The ability of academic health centers (AHCs) to maintain their financial viability and mission in the face of revolutionary changes was broadly discussed during the last decade. Among the suggestions for protecting the future of AHCs was to form strategic alliances to further the missions of education, research, and service. Although the evidence indicates that 55% of strategic alliances fall apart after three years, the Meharry-Vanderbilt Alliance is now beginning its fifth year, and it appears to be growing stronger.
This article presents a brief overview of the evolving historical relationship between Meharry Medical College and Vanderbilt University Medical Center—two institutions that share the same fundamental missions but have very different traditions, cultures, resources, and emphases for medical training—and their relationship with Metropolitan General Hospital at Meharry, a public hospital. The characteristics that have distinguished this strategic alliance are its organizational structure, clearly articulated and measurable objectives, an independent central office, and a shared responsibility for the management and provision of clinical services at Nashville General Hospital. The belief that the Meharry-Vanderbilt Alliance is the “right thing to do” has provided a foundation for cooperation at all levels of both AHCs.