Released: on August 26, 2008

Institute already sparked a $2 million endowment

The strengthening partnership between the University of South Carolina (USC) and Greenville Hospital System University Medical Center (GHS) has created an institute that could change the face of the healthcare delivery system in South Carolina.

The Institute for Advancement of Health Care (IAHC) will be the cornerstone of the USC and GHS relationship and a catalyst for facilitating and supporting health care initiatives. IAHC’s sole mission is to find better ways to deliver healthcare. As such, research and education will directly relate to some of the nation’s major healthcare issues, such as the significant access problems, escalating healthcare costs, lack of standardization of care and workforce shortages.

“The nation’s healthcare system is tremendously over-burdened as it relates to training the future workforce, studying diseases and developing innovative technologies for patient care,” said Harris Pastides, Ph.D., newly named president of the University of South Carolina. “It’s not enough to do more of the same; we need to develop evidence-based protocols for improving and standardizing health and health care delivery. And it’s particularly smart thinking for us to partner with GHS, which has world-class expertise and is one of the largest hospital systems in the state, treating more than 1.4 million patients each year.”

Pastides spoke at a press conference on Tuesday in Greenville, announcing the institute. Tuesday marked his first official visit to Greenville in his new role. Pastides will also meet with community leaders Tuesday night at an invitation-only gathering.

GHS CEO and President Michael Riordan welcomed Dr. Pastides to the Upstate but added that he was “not a stranger to us.” Both as Carolina’s former vice president for research and health sciences and now as its president, Pastides has been an integral part of the growing relationship between GHS and USC and played a major role in forging this strategic partnership, said Riordan.

“The research and education supported by the new institute will be extremely practical in nature and directly address real patient and clinical needs,” emphasized Riordan. “Our work will benefit people in South Carolina and help find answers to healthcare challenges nationwide. By leveraging our resources, we can make real inroads. Part of the solution is delivering care before the illness becomes difficult to manage, which means focusing more resources on prevention/wellness outreach and disease management.”

Evolution of the USC and GHS relationship is in the best interests of both institutions and the citizens of South Carolina, said Jerry Youkey, M.D., vice president for medical and academic services at GHS. “The two institutions are positioned to partner in a manner that will expand the USC/GHS relationship while maintaining sufficient freedom to support their respective missions. Through development of interdependent programs and endeavors, the University of South Carolina Division of Health Sciences and GHS will use their complementary resources to develop, test and refine uniquely focused models of health care that will benefit the citizens of South Carolina,” said Youkey.

The Institute for Advancement of Health Care will be housed in GHS’ research, education & innovation building, which is still under construction. The IAHC will “connect the dots” of resources and interdisciplinary expertise bringing focus and support for collaborative initiatives, said Brenda Thames, Ed.D., vice president of academic development at GHS. “The institute creates a ‘natural partnership’ between GHS and USC. It bridges the clinical and academic organizations and reduces the barrier of distance between them physically.”

Workforce development is critical for our knowledge-based economy. A crucial factor precipitating the healthcare workforce crisis is a lack of comprehensive workforce planning on the parts of academe, government and healthcare professions, according to a 2007 article in The Chronicle Review. The article called for “strategic direction instead of the current piecemeal approach at the national and state levels.” This approach is at the core of the IAHC programmatic structure, said Thames.

The institute, formalized in August through memorandums of understanding with each organization’s Board of Trustees, has already garnered a $2 million anonymous gift to help attract a top-tier national healthcare leader as the institute’s director, an endowed chair position potentially funded by public/private funds through the Centers of Economic Excellence Program. “The speed of that initial gift proves that we’re answering an urgent need,” said Pastides.

Business leaders overwhelmingly endorsed the plan.

“This type of innovative partnership just continues to prove this to be a vibrant and forward-thinking community,” said Jerry Howard, president and CEO of the Greenville Area Development Corp. “As we know from recruiting businesses to our area, the top two priorities are education and healthcare.”

“This is an extraordinary example of how important the knowledge-based economy will be in our future,” said Ben Haskew, president and CEO of the Greater Greenville Chamber of Commerce. “As shown by the S.C. Council on Competitiveness, healthcare as an industry cluster is going to be one of the top growth industries. This type of initiative will improve our physical health and bring new economic opportunities to our community.”

Hal Johnson, president and CEO of Upstate SC Alliance, agreed that this is a benefit for the entire state. “We’re extremely pleased that this innovative project has launched from the Upstate. These and other projects in other counties have made us a stronger and more vibrant region.”

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