University leaders share health care vision with state officials

U of M leaders Myron France, senior vice president for finance and operations, and Dr. Jakub Tolar, dean of the university’s world-renowned medical school and vice president for clinical affairs, testified at the Jan. 30 joint hearing of the Minnesota House Commerce Finance & Committees in politics and health, finance and politics. Frans and Tolar were invited to share the university’s position on the proposed merger of the Fairview and Sanford health systems, as well as outline the university’s MPact Health Care Innovation vision.

Earlier this month, Frans, Tolar and U of M President Joan Gabel announced the MPact Health Care Innovation vision, an opportunity to significantly advance the university’s leadership and partnerships to strengthen health care and the health professions in Minnesota and make Minnesota a leader in health care to all Minnesotans for generations to come. A summary of the five key points of the MPact Health Care Innovation vision can be found here.

Prepared written statements provided by France and Tolar on January 30 are included below. Additional information about the university’s vision for the future of health care in Minnesota can be found at

Jakub Tolar, Dean of the School of Medicine and Vice President for Clinical Affairs

Thank you, Chairman Stevenson, Chairman Liebling and members.

I am Jakub Tolar, Dean of the University of Minnesota School of Medicine and Vice President for Clinical Affairs.

Thank you for the opportunity to comment on the Fairview/Sanford combination.

This discussion has a very significant potential impact on the University of Minnesota, our medical school and our faculty of medicine, and the delivery of health care in Minnesota.

We are the only public medical school in the state. Our mission is to serve all of Minnesota in 3 ways:

  • Education and training. We train 70% of Minnesota’s physicians (highly rated nationally for rural physician training). We are also one of the few universities nationwide that also train nurses, pharmacists, dentists and other health professionals. With labor shortages — now and growing — your training partnership is a high priority.

  • Scientific research and innovation. We are grateful for the state’s support of our research, and because of that, we are now among the top US medical schools in NIH research.

  • Clinical practice. It’s the combination of these three missions that allows us to deliver high-quality, innovative care—and to always advance care on behalf of our patients. Through the physicians of the University of Minnesota, our clinical arm of the School of Medicine, we had over 1.2 million patient visits last year.

State support is critical and is why Minnesota is known for health care. And the state’s leadership in expanding and improving access to and quality of care is something we’re grateful to be a part of.

This context is intended to focus on what we believe is the heart of this discussion, namely that this is more than a private business transaction. This is a public issue that affects the university’s ability to fulfill our mission – our obligation to the state.

Because we believe this is the core issue, since we do not see this addressed in Fairview and Sanford’s proposal beyond the current contracts that run through 2026, we oppose this merger at this time.

It’s also true that even with the contracts in place, management of this combined system will immediately move to a board without university representation — meaning without your voice in decisions about the flagship facilities and operations that must support the university’s mission.

We now have a remarkable opportunity to chart the future of health care in Minnesota and the future of the university and its medical school.

Our vision calls for us to seize the moment—to improve access for all Minnesotans to academic medicine, to advance the practice of medicine and how we deliver it, and to ensure that Minnesota is a destination for high-quality health care.

Chairman Stephenson, Chairman Liebling and members, I would now like to turn it over to my colleague Myron Frans to expand on this.

Myron France, Senior Vice President of Finance and Operations

Chairman Stevenson, Chairman Liebling and Members,

I am Myron France, Chief Financial Officer, Chief Operating Officer and Treasurer at the University of Minnesota.

Thank you for inviting us here today.

On January 12, President Gabel announced MPact Health Care Innovation vision.

This vision centers on a commitment that all Minnesotans have access to a world-class, nation-leading, life-changing academic health system. This vision is based on five key principles:

  1. True integration of teaching and research in clinical care. Our approach is not only the clinical care of the patient, but also the education of their future doctor. Simply put, academic medicine takes more time and a different approach;

  2. University management over flagship facilities. The university, not a health system, should be in charge;

  3. A community mission that builds on relationships with health systems throughout the state, maximizing the reach of that mission. We understand that the value of our research, our teaching, and our care is best enhanced when it is shared widely with every practitioner in the state.

  4. We have been wisely and strategically acquiring land for a new hospital for years. This is more than a dream, it is a requirement to ensure the quality of teaching and research that healthcare professionals need. We need your help to make this a reality.

  5. While we wait for the new hospital, we will need your help to maintain the state-of-the-art facilities.

The mission of the university and the public interest of the state must be front and center when we discuss this opportunity.

I am here today to request a delay in the merger until Fairview, Sanford and the University of Minnesota agree on a comprehensive plan to address major issues in our five-point plan,

  • Number two in particular: Returning control of the university’s flagship facilities to the university

  • And number three: Design operational and financial relationships with our public health systems, such as Fairview or perhaps Sanford, to incentivize all parties to assist the university in providing world-class academic health care.

We have shared these requirements with Fairview and Sanford and have a meeting scheduled with them on February 1st to discuss them.

We would also like to thank Attorney General Keith Ellison, who called for a delay in the Fairview Sanford merger. The attorney general admits that “it’s more important to do this right than to do it quickly.”

Finally, we want a final agreement between Sanford and Fairview to be developed with the university’s input, and for any plan to be based on a vision that will support public health and access to health care for Minnesotans. The plan should not detract from the community nature of the university’s flagship hospitals and clinics from their original purpose and ongoing mission.

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