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December 10, 2001

WHSC's common purpose: 'Making People Healthy'

By Jon Saxton


Michael Johns, executive vice president for Health Affairs, outlined the status and future of Emory’s Woodruff Health Sciences Center (WHSC) in a “State of Health Affairs” address delivered on Thursday, Nov. 29, in WHSCAB auditorium.

Addressing an overflow audience of faculty, staff and students, Johns characterized the last five years in health care as the “perfect storm” and among the most difficult health care has ever seen. While claiming WHSC has weathered that storm and is well positioned for leadership in the years ahead, he pointed out that there is still much to accomplish. Johns then unveiled a new framework of goals and priorities, as well as a unifying theme, by which WHSC will define its activities and initiatives in the coming years.

Johns described the “proactive” strategy he adopted upon his arrival at Emory in 1996, which has resulted in the recruitment of faculty and staff in targeted areas and investment in new, state-of-the-art facilities for research, patient care and education.

In five years, Johns said, the total of sponsored research dollars awarded to WHSC faculty has doubled. Each of the professional schools—medicine, nursing and public health—has revised its curriculum, and almost 1 million square feet of new space have been added or planned, including a new Nell Hodgson Woodruff School of Nursing building, the new Whitehead Research Building, a new comprehensive cancer center and the rebuilding of Crawford Long Hospital.

Johns also described the creation and consolidation of all Emory Clinic activities into Emory Healthcare and the difficulties the health system has endured in the face of rising costs for medical drugs, devices and supplies, and severe reductions in payments for care from insurers and the government.

Johns praised the clinical faculty who, he said, “are the health care heroes, who have borne the brunt of this terrible storm in health care and who are the reason that health care at Emory is still the best available in Atlanta, in our region and, in some cases, nationally.”

Johns devoted the second half of his address to a description of a new “Leadership Agenda” and the need to further align the multiple activities and goals of the health sciences center around a common theme. He introduced a new statement of the “core purpose” of WHSC—“Making People Healthy”—and described five priority “strategic action” areas: financial strength, innovation, leadership, people and the workplace and knowledge management.

Initiatives in these five areas will include major fundraising efforts to build endowments of the schools and hospitals and to support other priorities; new support for faculty and staff innovation; the creation of a new Woodruff Leadership Academy to which faculty can apply or be nominated to receive leadership and management training; new efforts to improve working conditions and morale, especially in the clinical system; and the hiring of a new chief information officer who can design and implement a unified, state-of-the-art information system.

The address ended with Johns exhorting faculty, staff and students to “take the opportunities we have to lead” and to work toward the new common purpose. To that end, everyone attending the event walked away with a lapel button (to be distributed throughout WHSC) emblazoned with the new motto, “Making People Healthy.”


Back to Emory Report December 10, 2001