A potential partnership with Henry Ford Health System could follow a similar playbook that Michigan State University wrote over the last decade in building up a medical education and research hub in Grand Rapids.
The non-binding letter of intent signed between MSU and the Detroit-based Henry Ford Health System envisions some of the same ideas that have driven MSU’s West Michigan partnerships with Spectrum Health, Mercy Health, the Van Andel Institute, Mary Free Bed Rehabilitation Hospital, Pine Rest Christian Mental Health Services and others.
Norm Beauchamp, MSU vice president for health services, has wanted to form additional partnerships and further extend the university’s collaboration on research and education. In Henry Ford, MSU would partner with a $6.5 billion health system that includes six hospitals and more than 250 care sites in Southeast Michigan, a 1,900-member physician group, and the 570,000-member Health Alliance Plan of Michigan.
MSU and Henry Ford first started talking about an alliance about a year ago, Beauchamp said. He quickly found that colleagues at Henry Ford Health System were “kindred spirits” who shared MSU’s vision for forging clinical, education and research partnerships with an aim to improve the affordability and accessibility of health care.
“We just started having conversations, and I don’t think it was something of this scale at first, but just the more we talked about it, the more it just seemed like we could really bring things together in a transformative way and build on all of these things we had been doing in West Michigan and in East Lansing,” Beauchamp said. “One of the goals was, because we built this engine for research and education in East Lansing and we’ve connected it to Grand Rapids: Can we create more of those connections statewide?”
In Grand Rapids, MSU’s College of Human Medicine has forged numerous partnerships over the years and developed the $88.1 million Grand Rapids Research Center. MSU is adding to the downtown research park with the Doug Meijer Medical Innovation Building, funded with a $19.5 million donation from Doug Meijer, the former co-chairman of Meijer Inc., and the Meijer Foundation.
As well, MSU and McLaren Health Care are developing the University Corporate Research Park in East Lansing that’s part of a $450 million health care project adjacent to campus. The project includes a 240-bed hospital for McLaren, a cancer center, a medical services building, and other facilities for health care, education and medical research.
A partnership with Henry Ford would give MSU greater scope and scale in medical education and research, Beauchamp said. The two organizations plan to sign a final agreement in the fall.
Henry Ford and the university have long partnered in education through MSU’s College of Osteopathic Medicine and College of Nursing.
Statewide research corridor
A June announcement on signing the letter of intent described the potential for an affiliation on shared research, more opportunities for health students, and the long-term potential to develop a joint research institute. Research could focus on health inequities and disparities, social determinants of health, primary care, precision health, population health and cancer.
Through the new affiliation, MSU and Henry Ford would expand education and training for physicians, nurses and other health professionals with a focus on diversity, retention and recruitment, and what the announcement termed as “revolutionized training models.”
MSU now does about $800 million a year in research, Beauchamp said. Combining that with Henry Ford’s $100 million in annual research makes for a “$900 million research powerhouse” that would become part of a research corridor of sorts spanning across the state to include East Lansing and Grand Rapids to the west.
Bringing Henry Ford into the research partnership “is strengthening the bench in extraordinary ways,” Beauchamp said.
“It just scales up and makes a research corridor,” he said. “It’s bringing all of the strengths we can find to bear on one of the greatest challenges society faces, which is accessible, affordable, compassionate care.”
Beauchamp and Adnan Munkarah, Henry Ford Health System executive vice president and chief clinical officer, envision the research work that could occur in Detroit to also extend elsewhere in the state.
Through the partnership with MSU, researchers and clinicians at Henry Ford could reach out and involve their peers in East Lansing and Grand Rapids in a project. That collaboration also could extend from MSU’s other partners to Henry Ford, they said.
“We believe in collaboration. We believe in the opportunity to spread innovation and work together and to collaborate. If you look at discovery and research in health care at the present time, at regional, national and international levels, the biggest discoveries are working through collaboration,” Munkarah said. “We believe that stronger collaboration and stronger partnerships are going to help us as a state advance our health care infrastructures so that we can serve our communities better.”
Talks between MSU and Henry Ford about a potential partnership started when Richard “Chip” Davis reached out to Beauchamp after becoming CEO of Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit in November 2018. Beauchamp and Davis had worked together years earlier at Johns Hopkins Medicine in Baltimore, Md., where they had set up a leadership development program.
Beauchamp met with Davis and Munkarah and they quickly found that MSU and Henry Ford, which had been wanting to build its research and education base, shared a common vision for the future.
“Once we met, we could see that the alignment was there.” he said.