astronomy, the environment particularly focused on water, and health sciences and human health would be the third part of the second pillar," Robbins said.
Dake defined five large aspirations for UAHS' role as a leader in the future of health sciences. These were: become a top 25 ranked university for health sciences, play a leading role in eliminating health inequities by providing access to high-quality health care for all Arizonans, eliminate Arizona’s current health professional shortage by increasing graduation and retention of health professionals in the state, lead the field in closing the gap between health span and lifespan and lastly, provide the most culturally supportive educational experience for underrepresented minorities.
Dake also defined five core themes for the Health Sciences Strategic Plan that will allow them to reach those aspirations.
Theme 1: Future-proof Graduates
"This is our education theme to prepare all health professionals for inevitable changes and new challenges," Dake said.
Dake said this theme integrates into Pillar One of the overall strategic plan. Their main goals are to reduce the average UAHS graduate debt by 20 percent by 2024, improve the six-year graduation rates for graduate students across the health sciences and become a U.S. News & World Report top 25 program for three health science disciplines by 2024.
In terms of reducing graduate debt, Dake said for medical students, this means reducing debt from an average of $180,000 per student last year to $140,000. For graduation rates, they plan to improve rates from 90 percent in 2018 to 95 percent by 2026.
Dake said they are still investigating how to successfully reduce student debt, but they want "to remove that shadow of debt as much as possible."
Theme 2: Health, Well-being and Quality Care for All
"This is the health equity theme, and we again want to scale innovations in healthcare access, research and delivery, so it benefits not just a few, but all Arizonans," Dake said.
The goals for this initiative are: reduce the shortage of primary care physicians in Arizona by 20 percent by 2024, double funding for precision health from $20 million to $40 million annually by 2024, create a wearable device that detects the beginnings of a substance overdose and become a top 15 institute based on NIH funding for substance abuse, addiction and chronic pain.
Dake said reducing shortage of primary care physicians in Arizona "would actually reduce the shortage by 50 percent" in rural areas, if they can achieve this goal.
Seventy thousand people in the U.S. died last year from drug overdose, with a 10 percent increase from the year prior, according to Dake.
"We hope to lead the nation in addressing the current opioid epidemic by discovering alternative pain management therapies and new diagnostic tools to know who is at risk and predict how we can help them," Dake said. "We hope that we can reduce the number of opioid deaths in Arizona by 25 percent by 2024."
Theme 3: Aging for Life
"We would like to create a downtown, next-generation, senior-living oasis focused on virtual and structural solution to improve health and community integration," Dake said.
Currently, people over 65 represent 15 percent of the population and will exceed the number of people under 18 by 2035, a first in U.S. history, according to Drake.
Dake said they want to build downtown Tucson to engage seniors and develop more innovative approaches by collaborating with diverse groups on UA campus. He said this is intended to "have a desired impact on improving health and happiness in every stage of life for Arizonans."
They also plan to increase their share of funds from the National Institute on Aging from $10 to $15 million by 2024.
Theme 4: Unlock Human Resilience
Develop the capability to provide real-time immune-status monitoring to improve individuals' resilience to infection and illnesses; become a recognized leader in research for building resilience to environmental, psychological and physiological stressors; and become a top 25 ranked university globally in immunology-related awards by increasing funding from around $8 million to $24 million by 2024 are the main goals for this theme.
The university is currently ranked 38 globally in immunology-related awards.
"We think this is terribly important going forward," Dake said.
Theme 5: Innovation Powerhouse
"We think we have a strong role to play in terms of being a state that has premier health science innovation," Dake said.
Becoming the premier health science innovation center in the Southwest, with over 200 invention disclosures, 25 license agreements and 15 funded startups by 2024, is just one of the goals for this theme.
Other goals are: cultivating five signature innovation-focused partnerships with the public or private sector by 2024 and establishing a campus-wide Health Sciences Design Program with 1,000 UA students enrolled in classes 30 cross-discipline project teams underway by 2024.
Implementing the Plan
Implementation of the UAHS Strategic Plan will begin in May 2019. More information about this portion of the Strategic Plan is available at the website.
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