A proposal to create a WSU Division of Health Sciences — one that would unify programs scattered across several colleges — is up for review and comment by faculty, staff, students and the medical community.

At the same time, a vision statement addressing how WSU needs to position itself relative to biomedical and health care industries and professions has just been submitted to the provost for review.

The proposed Division of Health Sciences is intended to position WSU as a future state and national leader in both health sciences and the biomedical fields, and to launch it as a major player in Spokane’s burgeoning medical market. This change also is designed to encourage research collaboration, private partnerships and research funding growth.

“The potential for health sciences development in Spokane is one of the most exciting opportunities now facing WSU, and if we don’t take advantage of it, someone else will,” said Fran McSweeney, vice provost for Faculty Affairs.

If approved, the proposed Division of Health Sciences would create an administrative umbrella that would potentially oversee the colleges of Nursing and Pharmacy; the departments of Speech and Hearing Sciences; Dietetics and Human Nutrition; Sports Management and Kinesiology; the Washington Wyoming Alaska Montana Idaho (WWAMI) Basic Medical Sciences; and various Spokane Centers and Institutes, including the Health Research & Education Center; Extension Area Health Education Center; Food $ense; Washington Institute for Mental Illness/Research & Training; WSU Spokane Heart Study; Spokane Alliance for Medical Research Sleep and Performance Lab; and the Cancer Prevention and Research Center.

“WSU would be much better off if it had one coordinated structure making decisions about organizing and advocating for our Health Sciences on a day-to-day basis. There are a multitude of opportunities in Spokane and a many chances for collaboration internally, that we are not pursuing at the moment,” said McSweeney. “This structure would help us to pursue both the internal and external opportunities.”

Directing the new division would be a vice chancellor or chancellor.
The proposal noted that some units currently operate in an isolated, “silo” type environment. “I think all the units involved have a great deal to gain by reducing their level of isolation and working more collaboratively,” McSweeney said. “Faculty tend to be conservative, and I hope they won’t reject this without first considering the benefits they could gain from a larger Division of Health Science.”

The proposal is part of an overall effort, begun in the fall of 2004, to “realign” WSU’s academic structure. (For information regarding who was on the realignment committees, the process that was followed and the full proposal, see the report titled “Academic Realignment: Positioning WSU for the Future” at http://www.wsu.edu/afw/AcadRealgn.rtf

McSweeney and Chuck Pezeshki, past and upcoming president of the Faculty Senate, have gathered information from academic leaders at all WSU colleges and campuses (chancellors, deans and chairs) on how the university’s academic structure could be improved. From that, a decision was made to focus the realignment effort on the three most frequently mentioned areas — health sciences, liberal arts, environmental and natural resources sciences. And a committee was formed to address each.

The health sciences realignment is entering phase three, with a final committee report posted for review and comment at http://facsen.wsu.edu/new_proposal/index.html. A proposal for Liberal Arts can also be found there. The proposal for environmental and natural sciences will follow later.

Comments on the health sciences proposal will be gathered from faculty and staff through Oct. 15. Comments can be sent via e-mail, mail, phone and/or made during upcoming public meetings.

The realignment effort accelerated on Aug. 26, when WSU Spokane Chancellor Brian Pitcher delivered a 12-page document titled “Developing Vision and Priorities for Health and Biomedical Sciences at Washington State University” to Provost Bates. This vision statement addresses the university at large, especially collaboration between the colocated WSU Spokane and WSU Pullman campuses.

Pitcher received the assignment in March based on a deans’ and chancellors’ discussion noting that a university health sciences vision statement was needed to put the corresponding academic alignment proposal in context. This vision document was prepared by a work group of 12 including deans, vice provosts and leaders from affected areas.

“We came to a consensus that health sciences is a front-and-center issue given where we are in our society and at the university,” said Pitcher. “It is critical for WSU to position itself now in regards to how we plan to provide support in terms of health sciences education, research and outreach, including educational programs, services and extension programs around the state.

“The Spokane medical and business community is focused and mobilized to create a competitive health sciences focus at the WSU Spokane campus. However, our work group recognized the importance of Pullman-based programs for the health sciences and professions, as well as opportunities systemwide.”

Similar to the proposal from the Committee on Academic Structure, the Health Sciences Vision and Priorities discussion paper will be reviewed by the Provost, then by the faculty, staff and community, including hospitals and medical partners.