Officials from Oregon Health & Science University today announced a unique partnership between multiple units within OHSU, Doernbecher Children’s Hospital, the institution’s two fundraising foundations, and the Harold & Arlene Schnitzer CARE Foundation to make OHSU the region’s premier clinical and educational center for diabetes. Scheduled to open in the fall of 2007, the Harold Schnitzer Diabetes Health Center will treat children and adults with diabetes, train current and future diabetes specialists and provide resources that improve the standard of care for diabetes patients across the region, including those in underserved areas.
A leadership gift of $5.5 million from the Harold & Arlene Schnitzer CARE Foundation – also announced today – serves as the catalyst for a significant financial commitment from OHSU, the OHSU Foundation and the Doernbecher Children’s Hospital Foundation to establish the center, endow its key faculty positions, and support its operations until it becomes financially self-sustaining in the years ahead.
Officials from OHSU and the Harold & Arlene Schnitzer CARE Foundation said the center will likely become one of the West Coast’s leading diabetes centers and one of the few anywhere to treat both children and adult patients in one facility. More broadly, officials heralded today’s announcement as a visionary model for new clinical and academic initiatives. By forming partnerships with entities increasingly affected by diabetes – including insurers, other healthcare systems, government agencies, employers, businesses and health-related non-profits – OHSU and other educators of health professionals can contribute new solutions to this expanding public health threat beyond what any one entity is capable of doing on its own.
“OHSU is proud to have earned this remarkable level of support from the Harold & Arlene Schnitzer CARE Foundation. We’re tremendously grateful, not only for this generous gift but also for the opportunity to partner with them in this exciting venture,” said OHSU President Joe Robertson, M.D., M.B.A.“This exciting new partnership will result in a regional center of world-class diabetes care, while also forging a powerful multi-disciplinary collaboration involving numerous units of OHSU, including Doernbecher Children’s Hospital, together with the philanthropic community. This center reflects new and better strategies for delivering healthcare, conducting research, training health professionals and addressing important public health challenges.”
The gift will provide initial operational support for the center, endow key faculty positions and fund staff positions and programs for diabetes patient education. Among the other principal participants, OHSU is investing substantially in facilities renovation and administrative start-up support, and the Doernbecher Children’s Hospital Foundation has committed $3 million toward an OHSU Foundation initiative to raise the additional $10 million specified in the center’s business plan.
Backed by this partnership, the center is emblematic of OHSU’s strategic plan for all new ventures to become financially self-sustaining. “This represents a major milestone in the life of the university,” Robertson said.
“Beyond the shared financial and organizational commitment,” he said, “this center represents a paradigm shift in how we structure and support important clinical and educational ventures.” He explained that the center requires a close level of cooperation among OHSU’s schools of medicine and nursing; academic departments such as endocrinology, cardiology, ophthalmology, pediatrics, nephrology and transplant surgery; and clinical units such as OHSU and Doernbecher hospitals. Patients will benefit directly from this more integrated, patient-focused approach to treatment, he said.
Today’s announcement fulfills a longtime goal for newly appointed Center Director Andrew J. Ahmann, M.D., an associate professor of medicine (endocrinology, diabetes and clinical nutrition) in the OHSU School of Medicine. “I and many others have dreamed of creating a comprehensive diabetes center at OHSU for many years. We’ve come a long way, and we plan to continue working aggressively to raise the additional funds we will need to position the center for fiscal sustainability. However, this generous gift and the future support it will help to generate have put us well on the way toward realizing our complete vision for diabetes healthcare in Oregon, even throughout the Pacific Northwest. When the center opens this fall, we will have the space and resources to keep pace with the growing demand for family-oriented diabetes care.”
In Oregon alone, the incidence of diabetes has risen by more than 80 percent during the past decade, Ahmann said, adding the rate among young people is even higher. In addition to genetic factors, the spike in cases is driven by issues of diet, physical inactivity, obesity and related issues. As in all healthcare institutions, individuals with diabetes represent a steadily increasing proportion of OHSU’s outpatient and inpatient volume. Greater physical capacity and the funds to expand clinical staffing will offset these mounting challenges, he said, while enhancing OHSU’s capabilities for patient education tailored to the needs of children, young adults and adults. Adding capacity for patient education and preventive medicine is key to helping patients avoid the complications of diabetes while working with families to help prevent diabetes from striking other members.
Ahmann said the center will also assist in training future health professionals and providing continuing medical education for the region’s practitioners – a benefit with enormous potential to improve healthcare in rural and other underserved areas of the region. Once fully established, the center will also play an important role in translating OHSU research breakthroughs into new treatments and care strategies. “We hope the success of this clinical center, with its capabilities for improved care and clinical research, will lead to later investment in basic and expanded clinical diabetes research, beyond the scope of this important first step,” Ahmann said.
“The center will contribute significantly to the improved health of people in our region in the here and now,” he said, “but elevating the stature and capability of diabetes care at OHSU will foster collaboration with other outstanding diabetes centers in the nation, extending our influence on diabetes care throughout the United States while facilitating the flow of new ideas and programs to providers in our region.”
The vision for a new era in diabetes care originated with Harold Schnitzer, a diabetes patient himself, when he realized the challenges millions of patients across the nation face in receiving basic diabetes care and support. “Our healthcare system is not prepared to cope with the increasing number of people confronted with diabetes and struggling to keep it under control,” Schnitzer said. “It’s time for a new approach to diabetes, and I believe the partnership we’re announcing today will lead the way to new solutions – both for patients in OHSU’s immediate service area and for people everywhere with diabetes.”
OHSU Foundation President Steve Sanders praised the donors for this latest example of their strong support for OHSU over the decades. “As leading advocates for health and healing in our community, Harold and Arlene Schnitzer have supported a wide range of programs at OHSU. We are deeply grateful for this remarkable support of OHSU’s diabetes program. It will make such a positive difference in the lives of a large and growing number of people in our region and beyond.”
Renovation work is under way on the center’s new space in the Physicians Pavilion on OHSU’s Marquam Hill campus. Officials are planning a grand opening event this fall. The facility will provide patient-focused amenities such as designated waiting areas, examination rooms and educational spaces tailored to the needs of children, young adults and adults with diabetes.
The center’s OHSU affiliation gives patients access to some of the nation’s finest practitioners in key specialty areas often associated with diabetes: ophthalmology, cardiology, orthopedics, exercise physiology, and more. In addition, as part of a nationally ranked research institution, the center can offer its patients unrivaled access to numerous clinical trials at the forefront of diabetes research.
Harold Schnitzer said the significant investment from OHSU, Doernbecher and their fundraising affiliates highlights the magnitude of the partnership’s commitment to addressing the problems of diabetes. He also said he is eager to expand the enterprise. “We and our partners are committed to the center’s success, and it will happen,” he said, “But additional support and additional partnerships are needed to ensure the center thrives over the long term and that the people of this region, and beyond, benefit.”
The OHSU Foundation is a 501(c)(3) organization that exists to secure private philanthropic support for