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W&M report recommends pilot partnership with EVMS

A new relationship between William & Mary and Eastern Virginia Medical School should begin slowly, through a pilot program that will allow the two institutions to combine their expertise to improve healthcare delivery in Hampton Roads  -- and learn more about each other -- according to a recent report by W&M faculty and administrators. The report, prepared by the W&M Due Diligence Committee charged with exploring the idea of a merger, said a decision on a full union should wait.

The report by the committee, which was appointed by President Taylor Reveley, recommended a two-fold approach: pursue a partnership between W&M, EVMS and its healthcare affiliates in the area of “healthcare delivery science” while at the same time conducting an extensive evaluation on a full merger. Healthcare delivery science refers to everything from affordability and quality of healthcare to legal and public policies. The success of the partnership would be part of the evaluation, the report said.

 “It is possible that collaboration in the area of healthcare delivery science could attract funding from Sentara and possibly the Commonwealth and allow all parties to contribute to a better balance across quality, access and cost,” read the report. “It will take some time to explore those possibilities and to judge whether or not they provide a sufficient basis for considering a closer affiliation.”

On Jan. 16, Gov. Bob McDonnell added a $200,000 amendment to his proposed budget to support the pilot partnership between William & Mary and EVMS. That budget action – which must be approved by the General Assembly -- was consistent with a decision by the W&M Board of Visitors at its December meeting to request funding from the state to continue exploring collaborations with EVMS. At that time, Provost Michael R. Halleran, who led the committee’s work, said the funding would support a pilot partnership while a more extensive relationship would continue to be explored. Halleran said the committee had reached a consensus prior to the Board meeting regarding the two-fold approach.

The committee report recommended pursuit of funding and other support from the Commonwealth and from EVMS’s healthcare affiliates, initially for the pilot program and ultimately for any further partnership that might develop.  An advisory council and evaluation process should also be established, the report said, and a decision on a merger made within a set period, possibly within two years.

The committee was appointed last summer following an announcement from both regarding interest to explore a merger. Over four months, the committee met nine times and divided into subcommittees to explore topics ranging from possibilities in organizational structure and academic programs to impact on budgets and overall academic culture. The committee conducted site visits and held a campus forum in November during which members discussed the advantages of a pilot partnership to address healthcare delivery. The schools also retained Dr. Jordan Cohen, former president and CEO of the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) to serve as a consultant during the process.

 “You have done an excellent job, in my view, of laying out the key issues inherent in a possible union of W&M and EVMS, and you have suggested a viable path for further exploration of the matter,” Reveley wrote to the committee. “As you indicate in your report, a decision to add EVMS to our university should not be made at this point, but considering potential areas of collaboration, especially in the area of healthcare delivery science, will allow us to determine how we might engage certain critical issues with our EVMS colleagues and then let appropriate affiliation evolve from any resulting collaboration.”