A Strategy for the Future

The College of Community Health Sciences began a strategic planning process in fall 2012 to develop a five-year plan that builds on the College’s deep roots in primary care and family medicine education while responding to the changing health care needs of communities.   

A plan was developed during an intensive nine-month process, in consultation with the firm CFAR Inc. and guided by a Core Team and Steering Committee that included College faculty, clinical staff, administrators, alumni, community leaders and others.

The goal was to create a shared vision of how best to achieve the College’s mission of primary care, education and research in a health care environment that is shifting from reactive and illness care to prevention, and to develop a road map for how the College can achieve that vision.

Now the College is transitioning the work ostrategic planning into the work oimplementation.

“This is the beginning of a journey,” says Dean Richard Streiffer, MD.

The College’s previous mission statement focused on providing “the physicians and expertise needed for accessible, high-quality and compassionate health care for the citizens oAlabama … with a special emphasis on rural areas.” Since its founding in 1972, more than 400 family physicians have completed the College’s residency, with 50 percent
practicing in Alabama and halfofthose in rural areas. The College’s medical student program steers graduates into primary care specialties at a rate more than twice the national average, and its award-winning rural pipeline program has placed nearly 50 doctors into rural practice.    

Today, the mission is not just producing doctors but improving the health ofAlabama’s population, coupled with community engagement and social accountability.

“The strategic plan is intended to be a living, breathing document that guides the work of the College,” Streiffer says. “The strategic plan, and the initiatives that comprise it, will ultimately be integrated into the everyday work of the College.” 

The strategic planning process began with individual interviews ofCollege faculty, staffand alumni, and stakeholders across The University ofAlabama and the community. Focus groups were conducted with residents and medical students. Based on the results, a survey was developed and administered to College faculty and staff, select faculty of UA and the University of Alabama School of Medicine, residents, medical students, alumni and community members.  

More than 350 respondents completed the survey, including all College faculty. Survey results, coupled with an in-depth analysis of the College, were used to create strategic options that were the centerpiece of a strategic planning retreat and used to shape the College’s strategic plan. The all-day retreat was held in March 2013, and the 100 plus attendees hashed through various strategic planning options.   

“Engaging as many people and their thinking as possible, and really welcoming their input, was vital to developing a meaningful strategic plan,” Streiffer says.

The planning process was undertaken with the expert assistance ofCFAR consultants Jessica Geiben Lynn and Christopher Hugill. From offices in Philadelphia and Boston, CFAR serves clients across a range of industries worldwide, including health care, life sciences, higher education, nonprofits and family and closely held enterprises. The firm’s approach combines an understanding of business with insights into the human systems that make up organizations.

The College’s plan contains four strategic priorities: build on the strong foundation of the Family Medicine Residency; provide an innovative and community-oriented undergraduate medical education experience; transform the clinical enterprise to deliver exceptional patient-centered care; and foster a passion for scholarly pursuit in line with the College’s mission. Four Strategic Action Teams, or StATs, were formed and charged with implementing each priority. Here are highlights of work completed by the StATs in 2013:

The Residency StAT created a curriculum committee and a marketing plan to improve residency recruiting. A clinical rotation in emergency medicine was added, and an emergency medicine fellowship for primary care physicians is under consideration. Work is underway to add community medicine, dermatology and practice management experience for residents. The College’s Department of Family Medicine added five new faculty who are working closely with residents.

The Medical Student StAT is implementing the Tuscaloosa Longitudinal Community Curriculum, which will give third-year medical students an opportunity to live and train in communities under the supervision of practicing primary care physicians, be involved in the comprehensive care of patients over time and to have long-term relationships with patients’ physicians.

The Clinical StAT is advancing a patient-centered medical home (PCMH) model of care within University Medical Center, which the College operates. A PCMH provides a team-based approach to comprehensive patient care. Led by a physician and including such health professionals as nurses, social workers, psychiatrists, nutritionists and pharmacists, the PCMH organizes primary care to emphasize coordination and preventive care.

The Scholarship StAT is working to create a passion for research at the College. A monthly lecture series began in February 2014 featuring College and University faculty who present their research. The College participates in a research breakfast program with other colleges on campus to share research and find ways to collaborate. A Summer Scientific Writing Workshop is planned for College faculty.