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What Is the Value and Role of Academic Medicine in the Life of Its University?

Azziz, Ricardo MD, MBA, MPH

doi: 10.1097/ACM.0000000000000095

National and global events are rapidly and irrevocably driving transformation in both academia and health care. One result is an increase in the pace of institutional restructuring, consolidations, and mergers, including the melding of academic medical centers (AMCs; i.e., medical schools and their clinical enterprises) with nonmedical universities. Georgia Regents University (GRU) resulted from one such recent consolidation, and the experience at the institution has highlighted the need to answer the question “What is the value and role of academic medicine and an AMC in the life and transformation of its university?”

In attempting to answer this question, the author first contrasts the cultural features of academic medicine and nonmedical faculty and leaders, as observed from the GRU experience, which might be useful for leaders of other institutions of higher education. His analysis suggests that academic medicine is currently significantly insulated from the larger university, and that this segregation or siloing represents a lost opportunity for both the AMC and the university at large. The author’s experience suggests that fostering greater synergy between the university and its AMC adds significant value, and that such synergy better ensures the ability of those universities with an AMC to undertake and meet future transformative challenges. Strategies should be proactively developed both to enhance academic medicine leaders’ engagement with, exposure to, and education regarding the operations and challenges of higher education and the broader university, and, likewise, to increase nonmedical faculty’s understanding of and experience with the value and unique challenges of academic medicine.

Dr. Azziz is professor of obstetrics and gynecology, of medicine, and of medical humanities, and he is president, Georgia Regents University, and chief executive officer, Georgia Regents Health System, Augusta, Georgia.

Editor’s Note: This is a commentary on Handel DJ, Kleit SA, Handel DA. The development and maturation of a statewide academic health care system: Clarian Health Partners/Indiana University Health. Acad Med. 2014;89:230–235; Thier SO, Kelley WN, Pardes H, Knight AW, Wietecha M. Success factors in merging teaching hospitals. Acad Med. 2014;89:219–223; and Edwards RL, Lofgren RP, Birdwhistell MD, Zembrodt JW, Karpf M. Challenges of becoming a regional referral system: the University of Kentucky as a case study. Acad Med. 2014;89:224–229.

Funding/Support: None reported.

Other disclosures: None reported.

Ethical approval: Reported as not applicable.

Correspondence should be addressed to Dr. Azziz, Georgia Regents University, Office of the President, 1120 15th St., AA-311, Augusta, GA 30912; telephone: (706) 721-2301; e-mail:

© 2014 by the Association of American Medical Colleges