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UMMC Plans to Open School of Population Health in 2017

April 25, 2016
by Heather Landi
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The University of Mississippi Medical Center has announced plans to open a new School of Population Health focused on preventive medicine, data science and population health science. The new school is slated to open in 2017 and will be the third school of its kind in the United States.

UMMC received permission to plan the school from the State Institutions of Higher Learning, according to an announcement from UMMC.

“Population health considers the whole continuum of factors that contribute to health outcomes,” Bettina Beech, M.D., associate vice chancellor for population health, said in a statement. “In addition to biological factors, social, environmental and behavioral factors are all important determinants of health.”

The mission of the school is to create leaders, including population scientists, clinicians and administrators, prepared to transform healthcare delivery and the health of Mississippians, according to the announcement.

The school will begin with three departments: preventive medicine, data science and population health science. The first two are already in place within the School of Medicine and as part of the Center of Biostatistics and Bioinformatics, respectfully.

Joshua Mann, M.D., professor and chair of the Department of Preventive Medicine, says his department will be a bridge between the School of Medicine, the Medical Center's clinical enterprise and the School of Population Health. The department will develop an accredited residency program in general preventive medicine.

“In preventive medicine, we have our feet in two worlds: patient care and population-level health,” Mann said.

“UMMC is taking a proactive approach and leading the nation in preparing for 21st century health care,” Beech said. “We are developing a creative, innovative model to address health and health care.” 

Michael Griswold, M.D, professor and director of the Center of Biostatistics and Bioinformatics, says that the new department will help prepare the next generation of health care providers transition to value-based care, population health precision medicine.

Data science bridges the disciplines of statistics, computer science and predictive analytics to turn large amounts of data into usable evidence. The department will offer M.S. and Ph.D. degrees in biostatistics and data science.

“Our vision is to become a leading department of data science by providing cutting-edge expertise in research and education for translating data into evidence, answers and actions,” Griswold said.

“In population health, data is used to predict and prevent disease and to determine who is at risk,” Beech said. “This can provide a set of solutions to improve patient and community health outcomes.”

UMMC will conduct national searches for a Department of Population Health Science chair and faculty members. The department will offer research-oriented M.S. and Ph.D. degrees in population health. Eventually, the school intends to add a Department of Health Care Economics.

Ralph Didlake, M.D., associate vice chancellor for academic affairs, said, “The delivery model of population health fits well with the needs of Mississippi and it is clear that this is the direction that we need to head as an institution.

The school intends to hire faculty, recruit students and create coursework in 2016 and admit its first students in January 2017.

The School of Population Health will be located in the Translational Research Center, scheduled for completion in 2017.  “We are going to look beyond the borders of the Medical Center to conduct work that is pragmatic and applied to improve health outcomes throughout the state,” Beech said. “In fifteen to twenty years, we hope to see noticeable results in the community.”

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