In a sign of its strong alignment with the research and education endeavors of Tufts University School of Medicine, Wellforce, the parent company of Tufts Medical Center, announced today that it will change its name to Tufts Medicine.
The new name is a major milestone in the two organizations’ shared mission of advancing the health of people everywhere. The goal is to turn innovative research into better care for patients while expanding learning opportunities for the next generation of clinicians.
“Imparting the Tufts name signals the alignment between the university and the health system from an educational, research, and clinical translation point of view,” said Anthony P. Monaco, president of Tufts University. “The name Tufts Medicine signifies that the university and the whole health system are committed to advancing our academic missions, and together we will improve the healthcare of patients and their wider communities by building on the best practices of academic medicine and expanding teaching and research opportunities throughout the system.”
Although they will share the Tufts name, Tufts University School of Medicine remains separate and independent from the Tufts Medicine health care system, which comprises the academic medical center, four community hospital campuses, home health and hospice services and more than 2,000 physicians who complete more than 1.5 million patient visits and interactions each year. Soon and over time, the alignment is expected to bring new opportunities to researchers and students at Tufts University.
Monaco and President and CEO of Tufts Medicine Michael Dandorph first proposed a closer alignment between their respective organizations in 2020. Both knew from their own experiences that a strong collaboration between academia and health care has benefited other great universities, hospitals, and their patients. So, at the same time as the pandemic demanded much of their attention, they kept working toward this partnership.
“That’s how important it was,” Monaco said. “We understood that it was the best vision we could put forward for the benefit of the medical school, the university, Tufts Medicine, and ultimately, the patients, their doctors, hospital staff, and community health.”
The new name signals the work that is already being done, said Dandorph. “It allows us to let the public know that we’re working together to improve care for the populations that we serve, better prepare the students whom we teach, and, ultimately, to support the faculty who are doing such great research across both organizations.”
“This is transformative,” said Helen Boucher, who was named last year to a new, joint position as interim dean of the School of Medicine and chief academic officer of Tufts Medicine. “It is going to change our medical school and our university in meaningful ways.”
The alignment is grounded in the need not only to care for individuals, but also to advance the health of entire communities, including those affected by health disparities. The pandemic has highlighted the need to apply principles like those taught in Tufts’ public health programs to health care delivery, Monaco said. “We want to think about public health measures and interventions and trials that are based around the health of our population,” he said.
Dandorph said that exposing students to that is really about the future. “We are moving into an era in which population health and value-based care are becoming even more important,” he said. “We are preparing the next generation of physicians and health science leaders so that they can be even more successful in improving the lives of the individuals and the diverse communities we serve. I’m personally committed to making sure that we accomplish this in ways that allow our talented teams to have an ever bigger impact.”
The alignment will provide even more opportunities for students to learn from and serve communities, one of the pillars of the School of Medicine’s strategic plan. It will add to the school’s valued partnerships with Maine Medical Center (where MD students study as part of the Maine Track program), Lahey Hospital and Medical Center (where a Tufts track is actively in development), Newton-Wellesley Hospital, and South Shore Hospital. With the need for family medicine practitioners expected to rise, exposure to a wide range of programs—including home health and hospice programs—in a wide range of communities, will be “a rich set of choices for students,” Monaco said.
For the School of Medicine, the partnership with Tufts Medicine means a diversity of patients for students to work with when learning to provide clinical care, and community partners to engage in research. “Whether you’re a student or researcher in the lab, you’ll have access to patients and clinical information to do the important work that you do,” Boucher said.
For Tufts Medicine, it means that the academic mission of continuous learning and improvement will be part of the culture in every hospital in the system. “The most recent discoveries and translations of science into clinical practice will be constantly infused through the entire system, especially at the community health level,” Monaco said.
The alignment will also facilitate collaborations, bringing together expertise from both Tufts University and Tufts Medicine in ways that make both organizations more competitive for biomedical research funding–and enabling the kind of basic science research that will translate into better care for patients. “It will help launch bigger ideas and help bring bigger ideas across the finish line faster,” Boucher said.
In her former role as the university’s vice provost for research, Caroline Genco, now provost and senior vice president ad interim, co-chaired with John Wong, interim chief scientific officer at Tufts Medical Center, the working group charged with identifying shared strategic research opportunities.
“This opportunity brings together faculty, students, and trainees across disciplines,” Genco said. “It provides them with a thriving and sustainable research environment that enables them to have maximal impact on health across our diverse missions—by drawing on our combined strength in basic science, clinical sciences, public health, policy, and translational research to meet complex global challenges.”
Dandorph said it will accelerate the ability to bring evidence-based care into practice. “We have a lot of data about the populations that we serve, we have a lot of talent, and we have so many opportunities for us to accelerate our ability to create more equitable, affordable, and high-quality care for those that we serve,” he said.
This expanded research endeavor will provide opportunities for scientists throughout the university, as well as investigators at Tufts’ affiliated hospitals. “The new approach to research will enable collaboration, not just within the Tufts family, but with all of our partners,” Boucher said.
Tufts University and Tufts Medical Center have successfully partnered in research before, most notably in the creation of the Clinical and Translational Science Institute and the Stuart B. Levy Center for the Integrated Management of Antimicrobial Resistance (Levy CIMAR), which is supported equally by the university and Tufts Medical Center.
Boucher, a founding co-director of Levy CIMAR, said that creating that joint enterprise had its challenges and red tape, but that the formal alignment will make working together going forward seamless. “With those barriers removed, collaboration can happen immediately,” she said.
People at all levels of both institutions have been providing feedback on the alignment, which Dandorph said will be centered on what faculty and staff need most.
“Our collaboration is really meant to support them and their aspirations and make sure that we’re bringing together the resources they need to thrive,” he said.
As another critically important benefit of this alignment, by working together, Tufts University and Tufts Medicine are better positioned to pursue their common goals of increasing diversity and fostering inclusion. The two organizations have already been coordinating the hiring of more faculty members from underrepresented backgrounds as both educators and researchers.
Julie Flaherty can be reached at [email protected]