VC Notes Archive Office of the Vice Chancellor
Friday, May 15, 2015

A Most Promising Partnership

The Mayo Clinic.

For most Americans, that name is roughly equivalent to saying, "the world's best health care."

In our culture, where hype is as commonplace as air, such labels don't always mean much.  But in Mayo's case, I'm convinced that reputation has been earned. 

So it was a pretty special moment last September for me, a physician who grew up thinking of Mayo Clinic as the summit of American medicine, to take part in an event at Mayo's Rochester, Minnesota, headquarters.  The signing ceremony that included Mayo's leaders, along with Chancellor Jones and Vice Chancellor Keeton, greatly expanded UMMC's 20-year collaboration with this venerable institution.  

The most striking thing to me about the Mayo Clinic is not what they've achieved, but how they got there.  Mayo's leaders make it clear that in the clinic's 150-year history, they have been guided by one "primary value," a mantra that every single employee can repeat.  "The needs of the patient come first."  That simple idea is the touchstone and guide for every decision and it directs the behavior of each of Mayo Clinic's 60,000 employees. 

Mayo also pioneered the idea of team-based health care, long before that concept came into vogue.  If you become a patient at Mayo Clinic, there's about a 90 percent chance your care will be assigned not to an individual provider but to a team of providers.

Building on these strengths and its culture of innovation, Mayo has recently positioned itself as a center of knowledge for high-quality, high-value health care, knowledge it hopes to export to other health systems as they re-engineer their clinical programs.

Doing things the Mayo way would be reason enough to want to be associated with this American success story.  But our relationship goes deeper than that. 

It began in the 1980s with research collaborations between Mayo scientists and our Department of Physiology and Biophysics.  Then in 2010, we signed an agreement with Mayo here in Jackson that expanded our research affiliation, making it easier for our respective faculty members to collaborate, and laying the foundation for educational exchanges. 

The agreement we signed last fall takes the relationship to a whole new level.  It envisions collaboration across a range of activities that will begin to influence the way we deliver patient care.

The initial focus is our mission around cancer services.  Our mutual goal is to have a seamless interface between our two oncology programs.  We are in the process of joining their clinical trials network and will be installing their clinical trials management software on our system, so that study patients can enroll in trials offered by either institution. 

We are also reconfiguring our UMMC biobank - the data repository that houses the unique molecular traits of every cancer patient's tumor - so that it mirrors and interfaces with the biobank at Mayo Clinic.  And Mayo consultants are advising us on the development of our overall cancer program as we work to achieve National Cancer Institute recognition.

Beyond cancer, we are also working on facilitating the submission of papers by our faculty to their scholarly journal, the Mayo Proceeding.  And we are looking forward to a series of seminars and collaborations that are intended to share knowledge and faculty.

It's important to note that our budding relationship with Mayo is mutually beneficial.  As population health studies become increasingly important, our access to and experience working with the diverse population of Mississippi is attractive to Mayo.  We also have a much more robust telehealth system and they have expressed their hope to learn from our experience in this increasingly important mode of health service delivery.

At the risk of overstatement, I do believe that our relationship with Mayo Clinic has the potential to be one of the most consequential developments in our history, on par with Guyton's work in medical physiology, Hardy's pioneering experiments in organ transplantation, and Herbert Langford's early work in hypertension in minority populations that ultimately led to the Jackson Heart Study.

For us, and I hope for Mayo Clinic, it's the right relationship at the right time.  But, of course, it will take much, much more focused effort on our part to realize the full potential.  I'm grateful to Dr. Richard Summers, UMMC associate vice chancellor for research, and many others working with him to seize this opportunity, and move us ever faster toward A Healthier Mississippi.

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