Students walking down the WesternU EsplanadeWesternU: Transforming the Face of Health

The basic structure of health professions education has not changed in 100 years. It is still typically separated into silos by discipline and delivered by the “sage on the stage” using time-worn pedagogical models. Meanwhile, the health care industry has advanced technologically yet population health has not kept pace. We may be living longer in the United States, but our final years are often marked by chronic, painful, resource-intensive conditions. Health care practice has generally been provider- or discipline-centered and delivered at high cost with outcomes that often fall below what is possible.

WesternU can lead the charge to turn this around.

We recognize the challenges health professions education faces and are committed to developing a comprehensive vision to implement a new paradigm.  Policy specifics may evolve, but the future will doubtless include progressive changes in health care.  Moving swiftly in the direction of a changing horizon is nothing new for WesternU. Over the last several years, our institution has recurrently demonstrated its “bold and audacious” nature.  We have built an institution through the “WesternU Way” of innovation that now holds the strengths of two campuses, nine colleges, an established interprofessional education program, a patient care center, a diabetes center, and a strong culture of caring, humanism and evidence-based health care research. We have stood on the cornerstones of Science, Humanism, and Caring, and have proven that we can achieve what we dream.

Over the next five years, we will exemplify the traits we have become known for in even bolder ways by turning our eyes toward transforming the landscape of health care and health sciences education and research. Through implementing our strategic plan, WesternU will be positioned to “Change the Face of Health” by transforming the way health professionals are educated and the way health care is practiced. We can lead the way in conducting translational research that clearly demonstrates the most effective protocols through enhanced patient outcomes. We can embody innovation in our pedagogies, research, and clinical settings in such a way that WesternU attracts “the best of the best” in terms of faculty members, students, and philanthropic supporters, subsequently providing a stellar workforce to meet growing needs.

Strategies to Achieve the Plan

We began this phase of our strategic planning process with seven goals and thirty-one objectives. Over the course of the last year, more than 100 individuals from across the University, organized in seven working groups, developed plans to achieve those goals and objectives (See Appendix I: Representative Action Plans for Strategic Goals and Objectives).

In the resulting influx of forward-thinking creativity and innovation, three major strategies to achieve the plan have emerged:

  • Educate health professionals for 2025 and beyond
  • Deliver patient-centered, evidence- and population-based collaborative care
  • Conduct translational research that advances care delivery and community health

Students examining a patientEducate health professionals for 2025 and beyond

  • Prepare our students to understand and apply the skills that will be necessary for future health care delivery through evidence-based interprofessional education (IPE) and other unique resources and programs, through such strategies as:  
    • Augmenting the IPE department as needed to fully build out a four-phased IPE program with established outcomes that are rigorously measured and evaluated
    • Developing and deploying a competency-based, active-learning IPE curriculum mapped across all colleges and programs
    • Creating a fiscally-sound process for faculty to hold joint appointments in the academic department of IPE
    • Establishing collaborative processes among WesternU simulation centers and activities
    • Establishing dual-degree programs through the professional and biomedical sciences colleges
    • Conducting professional development programs, continuing education courses, and other development modalities or events that focus on interprofessional education and practice
  • Create efficiencies through student centered, state-of-the-art, innovative educational models that reduce the time to master current knowledge and skills in order to create space in the overburdened curricula for new and emerging knowledge and skill sets, through such steps as:
    • Designing and testing competency-based educational models (according to profession-defined competencies)
    • Providing common University core curricula (shared anatomy, basic sciences and clinically-based relevant topics with modular online components)
    • Utilizing advanced simulation strategies and technologies inside and outside of the classroom (on-campus and on-line virtual courses for skills development)
    • Using innovative virtual and live learning experiences to train students to provide patient-centered collaborative care
    • Encouraging and incentivizing the collaboration of skilled faculty members and staff across disciplines in such course and technologies development
  • Expand the market for our educational capacities into robust and in-demand continuing education programs (primarily non-degree and non-certificate programs) that consist of learner-centered, active-learning and engaged experiences including:
    • Distance Learning Initiatives
    • Professional Development Courses
    • Post-Doctoral  Advanced Training Programs
    • International Certificate Programs
  • Continue the WesternU tradition of reaching out to a diverse community for education and service. 
    • Expose WesternU students to community-based service in a variety of cultural and socio-economic contexts through existing and expanded programs
    • Support the recruitment of a diverse faculty, staff and student body through enhanced pipeline activities
  • Establish an Educational Technology Innovation Center to support WesternU’s advancement into existing, emerging, and horizon technologies that are changing education and student expectations through such strategies as:
    • Supporting the internal creation and implementation of virtual, online, and mobile courses both for internal use and external commercialization
    • Building a centralized digital asset library to share existing educational resources and reduce future investment in copyrighted materials
    • Exploring external partnerships that will help WesternU develop technology-enhanced learning models and systems that prepare students with real-life skill sets for the health care future they will enter and offer opportunities for revenue generation
    • Investigating the creation of a surgical anatomy lab that incorporates innovative embalming techniques so that WesternU can provide hands-on, industry-leading surgical education
    • Increasing the use of high-impact simulation facilities that include high- and low-fidelity technology, virtual/gaming technologies, telemedicine, and collaborative simulations for our programs.
  • Increasing awareness of student, faculty and staff-based intellectual property opportunities


Students walking down the WesternU EsplanadeDeliver patient-centered, evidence- and population-based collaborative care

  • Reorganize patient care operations to transform the delivery of health care into a paradigm that is compassionate, patient-centered, team-based, wellness-focused, effective and cost-efficient through such steps as:
    • Implementing activity-based costing to improve efficiencies
    • Developing methods to improve and measure staff and patient satisfaction
    • Modeling effective interdisciplinary team formation and collaborative care and then implementing such models in multiple clinic settings
    • Implementing the Faculty Practice Plan which will grow services, incentivize clinical faculty  and lessen tuition dollar reliance
    • Exploring innovative systems to organize health care services along a team-based approach to community-based care through implementing a fully operational integrated health information system that supports a truly patient-centered, collaborative care model
    • Incorporating ways to become aware of and respond to current and evolving market needs and drivers
  • Cooperatively develop processes and systems to translate advances in patient-centered, population-based collaborative care across curricular development, research, and care delivery through such steps as:
    • Establishing a process to integrate such models into all appropriate curricular activities
    • Integrating translational health research that creates new protocols for team-based, patient-centered care and positive outcomes into all patient care settings
    • Incorporating knowledge and skills in population-based care into our curricula and care delivery models to increase behavior and attitudes focused on population health
    • Providing continuity-of-care experiences for our students
    • Fully embracing the One Health approach in all education and clinical services
  • Expand our clinical services into new markets through creative partnerships that allow for:
    • Establishing new care delivery sites which can serve as training sites for students from all WesternU colleges and that have the potential to generate revenue
    • Expanding the Western Diabetes Institute (WDI)
    • Adding selective health care specialists
    • Developing ancillary health care services
    • Targeting care of underserved populations in our clinical education sites and training programs
    • Improving community access to veterinary care and services
  • Leverage WesternU’s strength as the largest producer of primary care providers in California to establish creative partnerships that create a robust, reliable, and permanent system of monitored clinical education for our students


Conduct translational research that advances care delivery and community health

  • Establish a Center for Clinical and Translational Research (CCTR) to expand WesternU interprofessional clinical research opportunities
  • Utilize a team approach to investigate health care issues and to conduct research that advances the evaluation and treatment of individuals with complex medical conditions, by:
    • Establishing a common database for cross-program usage and collaboration
    • Establishing partnerships with community organizations, health care providers, and industries to enhance intra- and inter-organizational collaboration for bench, translational, and clinical research, and to promote bench-to-bedside projects
  • Explore the opportunity for WesternU to lead in the field of wellness protocols research
  • Encourage, support, and incentivize faculty generation of pioneering research programs, products and technologies that are:
    • Interprofessional
    • Evidence-based, and that
    • Achieve the highest levels of health in human and animal populations
  • Utilize research opportunities and results as a University benefit:
    • To enhance student education and experiences
    • To continuously transform care models in clinical settings
    • To improve community health through protocols with proven outcomes


WesternU Library buildingSupporting the Strategies

The strategies we have developed represent working visions, and their adoption and implementation will depend on many factors, including environmental changes, the emergence of new and stronger opportunities, availability of funding, and ongoing results of adopted strategic actions.

A crucial piece of this process is to increase the University’s capacity to generate non-tuition revenue in order to lighten the burden of operational costs on tuition dollars. There will be an ongoing effort to evaluate and fund innovative education and health care ventures that reach this goal, and to adopt such research strategies as:

  • Creating WesternU Ventures and an Office of Technology Transfer to develop new markets for, and “commercialize,” the intellectual property (IP) of the University, coordinating related activities across educational innovation, technology sales, and continuing education products
  • Generating revenue-positive opportunities to conduct contracted research by establishing an Academic Contract Research organization

In addition, we cannot overemphasize our need to pay close attention to the internal fitness (infrastructure, communication, and other processes) of our Institution. Accompanying the growth and development of WesternU’s academic and research realms is the correlated need to ensure that the units involved in this venture are properly resourced and staffed for the expanded tasks ahead.

To that end, in addition to the mission-centric core strategies listed above, we have developed and will continue to develop ways to further strengthen our University through such key efforts as:

  • Enhancing internal communication and workflow technologies;
  • Expanding a University-wide “culture of evidence” that drives information-rich assessment and decision-making, operational performance, and continuous quality improvement;
  • Furthering engagement with our communities;
  • Growing University endowments and student scholarships;
  • Continuing to strengthen faculty governance and shared decision-making, and
  • Transforming, aligning, and augmenting key functional areas as needed.

We must do this in order to meet the requirements of the growth we have already experienced and the future needs of our stakeholders and constituents.

As well, we are formalizing a process and structure for ongoing University planning and continued monitoring, evaluation, and appropriate updating of our Strategic Plan. Such efforts will ensure better data collection, access, and analysis, enhanced communication, increased transparency, and expanded participation by internal stakeholders. Our establishment of constant “horizon scanning” groups in several areas will also empower us to create and respond to new opportunities in our typical “WesternU Way.”