MISSOULA – The University of Montana provides more health career programs than any other campus in the state, and now the University has launched a new UM Health & Medicine initiative to promote this fact and foster new advances in health education and research.
University President Royce Engstrom announced the creation of UMHM during his mid-year address Feb. 3.
“We already offer incredibly robust programming in health and medicine areas, which lead to high-paying jobs in some of the hottest career fields,” Engstrom said. “UMHM will give us the structure to emphasize, strengthen and grow these programs for the benefit of Montana and the region.”
The new organization will:
- recruit students into health professions and create new degree programs to meet employment demands.
- strengthen relationships with partners committed to regional graduate medical education.
- boost collaboration of UM’s instructional, research and clinical expertise in health care.
- facilitate robust research focused on improving health outcomes across Montana.
More information about the initiative, which will be housed in UM’s Skaggs Building, is online at http://www.umt.edu/umhm/.
Montana will need 40 percent more health care workers in the next decade, according to UM’s Bureau of Business and Economic Research. This translates to an additional 7,000 workers by 2025 to care for Montana’s growing and aging population.
This is compelling news to Reed Humphrey, the UMHM initiative leader and dean of UM’s College of Health Professions & Biomedical Sciences. Forecasts such as this mean that UM must become even more engaged in preparing health care professionals.
“There is an ever-widening gap between the health needs of Montanans and our ability to supply a workforce to meet those needs,” Humphrey said. “It struck me when I arrived on this campus years ago that we have a lot of really strong programs but lacked a common identity or entry point, mostly because programs grew up in different colleges on the campus. That made it difficult to understand how to navigate a career path in health professions. We needed to fix that, and UMHM is designed to do exactly that.”
He said the initiative will provide a framework for UM’s health and medicine programs, which are widespread across campus and includes UM’s two-year Missoula College. UMHM will provide a common entry point, or portal, for students interested in health careers. He also wants the organization to generate and support a “community of learners” among its students – a group that will synergize and enhance the learning process at UM.
“Next fall when students arrive, we’ll meet with those who have declared an interest in health and medicine as a career objective, and we’ll design experiences for them on campus so they can make intelligent choices about their curriculum and career options,” he said. “And this isn’t just for prospective students – we plan to reach out to our existing student body to inform them about these opportunities.”
Roberta Evans is another designer of the initiative and dean of UM’s Phyllis J. Washington College of Education and Human Sciences, where “human sciences” refer to a portfolio of physical and mental health programs that constitute nearly half the college. She said the UMHM effort is transdisciplinary and will train professionals in the teamwork required by people now working in hospitals to treat the whole person.
“Currently, the many great academic health opportunities across UM appear like pieces of a jigsaw puzzle,” Evans said. “This program will bring the pieces together, clarify the options available and also showcase our extraordinary successes. So I think this will unify our messaging, and the opportunities are going to just explode.”
She said UMHM will inform students about all the practical experiences, clinics, centers and research opportunities available to them. It also will reach out to grow and strengthen partnerships with area hospitals, local nonprofits and national funding agencies. Hospitals in Missoula and Kalispell already have thrown their support behind the effort, which will allow the University, hospitals and clinics to engage collaboratively to improve the provision of interprofessional health care and research.
“As a leading health care provider in western Montana, we are thrilled to see the University of Montana establish the Health & Medicine initiative to build the workforce foundation that will ultimately benefit patients in our region,” said Jeff Fee, regional chief executive for Providence Health & Services, Montana.
Humphrey said UM graduates in health and medicine programs on campus essentially boast 100 percent placement rates.
“If students aren’t employed at graduation or upon licensure, it’s largely because they choose not to be employed at graduation,” he said. “Frankly, if you are a student interested in going into medicine or a health professions career and you are considering where in Montana or even the region you want to study, there is no better place than UM, given the range of academic opportunities but as importantly, on-campus experiences and training.”