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Lehigh Provost Pat Farrell Shares Progress on Planned Health College

Lehigh has taken significant steps forward in its plans for a new College of Health, including the commencement of a search for its inaugural dean and the identification of two areas of focus: Innovation in Value-based Health Care and Biological and Social Determinants of Health, Provost Patrick V. Farrell told faculty and staff at a Town Hall meeting March 28.

Lehigh’s Board of Trustees in March endorsed the plan for the new College, slated to open in 2020, and planning continues with input from internal and external stakeholders.

“One the underlying themes that I see for this college is the core of being interdisciplinary,” said Farrell. “... We’d like to have a college that has very low walls around it, so those who are inside easily can go outside—faculty, staff and students—to do their work, to collaborate, to find other people to work with, and those who are outside find their way in easily as well. Easy-to-get-to courses, easy to collaborate with faculty, perhaps easy partnerships among staff. That happens in various places on our campus, perhaps not quite as universal as we’d like. We have a chance to design a college where we might really intentionally make that almost always true, and I think we want to take that opportunity.”

The University has been working with two consultant groups in the planning stages: Boston Consulting Group and Strategy+. Boston Consulting Group, which finished its work in December 2017, helped Lehigh’s leadership better understand the domestic and international health care landscape and determine where the new College will focus its attention and effort. As a result of that work as well as input from additional outside experts and Lehigh faculty and staff, Farrell selected the two areas of focus in which he believes Lehigh can make an impact (see sidebar).

“I think our opportunity space here is really to produce a graduate with a somewhat different skill set from traditional clinical health graduates or health graduates that come from other kinds of more traditional health organizations,” said Farrell. “... That’s our big advantage, and I’d like us to think about how do we do that in a distinct and innovative way.”

The work of Strategy+, which began in December 2017, has focused on the operational framework of the new College. Mark Whiteley, vice president and Americas practice leader for Strategy+, provided an update on the group’s progress. After conducting a series of workshops and meetings both on and off campus to gather insight from faculty, staff, students, industry leaders and policymakers, Whiteley said, Strategy+ is preparing a report with its recommendations for next steps in organizing the College.

Lehigh will begin recruiting the first group of faculty for the College of Health in Fall 2018 for a Fall 2019 start, Farrell said.

“I’m expecting that the academic result—meaning new courses, new learning, new research—begins the day faculty show up on campus,” he said.

Farrell and Lehigh President John D. Simon have met with approximately 20 health care networks to discuss the plans for the College, Farrell said. Representatives of these networks, he said, are excited about the talent the new College will produce, as well as the collaborative research opportunities it will provide.  

Over the next several months, Farrell said, he will be inviting members of the Lehigh community to learn more and participate in the early planning process in preparation for the new dean’s arrival.

“What we want is people who know Lehigh and people who want to think creatively about a new College of Health and are willing to spend a little bit of time with that,” he said.

The College of Health is a key component of Lehigh’s Path to Prominence, an ambitious plan outlined by Simon that would add 1,000 undergraduates, 500 graduate students and 100 new faculty members. The initiative will allow Lehigh to build on its legacy, broaden its academic footprint and foster an ever more vibrant atmosphere of creativity and collaboration.

Updates on the College of Health and other components of the Path to Prominence can be found at the Path to Prominence portal and the Provost's website.

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College of Health Focus Areas

Critical Elements in Value-based Health Care

Value-based health care focuses on improved health outcomes for individuals and populations and incentivizes high-quality, affordable health care delivery. Value-based approaches are growing in the industry, with some estimates claiming that 75 percent of all health care reimbursements will have value-based components by 2025. Successful expansion of value-based approaches requires the integration and alignment of multiple perspectives—patient, provider, payer, policymaker—and more coordinated, accessible and personalized health care delivery. Our students and faculty can contribute to stronger health care systems through their work to improve the effectiveness, accuracy and efficiency of value-based health care delivery systems, drawing upon interdisciplinary approaches that span the analytic to the synthetic, from community culture and ethics to digital health at a personal scale.

Biological and Social Determinants of Health

Health and well-being is influenced by numerous complex factors, from molecular genetics to the strength of our families and communities. Current estimates are that 40 percent of deaths from leading causes are preventable, and there is growing recognition that promoting health—or, put another way, eliminating poor health—requires mindful focus on the interplay between the biological and social factors that impact health and create health disparities. Our students and faculty can contribute to better health through interdisciplinary approaches that integrate study of the interplay of health determinants ranging from genetic and environmental factors to social factors including behaviors, family and community characteristics and economics.

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