August 18, 2011
UNC Asheville and Mission Health System signed a new affiliation agreement today, creating the opportunity for expanded collaborations in education, healthy living initiatives and community outreach. The agreement builds on the strong working relationship between the two institutions that was established more than a decade ago.
UNC Asheville Chancellor Anne Ponder and Mission Health System CEO Ronald A. Paulus, who signed the agreement, both spoke at the signing ceremony.
"What we formalize today is community collaboration at its very best," said Chancellor Ponder. "This affiliation, which is grounded in the shared goals of both institutions, will allow us to deepen our investment in our students, in the Greater Asheville community and in the improved health of all North Carolinians."
"Medical centers and public universities have a lot in common these days, and unfortunately, much of it has to do with our economy. The lack of job growth along with state and federal budget deficits have combined to produce significant financial challenges for each of us in new and unprecedented ways," said Mission Health President and CEO Ronald A. Paulus, M.D. "I look at this agreement as a framework for innovation that will allow us to work together to improve care, reduce costs, and by exploring new ventures, have the potential to create positive economic returns for our region."
In the area of education, the two institutions hope to develop new undergraduate research opportunities for UNC Asheville students by connecting with Mission's research projects in areas such as cancer, genetics, integrative health, kinesiology and geriatrics.
The agreement also provides opportunities to develop additional health and science courses, and increase the number of health care internships, thereby supporting student careers in these important fields. "This is a tremendous benefit to UNC Asheville students, to our community and to Mission, which anticipates shortage of health care workers in the coming decade," Ponder said. The agreement also lays the groundwork for providing opportunities for Mission's staff to pursue further education and college degrees.
The two institutions also plan to expand collaborations between Mission and UNC Asheville's N.C. Center for Health & Wellness as they identify successful approaches to public health needs in the areas of healthy aging, childhood obesity, and workplace wellness.
The two institutions will also join forces to improve preventive health care and quality of life for the growing number of elderly Western North Carolina residents through collaborations among UNC Asheville's N.C. Center for Creative Retirement, Mission's senior services department, the MAHEC Geriatrics Fellowship Program and assisted living facilities in the area.
"One way to reduce our nation’s health care spending is to do a better job of preventing health problems. And as the saying goes, 'it takes a village' to do that," Paulus noted. "Obesity is a national epidemic, wreaking havoc on consumers’ lives and on the cost of care for our country. Now more than ever we need to prevent health problems before they start. We need to better manage the care of patients who have chronic diseases like diabetes and asthma. Add to that improving patient safety by eliminating patient harm and the considerable associated waste and you have a tremendous opportunity to improve. With partners like UNC Asheville, we’re going to get there, and along the way it is my hope that we can contribute to a model for the nation."
Most recently, Mission Health System and UNC Asheville partnered with area community leaders to bring the UNC Chapel Hill Eschelman School of Pharmacy program to Asheville. The satellite program, which begins this fall, is located on the UNC Asheville campus, with students receiving clinical training at Mission Hospital. Students will earn a doctorate in pharmacy, the professional degree required to practice as a pharmacist. Asheville was considered the natural choice for the pharmacy program because of The Asheville Project, a ground-breaking, community-based disease management program developed by Mission, UNC Chapel Hill and the City of Asheville, and the close working partnership among UNC Asheville, Mission Health and UNC Chapel Hill.