Dear Members of the Brown Community,

Brown has a long record of working in partnership with local health care systems toward a vision of creating an integrated academic health system for Rhode Island. It’s a vision that combines the operations of local health systems with Brown’s leading-edge research and renowned medical expertise to improve the quality of medical care for patients across the state and surrounding regions. It aims to advance biomedical discovery, educate future leaders in medicine and health care, and create a vibrant economic nexus in the region based on the health care industry.

I am pleased to share that this vision is closer to becoming a reality with recently signed agreements to create an integrated academic health system that brings together a merger of the state’s two largest health care systems — Lifespan and Care New England — with Brown and our Warren Alpert Medical School. The University has committed to provide a minimum of $125 million over five years in support of the joint development of the new integrated academic health system. Brown will participate on the governing board of the new health system arising from the Lifespan-CNE merger and play a key role in integrating medical education and research with clinical practice across the system’s hospitals.

With co-investment from Brown, the joint health system brings together premier teaching hospitals — Care New England’s Women & Infants, Kent and Butler hospitals, and Lifespan’s Rhode Island, Miriam, Hasbro, Newport and Bradley hospitals — to create a larger health care system that has the full array of medical specialties required for excellence in health care from birth to end of life, along with the scale required to enable medical practitioners to effectively and efficiently provide health care to the community. The academic health system holds the promise of tight integration of and alignment between clinical care, population health management, medical education, biomedical research and innovation, and research on health care quality, effectiveness and cost.

A key benefit of an academic health system is that it allows for the integration of medical innovation and world-class research to inform clinical care in such areas as cancer, women’s health, and brain diseases like Alzheimer’s and ALS. Brown has deep expertise in all of these areas, and more. An integrated health system means that Care New England and Lifespan can focus on integrating complementary specialties. In addition, the merger of Lifespan and Care New England and the partnership with Brown will position us to receive National Cancer Institute (NCI) designation, which is the highest classification for cancer care across the country.

The collaboration also will create opportunities for data-informed approaches to population health that will improve health care and reduce health disparities. Hospitals, health care providers and medical schools play the critical role of supporting communities and individuals who have different levels of health literacy, and making health care accessible. If the providers of health care can join with medical schools to provide integrated care to families, it makes a meaningful difference in people's lives.

Benefits to the Community

The benefits of this collaboration can be transformational for the Rhode Island community. Cities such as Pittsburgh, Cleveland and Chicago have sparked significant economic growth by assembling integrated academic medical centers based on biomedical discovery and industry partnerships. Until now, Rhode Island has not capitalized on its existing strengths to effect a similar transformation in its health care system, and Brown has participated in multiple efforts over the past few years seeking to effect this change.

We are excited to join with Lifespan and Care New England to bring together the expertise and capacity needed to create exactly the kind of integrated academic health system that has provided such dramatic success in other places. The integrated academic health system will maximize the ability to capitalize on Brown, Lifespan and Care New England’s complementary strengths, strategically build research capacity in new areas, coordinate effectively with other local institutions (such as the University of Rhode Island), and create new industry partnerships that bring employment and economic growth to the region.

This new academic health system will:

  • Play a major role in providing patients with the best possible individualized and integrated care from world-class physicians who are attracted to Rhode Island by the vibrant academic environment.
  • Improve population health and reduce health disparities in Rhode Island while reducing costs by using innovative “big data”-informed strategies that have been developed and tested by leading researchers at Brown’s Warren Alpert Medical School and School of Public Health.
  • Collaborate with health insurance companies and other health payers, including the state government, to develop ways to prevent deadly and costly diseases by reducing smoking, obesity, substance abuse, exposure to environmental toxins and more.
  • With the participation of clinicians, public health practitioners and researchers, develop healthy environments in Rhode Island communities that lead to reductions in racial and ethnic disparities in health.
  • Educate cohorts of outstanding future physicians and public health practitioners, many of whom live and work in the region after graduation.
  • Support the creation of a “bio-innovation ecosystem” in which research carried out by bench-scientists working with clinician-scientists generates intellectual property that, in turn, attracts venture funding and partnerships with industry.

Achieving outcomes like these requires that Brown, and especially our Warren Alpert Medical School and School of Public Health, work in concert with Lifespan and Care New England. A merged system that makes Lifespan and Care New England true collaborators will make it possible to realize these benefits.

Shared governance

This is a true partnership. As part of the governance of the new academic health system, Brown will have voting membership on the Board of Directors, and the chair of the new health system, or their designee, will be a voting member on the Corporation of Brown University. 

The merger requires state and federal approval, which are underway. Lifespan, Care New England and Brown anticipate the regulatory approval process will take several months, and we are committed to providing our communities periodic updates.

A new website has been developed to provide information about the integrated academic health system. I encourage you to visit www.HealthierRI.com to learn more.

I want to thank Dr. Jack A. Elias, Dean of Medicine and Biological Sciences and Senior Vice President for Health Affairs, and other colleagues for their tireless efforts over the past several years to help make the integrated academic health system a reality. We are excited for this opportunity to contribute to offering excellent, coordinated care to patients and creating an integrated academic health system that can fuel discovery and treatments.

Sincerely,

Christina H. Paxson

President