Trustees updated on ‘Enhancing Health’ theme of Penn State Strategic Plan

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — “Enhancing Health” is one of five thematic priorities in Penn State’s Strategic Plan and calls for the University to be a leader in promoting quality of life through comprehensive approaches to enhancing personalized and population health. As part of the University’s commitment to this foundational pillar, several leaders Thursday (Feb. 22) described the progress and future needs.

In a presentation to the Committee on Governance and Long-Range Planning of the Board of Trustees, Dr. Craig Hillemeier, dean of the Penn State College of Medicine, CEO of Penn State Health and senior vice president for health affairs, and Ann Crouter, Raymond E. and Erin Stuart Schultz Dean of the College of Health and Human Development, outlined the investments, research, clinical activities, education and outreach made to fulfill this health goal.

“The Enhancing Health strategy includes making sure we do a good job of educating people about health and keeping people healthy,” Hillemeier said. “It has a lot to do with the biomedical and health sciences research that we conduct across our University. It also has a lot to do with the clinical care we provide people and the outreach that we provide to make sure that the people who live in communities here in Pennsylvania and throughout the world have a chance to stay healthy.”

The Enhancing Health Executive Committee, along with the University Health Sciences Council, identified four health-related priorities for the University to focus on through the year 2020. These include: enhancing the health of the Penn State community, including students, faculty and staff; addressing vulnerable populations and health equity through research, teaching and service, with particular attention to substance abuse and the opioid epidemic; building a research infrastructure that supports excellence in biomedical and health research; and investing in biomedical and health research excellence by focusing on cancer.  

“One of the things that I’ve been very impressed with is that we’ve been able to really incorporate the whole University into these goals,” said Hillemeier.

Hillemeier said action plans have been developed for each of the four priorities, and Crouter provided the trustees with an update on how these action plans have begun to be implemented.

“The strategic-planning process is highly flexible and dynamic,” Crouter said. “Some of the ideas that have come into our plan came in later. For example, we had a very productive forum last April at Penn State Harrisburg with over 100 people in attendance and more people participating online from all over the University. That was where we really got the message loud and clear that we needed to focus more on substance abuse and the opioid epidemic.”

Goal 1: Enhancing the health of the Penn State community

— The Penn State Employee Health and Wellness Center opened at University Park in February 2017.

— The Penn State Smoke Free/Tobacco Free Task Force has recommended to make Penn State a tobacco-free University.

— The action plan calls for enhanced mental health services for students, and for educating faculty and staff about the availability of those services so they can help to direct students to them as needed.

— There is a goal to launch a health campaign directed at students and employees that addresses the risks of tobacco, alcohol and substance abuse, and the smart use of antibiotics.

— An opportunity exists to capitalize on Penn State’s new health care claims database to inform University health insurance choices.

— A public forum on the topic of Enhancing Health was held at Penn State Harrisburg in April 2017.

Goal 2: Address vulnerable populations/health equity, with attention to substance abuse and opioid epidemic

— Develop a scholar-in-residence program to share knowledge and stimulate research.

— Infuse interdisciplinary knowledge through new courses, course enhancements, summer programs and mentored research.

— Harness Penn State’s resources to address substance abuse and the opioid epidemic through research, education and outreach. For example, the College of Medicine has received a $1 million grant from the Pennsylvania Department of Health for medication-assisted treatment for individuals with opioid addiction.

— Penn State hosted two key summits to help address the opioid epidemic: the College of Medicine’s Penn State Addiction Symposium and the first Penn State Summit on the Opioid Epidemic, which was held in January at University Park and had more than 200 participants from across the University.

Goal 3: Build research infrastructure that supports excellence in biomedical and health research

— Expand connections among campuses to promote biomedical and health sciences research.

— Create a task force to assess needs for wet lab space, including renovations and new construction.

— Create an Institute for Biomedical Sciences (IBS) to transform College of Medicine institutes into University-wide enterprises, with a goal of building an IBS building at University Park to provide needed lab space and further integrate the College of Medicine into the University Park campus.

— A proposed gene editing and tissue bank core facility will contribute additional infrastructure.

Goal 4: Invest in biomedical and health research excellence, with a focus on cancer

— Create a cancer-focused seed grant program to encourage interdisciplinary collaboration.

— Form a task force to explore creation of an interdisciplinary Penn State longitudinal study on Pennsylvania cancer survivors.

— Invest in co-funded post docs and data-science professionals to stimulate research collaborations across campuses.

— Invest in 30 to 50 new co-funded faculty members across the University who are focused on cancer research.

— Jeffrey M. Peters, distinguished professor of molecular toxicology and carcinogenesis in the College of Agricultural Sciences and the Huck Institutes of the Life Sciences, was appointed deputy director of the Penn State Cancer Institute. As deputy director, Peters will catalyze collaborations among cancer researchers across Penn State’s colleges and campuses and help lead the Cancer Institute’s application for National Cancer Institute designation in 2018.

“This was a thoughtful process that had lots of input from across the University, and considered the wide areas of health and sickness and how we should be taking the resources of our University and applying them to those issues,” Hillemeier said.

Last Updated February 23, 2018