5 questions about the new Health Institute
Emily Matuszewicz discusses MSU Denver’s interdisciplinary answer to Colorado’s health care needs.
May 29, 2018
What is the Health Institute?
Emily Matuszewicz, D.C., interim director of the Health Institute: Launching this fall, it’s a collaboration among 10 areas at MSU Denver focused on health and wellness: Health Professions; Nursing; Human Performance and Sport; Nutrition; Human Services; Social Work; Biology; Chemistry; Psychology; and Speech, Language and Hearing Sciences.
We’re trying to identify places where students are going into health-related fields and provide a centralized resource for them to gain access to advisors, mentors and career success. This is aligned with where employers are telling us the workforce needs are and will be – not only in physical health but behaviorally; we’re talking about how to take care of the whole person. It’s truly an interdisciplinary approach that’s setting MSU Denver apart.
What are some ways this will happen?
EM: Lifestyle medicine is an area of emphasis with lots of opportunity, as research shows that 80 percent of chronic disease and health issues can be eliminated or improved by making better lifestyle choices – better eating, smoking cessation, physical activity and more.
At the same time, we need to frame this within communities. The current direction of health care cost is unsustainable, and there are social determinants that affect underserved and vulnerable populations. This results in phenomena like food deserts, with lack of access to affordable healthy things to eat – wellness shouldn’t just be for people who can afford it.
A pathway to health equity requires cultural competency to help create and model advocacy here on campus, for students and our community. Given our mission, MSU Denver is perfectly suited to do this, and with connections to the Harvard Institute of Lifestyle Medicine, the recent launch of our lifestyle-medicine minor and as the first institution in the country to offer an undergraduate major (through the individualized degree program), we’re already being seen as a leader in this field.
How is this tied to workforce development?
EM: It’s a systemic approach – when you look at one physician, there are 16 other health care-related positions that can deliver patient care. These are as varied as mental-health workers, data scientists, social workers, health navigators, radiologists, hospice workers and more.
For Colorado, the needs are there: The growth of our 65-plus population is the third-fastest in the country, while 58 of our 64 counties don’t have enough behavioral-health professionals.
The Health Institute will serve as a pipeline to help students plug into these jobs that are needed today. And by adopting an entrepreneurial approach to help students get connected to mentors, research and applied work in successful efforts such as the health care Interest Program, we’re ensuring they’re competitive for the jobs of tomorrow that haven’t even been invented yet.
How did the Health Institute come to be?
EM: The initiative started about four or five years ago with a committee who put in a lot of energy and effort laying the foundation for the work we’re doing now. When President Davidson came in, she was looking for new opportunities to make a big difference for workforce needs. Jenn Capps (Ph.D., interim dean of the College of Professional Studies) really spearheaded getting it back off the ground.
Is there anything else you’d like to add?
EM: Medicine, as a microcosm of health care, has become siloed; the study of the human body has been broken down into specialties. This is important for expertise, but we need a systemic examination – both in health care delivery and in the education of future practitioners.
We’ve got big plans to help prepare students for a whole-person approach to Colorado’s health care needs, and a lot of that is showcasing the amazing work already happening at MSU Denver. The Health Institute launches this fall, but we’re already hard at work on the first phase of a revolutionary way to help community wellness thrive.
For more information on the Health Institute, contact Emily Matuszewicz.