Urban Universities for HEALTH Engages University Presidents on Health Workforce Issues

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Chicago, IL - On June 16-17, 2013, the Urban Universities for HEALTH Learning Collaborative convened more than 50 university leaders at the University of Illinois at Chicago to discuss evidence-based approaches to tackling health disparities through workforce development.  On the first day, leadership teams from the five universities selected as demonstration sites for Urban Universities for HEALTH shared their progress to date and discussed approaches for developing institutional health workforce goals and metrics.  On the second day, demonstration sites were joined by members of the USU/APLU-wide health action groups and presidents and chancellors to prioritize a set of strategies that the network of USU/APLU institutions can implement collectively.

Highlights from the two-day meeting include:

Dr. Estela Bensimon of the University of Southern California (USC) shared insights on “making data meaningful” from her groundbreaking work with the Equity Scorecard.  Dr. Bensimon described the process of using data to drive equitable education outcomes.  She emphasized that data identify problems but do not create solutions and that universities need systems in place to develop actionable goals and measure their progress against established metrics.

Demonstration sites identified “lessons learned” from convening leadership locally.  Sites have made progress in assembling key stakeholders from the university and community for their teams, including an executive council, program management, and a data team at each site.  Effective strategies for convening leadership included: 1) clearly articulating roles as well as a specific “ask” from the outset, 2) identifying a time for regular meetings of inter-professional deans or incorporating Urban Universities for HEALTH into existing executive leadership meetings, and 3) articulating the added value of this work in achieving the institution’s mission.  Collaboration among deans is also strengthened when benefits are shared across schools and departments (e.g. greater access to data, shared staff time), and when each has the opportunity to nominate members for the project’s team. Sites also stressed the importance of sustaining leadership commitment amidst competing priorities, of leadership that translates to action (above and beyond verbal approval), and of being willing to address political challenges that arise.  

Demonstration sites discussed approaches to developing health workforce goals in the areas of desired impact, and launched two “learning groups.”  Working in small groups on a fictional case study, participants explored university goal-setting with regard to achieving community workforce outcomes related to health disparities.  Participants identified strategies within the core areas of impact for Urban Universities for HEALTH: access, educational opportunity, and competence.   The group then discussed the goals of the first two learning groups and defined a set of deliverables and timeline for each deliverable. The “Metrics Learning Group” will learn and share insights across the sites regarding data, evidence, and the use of metrics and propel the development of a national metrics dashboard.  The “Sustainability Learning Group” will determine how best to sustain the work of the sites and embed it into university operations, with a focus on partnership-building both locally and nationally.

USU/APLU presidents and chancellors agreed upon several new ideas and innovations to bring to scale across the university network.  Prior to the meeting, members of USU/APLU’s health action groups identified a set of new ideas for collaborative work based on existing needs and evidence across member campuses. Presidents, chancellors, and their health leaders engaged in discussion and rapid learning around six of these ideas and identified ways to improve them.  Projects in the following areas were prioritized for immediate development: 1) faculty cluster or cohort hiring around diversity and health disparities research topics, 2) transforming the admissions process to further diversify the institution, 3) convening pipeline program leaders to better coordinate local efforts and track students across programs, and 4) adapting and piloting a tool at USU/APLU institutions to assess institutional culture and climate.  An idea for a national pipeline project to connect veterans with health professional education at member institutions has been earmarked for further study regarding feasibility and impact.  

The June partnering meeting was the first full convening of the Urban Universities for HEALTH Learning Collaborative, and effectively engaged both demonstration sites and the broader network of USU/APLU presidents and health leaders.  Overall, participants found the meeting to be valuable and engaging, and returned to their campuses with new knowledge and fresh ideas for transforming the health workforce in their communities.

Download the meeting summary

Download the list of priority action items


Urban Universities for HEALTH (Health Equity through Alignment, Leadership and Transformation of the Health Workforce) is a partnership effort of the Coalition of Urban Serving Universities (USU)/Association of Public and Land-grant Universities (APLU) and the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) and the NIH National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities (NIMHD). The project aims to address the severe shortage of qualified health professionals in underserved areas by leveraging the power of urban universities to enhance and expand a culturally sensitive, diverse, and prepared health workforce.