$35M For Dartmouth Health Care Delivery Center

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Dartmouth College is getting $35 million to open a center it hopes will help the nation take the next big steps in health care reform: improving quality while lowering costs.

The historic health care overhaul legislation President Barack Obama signed in March will give millions of Americans access to health care, but "the real rocket science in health care right now is in the delivery," said Dartmouth President Jim Yong Kim, who has been promoting the idea of a national institute on health care delivery since arriving at Dartmouth last July.

Now, he has a $35 million commitment from an anonymous donor to establish the Dartmouth Center for Health Care Delivery Science, which will bring together experts in everything from medicine and management to sociology and systems engineering to figure out what is working in successful health care systems such as Minnesota's Mayo Clinic. They'll then teach practitioners, who can return home and make changes immediately, Kim said.

"We're not just doing the research and presenting it for people to either accept or not accept," he said.

The center also will be home to a new master's degree in health care delivery science, which will begin enrolling students in July 2011.

"The science of health care delivery is being practiced by many wonderful scholars throughout the country, but most colleges and universities have not made it a major focus," Kim said. "A lot of medical schools teach health policy, but they don't really teach the complexities of what it takes to actually build effective, functioning, health care systems, clinics or hospitals."

Kim, the first Asian-American to lead an Ivy League school, is a former director of the World Health Organization's HIV/AIDS department. He helped found Partners in Health to support health programs in poor communities worldwide. Kim came to Dartmouth from Harvard Medical School, where he was chairman of the Department of Global Health and Social Medicine.

He said he hopes Dartmouth's new center will be a clarion call to other colleges and universities.

"We're talking about an industry that's growing so quickly, and we're really worried that without improving quality, we're just going to have increased costs," he said. "So I think there's a tremendous urgency to tackling health care delivery, and I firmly believe that American institutions of higher education have a central role in tackling that problem."

Kim described the anonymous donor as a consumer who recognizes the health care system is in trouble. He expects the initial seed money will be enough to set the center up to attract government and private funding. And though he agrees with goals of Obama's health care legislation, Kim emphasized that the new center "is not about cheerleading" for the administration.

He pointed out that Sen. Judd Gregg, R-N.H., has long supported the research done by Dartmouth's Institute for Health Policy and has been involved in the planning for the new center, along with Sen. Jeanne Shaheen and Gov. John Lynch, both Democrats.

One idea they've discussed is using the center to make New Hampshire a model for innovative health care delivery.

"There's a lot of talk in Washington right now about setting up pilot programs," Kim said. "I think a really, really exciting possibility though would be to set up a pilot state to take on an entire state with multiple health care systems in it."

While a single health care system, such as a hospital, can perform well because of centralized control, "the challenge of performing well across an entire state is a different kind of challenge, and one we'd love to take on," he said.

This program aired on May 17, 2010. The audio for this program is not available.