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Brown medical school and Lifespan’s new relationship

September 27, 2010

The big news is Brown’s medical school and Lifespan hospitals  have finally formalized a relationship they’ve had for years.  It’s now official that they meet once a month to make plans together,  hire heads of departments together, and  consider Rhode Island Hospital Brown’s  “principal teaching hospital.”

None of this is totally new, although the hospitals say putting all of this in writing will force them to work together with more intention. They plan to jointly hire new heads of neuroscience and psychiatry.  The hope is they’ll be able to attract better applicants with their powers combined.

Brown and Lifespan hope to create a new neuroscience center of excellence, combining Brown’s stellar academic researchers with Lifespan’s doctors.  The only problem is Butler Hospital does neuroscience work, but it’s owned by another hospital system- Care New England.

How is that going to work?  Ed Wing, the dean of Brown’s medical school, says that’s why he makes a salary.  He says he’s in conversations with Care New England about how to formalize their relationship and make this three way neuroscience center happen.  Won’t it be difficult to coordinate two competing hospital systems?  Yes, Wing says, the two systems won’t always agree, but in the end it’s in their best interests to collaborate.

So what’s going on?  Ed Wing didn’t approve when I asked if this was “plan b” after Care New England and Lifespan failed to merge, but essentially that’s what’s going on.  Lifespan and Care New England talked about creating similar centers of excellence when they proposed becoming one entity.  Now Brown will serve as the sort of go between for Care New England and Lifespan to collaborate together.

George Vechione, the President and CEO of Lifespan said

“Frankly, some of what we are announcing today was hoped to be a byproduct of the merger. . . that did not go forward and when that did not go forward these conversations intensified.   … We would have preferred to have the other frankly because it was more comprehensive, but the simple fact of the matter is that is not going to happen.”

Lifespan will be giving Brown’s medical school more money as a part of this agreement, but Ed Wing called the amount “proprietary” because Brown is still trying to work out a similar relationship with Care New England.  Wing says Brown will be giving Lifespan some extra financial support as well, but the amount has not been figured out yet.

For most people, nothing will change as a result of this agreement, at least not until Brown and Lifespan start creating their centers and hiring new department heads.  In the long term, Brown and Lifespan hope working together will raise Brown’s ranking as a medical school and make Lifespan hospitals more competitive with medical centers in Massachusetts.

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