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W&M/EVMS retreat focuses on community health, pediatrics, neuroscience

More than 80 faculty and staff attended a joint retreat for EVMS, William & Mary and Sentara Healthcare held Oct. 11 at EVMS.

“In a region as diverse as Hampton Roads,” said Don Combs, vice president and dean of the EVMS School of Health Professions, “it is important to spend time building relationships and searching for common interests. This is as true for academic institutions as it is for local governments and for businesses. This joint retreat was a successful continuation of one such effort between the William & Mary and EVMS faculties.”

After welcome remarks by EVMS and Sentara leadership, a keynote address by former Virginia health commissioner Karen Remley, founding director of the EVMS M. Foscue Brock Institute for Community and Global Health, brought a community-health focus to the retreat. Remley’s presentation, “Are We There Yet? Finding the path as a new learning community,” encouraged faculty members from both institutions to collaborate on projects that address the region’s most pressing health issues, such as its high rate of infant mortality.

“At EVMS, we have one of the best maternal-fetal medicine programs in the world,” she explained, “yet this region still has the second highest rate of infant death in Virginia.”

Remley also encouraged collaborative teams to conceive community-focused projects that are eligible for grants through PCORI, the Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute. PCORI is a new funding resource created by the Affordable Care Act; its mission is to produce and promote high integrity, evidence-based information that comes from research guided by patients, caregivers and the broader health-care community.

The keynote was followed by two research presentations, one on pediatrics and the other on neuroscience, by joints panels of EVMS and William & Mary faculty members. Small-group discussions on a variety of topics closed out the retreat.

“I am hopeful,” Combs added, “that the discussions around the issues of population health, neurosciences and pediatrics will lead to important joint research projects and ultimately to better health in the region.”