Delivering health at ASU: innovation at the edge of medicine

April 15, 2013

Editor's note: This is an abbreviated version of an article that first appeared in the March 2013 edition of ASU Magazine.

“(Our) medical students will learn health economics, finance, systems thinking, behavioral training and other important subjects.” 
– Betty Phillips, executive vice president and university provost, ASU
nursing student practicing in a simulated environment Download Full Image

“One of the things that happens at medical centers is that physicians are seen as experts, and that interferes with discourse across the whole university. (The College of Health Solutions) has physicians involved, but they are just some of the expert voices that are shaping some of the discourse.” 
– Keith Lindor, dean, ASU College of Health Solutions; executive vice provost, ASU Health Solutions Initiative

Keith Lindor is creating ways to involve Arizona State University students in the future of health care. He and the university’s new College of Health Solutions are thinking in terms of opportunities that come with the creation of a new model of health education and a radical redesign of health care itself.

Lindor, who earned his Doctor of Medicine at renowned Mayo Medical School in Rochester, Minn., in 1979 and served as its dean from 2005-2011, spends a lot of time envisioning the future of health care in this country.

“We spend twice as much on medical care as any other country, but we rank 37th in terms of health outcomes,” Lindor points out. With health care already costly for many, the system in the United States is about to absorb large populations of aging baby boomers and many who were previously uninsured.

“Health care consumes 16 to 17 percent of the country’s gross domestic product,” he notes. “It’s not surprising that there are a lot of people thinking about it.”

Enter an opportunity for practitioners and students alike. In 2012, ASU decided to go well beyond just thinking about it and to dive deeply into the opportunity to design a more efficient health care delivery model. In July, the university formed the College of Health Solutions and hired Lindor as its dean and executive vice provost of the Health Solutions initiative. The college will be an academic and administrative home for many of those involved in health solutions programs and act as a central hub for the many independent colleges and programs that are not part of the college but still part of the Health Solutions umbrella.

The formation of the college, combined with research, training and partnerships with health providers that will be managed under Health Solutions, positions ASU to address many short-term and long-term health care challenges facing the nation. The name Health Solutions defines its mission: to increase ASU’s impact and contributions to quality health outcomes for our communities.

Included under the Health Solutions banner are a handful of innovative, cutting-edge colleges and departments that will prepare today’s students to become tomorrow’s health care changemakers and guardians: nutrition and health promotion, nursing and health innovation, science of health care delivery, a doctoral program in behavioral health, an office of clinical partnerships, and biomedical informatics.

And that’s just the sort of direction the university should be providing, according to Lindor.

“Years ago, hockey great Wayne Gretzky was asked how he was able to score so many goals,” Lindor remembers. “He replied that he skated to where the puck is going to be. We need to place ourselves where the field is going to be.”

Innovation at the 'blurry edge' of medicine

Health Solutions began not with the vision of the great things the university and its students could do, but with a realization of all the great things they already were doing.

“One of the reasons that ASU can play an important role in moving this along is that we don’t have an embedded academic medical center,” Lindor says. “People feel that progress happens most rapidly at the edges of fields, and ASU has been very good at creating more edges and blurring the edges of existing fields.”

Lindor, whose medical specialties include internal medicine and gastroenterology, was hired away from the Mayo Clinic because he had the “perfect background” for the job, says ASU Executive Vice President and University Provost Betty Phillips. “He was instrumental in redesigning the curriculum at Mayo, and he was the one who first had the idea (for Health Solutions).”

Phillips, who investigates how people can change their eating habits and environment to combat obesity, says, “When we were working with the University of Arizona’s medical school, we started compiling a list of all health-related research ASU was doing, and we realized there already was a lot of good work going on right here.”

At its most basic level, the Health Solutions brings together different experts who have interests in health issues. “In my first month here I was connecting people who had never worked together after years at ASU,” Lindor says. The most important part of creating the college is that it embodies an official faculty home for them, Lindor says, a place where they can nurture and mentor today’s students, who will become tomorrow’s health care leaders.

“The challenge is to rethink how all health care is done, and for that we need a dedicated program.”

Success breeds success

If there is strength in numbers, the new college already boasts a sizeable alumni, as the College of Nursing and Health Innovation and School of Nutrition and Health Promotion are home to more than 14,000 alumni. Graduates who are making a difference in the health care industry can be found across the country and the world where they are leaders in their communities and professions. As agents for change, these Health Solution alumni serve in fields such as health care, education, state and national government, and nonprofit sectors. Their research and findings help solve some of the world’s most challenging problems.

The idea is that if we are going to change things we need people who are not just trained in medicine, but who are also trained in all the other factors important in providing health care,” says Phillips. “These medical students will learn health economics, finance, systems thinking, behavioral training and other important subjects.”

Written by Christopher Vaughan

Lisa Robbins

editor/publisher, Media Relations and Strategic Communications


Communication lab earns national accreditation

April 15, 2013

The Communication Assessment Learning Lab (CALL) operated by ASU’s New College of Interdisciplinary Arts and Sciences has become one of only eight communication labs to be a nationally certified mentoring program as identified by the National Association of Communication Centers. This means that students who visit the lab can be confident that mentors are well-versed in both public speaking and ethical peer mentoring practices.

Students enrolled in designated communication courses, such as Public Speaking or Communication in Business and the Professions, may use the lab to prepare, deliver and evaluate individual and group oral presentations. The recently expanded lab, which now includes a brainstorming room, a group presentation/conference room, and three recording rooms, is located in the Sands Classroom Building on ASU’s West campus CALL lab Download Full Image

For students who serve as CALL peer mentors, the newly earned certification for the lab provides a credential that may enhance job or graduate school opportunities. CALL is unique to the ASU community and is one of the largest communication labs west of the Mississippi River.

“No matter what your major, it’s important to have strong communication skills,” said Bonnie Wentzel, a communication lecturer in New College’s School of Social and Behavioral Sciences and CALL’s faculty director. “For example, aspiring high school teachers must have engaging public speaking abilities to reach their students. If you need to gain financial partners to complete important scientific research, chances are, you are going to have to figure out a way to convey complicated concepts in accessible, public ways. That’s why we’re here – to help students find a voice to the important work they are about to do.”

CALL peer mentors are the lab’s lifeblood. A number of academic programs, including life sciences, education, business and communication studies, require or strongly recommend that students complete a public speaking course. CALL mentors reflect this wide range of disciplines which helps students understand how basic public speaking concepts apply to a number of topics. This spring, 10 new students from diverse majors joined seven returning lab mentors.

“Because peer mentors have already completed a public speaking class, they understand some of the challenges new students face – primarily overcoming the fear of speaking in public,” Wentzel said.

“I like to tell students that speech anxiety is something that everyone gets, but everyone can get through it, and so can you,” said peer mentor Cassie Roidique. “It’s such an enriching experience when students I’ve helped out leave the lab feeling a little more confident about their speeches.”

CALL peer mentors reinforce classroom instruction by providing feedback to each student by helping them to improve speech organization, strengthen verbal and non-verbal delivery, manage presentational aides, and employ successful persuasive strategies.

Typically, students come into the lab and present their speech while a mentor records and times their presentation. Then the mentor and student watch the speech together and look for areas of strengths and opportunities to improve. For the Communication in Business and the Professions class, students are filmed participating in a mock interview. By watching themselves on film, students can isolate those tendencies which either enhance or detract from their message.

“I recently had my first appointment with a mentee, and it was an amazing experience,” said mentor Brooke D’Adamo. “She gave her speech twice, once without being videotaped and the second time in front of the camera. It was astonishing how she used feedback and suggestions from the first time and radiantly improved in her second speech. The immediate progress and confidence made her not only excited and relieved, but also made me feel like a ‘proud parent.’”

CALL has established a social media presence including a Facebook page, CommLabASU, and Twitter feed, @CommLabASU.