Where public health and medicine intersect, now sits the newest institute of Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine. Launched this summer, the Institute for Public Health and Medicine (IPHAM) reflects a belief that the greatest opportunity for improving the nation’s health exists through groundbreaking, interdisciplinary research and educational programs that integrate public health and medical care approaches.
“It is increasingly necessary for those in the fields of public health and medicine to work together to address the national and global healthcare concerns of the 21st century,” says Rowland Chang, MD, MPH, director of IPHAM. “Perched at the forefront, the Institute for Public Health and Medicine will help Feinberg continue to develop innovative approaches to research and education.”
By accelerating its reach and impact through initiatives like community engagement, the institute will integrate the traditional approach of treating an individual’s symptoms with public health models that look to improve population wellbeing. The IPHAM will also link researchers across the University, creating a fertile environment for information sharing.
“One of our goals is to provide a space for researchers to collaborate with outside groups using the application of Team Science, which leverages the strengths and expertise of professionals from different fields,” says David Baker, MD, MPH, IPHAM deputy director “These collaborative efforts will undoubtedly lead to new insights and novel applications of different research methods.”
A Nation in Peril
As the nation gets older with the aging of the Baby Boomer generation and with disability from chronic disease continuing to rise, the United States faces an unprecedented healthcare burden. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, one-third of the country’s population is obese, placing tens of millions of people at greater risk of diabetes, heart disease, cancer, and more. With added pressure to deliver effective care in a time of changing federal laws, providers are continually challenged with establishing and implementing new approaches to health promotion, disease prevention, and chronic disease management.
Building on research already being conducted at Feinberg to address health care and patient-centered outcomes, epidemiology and prevention of disease, aging, global health, healthcare engineering, and community health, the Institute for Public Health and Medicine will help spark the innovation and public health solutions needed to confront these21st century challenges.
“The IPHAM creates an opportunity for us to realign these efforts and assume an important leadership role for Chicago and the nation,” Dr. Chang says. “Although several divisions, departments, centers, and institutes support highly relevant educational, research, and service activities that interface public health with medicine, this institute will bring our efforts under one umbrella.”
Education and Public health
The institute will be the medical school’s home for graduate education in public health, serving as the sponsor of a new integrated doctoral program for clinical and public health sciences, as well as the coordinator of existing related master’s degree programs in public health, epidemiology/biostatistics, health services and outcomes research, healthcare quality and patient safety, and clinical investigation. A structure for relevant post-doctoral fellowship opportunities will also be created.
“The formation of the Institute for Public Health and Medicine brings together our existing strengths in these historically separate fields and positions us to take a leadership role in this emerging area,” says Eric G. Neilson, MD, vice president for medical affairs and Lewis Landsberg Dean. “The institute will serve as a bridge for professionals, research initiatives, and academic programs, as well as cultivate and attract leaders in public health practice. It will help us raise the profile of Northwestern Medicine© and accelerate our efforts to become a premier academic medical center.”
The IPHAM will advance this goal with the potential to generate $40 million in new research funding. Eventually, nearly 60,000 square feet of dry-lab space will be devoted to institute activities and will be used as a gathering place for researchers from different departments working together under the IPHAM enterprise.
While individual departments will remain the major organizational entities for activities pertaining to medicine, the IPHAM centers will be responsible for work revolving around public health and the intersection between the two fields.
The umbrella enterprise will house several new and existing centers that will focus on the four major components (research, education, community engagement, and health promotion) of its vision.
Taking a national leadership role in the development of innovative models for teaching, service, and research that actively engage communities, the institute will also help translate research into health care and public policy as our graduates continue with careers that reflect a commitment to these areas.
“IPHAM will be known worldwide for excellence in training and research leading to the discovery, demonstration, and dissemination of innovative solutions to the pressing challenges of health and health care,” Dr. David Baker says.