News Release

Following Task Force report, U of M plans next steps to strengthen academic health system for all Minnesotans

Aerial view of the Twin Cities campus and Mississippi River

University of Minnesota leaders welcomed recommendations developed by the Governor’s Task Force on Academic Health at the University of Minnesota and will take important next steps to strengthen health care for Minnesota. The Task Force submitted its final report to the Governor’s Office today.

Multiple recommendations support key steps toward a long-term vision for a healthier Minnesota with an academic health system at the core. Through the University’s leadership, partnerships and research, Minnesota can reinforce its health care workforce, enhance health care access and quality, and continue to innovate on behalf of current and future generations of Minnesotans.

“We owe it to our children, grandchildren and all Minnesotans to envision what’s possible for the health of our state,” said U of M Interim President Jeff Ettinger. “Minnesota needs a comprehensive academic health system that continues to grow stronger to ensure high-quality and innovative care, a well-equipped health workforce and discoveries that will inform and enhance patient care.”

University leaders have consistently stressed the need to establish the next generation of a true academic health system since unveiling a five-point vision in January 2023. Long-term, this vision includes world-class facilities to attract and retain globally recognized expert physicians/researchers and others committed to discovering and delivering new treatments to improve care for every Minnesotan. It is driven through that groundbreaking research and training of the next generation of all health sciences professionals — two hallmarks of the value academic health systems deliver and areas where the U of M has long provided invaluable contributions to the state. This vision is focused on the public service that is core to the University’s mission, but caring for Minnesota’s changing and aging population also relies on significant and sustained state and other investments, as well as partnerships across the health care ecosystem.

“We are grateful for the hard work and thoughtful deliberation of Task Force members,” Ettinger said. “Their report highlights the challenges and shortcomings Minnesota’s health care environment faces. But they also offered context and insights that will be invaluable as the University takes its next steps toward building out plans for the future.”

University leaders highlighted multiple report recommendations that will be important steps to take, starting with discussions during the 2024 state legislative session. Among other positive outcomes, action on the final recommendations would: 

  • Create, strengthen and expand University partnerships with health systems across the state to address access and disparities challenges; 
  • Continue to grow academic collaborations; 
  • Examine health system facilities and infrastructure statewide through a comprehensive needs assessment, with findings that will be instructive to strategically planning new facilities and efficiently updating current ones;
  • Adjust Medicaid and Medicare practices to provide more support for health sciences education, and;
  • Align University and state leaders on plans and goals across the short-, medium- and long-term.

The report noted Minnesota’s opportunity to position itself nationally as “the state of health” and called on strategic investments, not just for today, but to support broader health system and workforce needs of the future. “Minnesotans deserve an even higher performing health care ecosystem, with better access and outcomes for all at sustainable costs. As Minnesota’s land grant university, UMN has a leadership role to play in creating that future,” the report said.

In public meetings, the Task Force heard from a number of University leaders. They reiterated the U of M’s commitments to increase the number of highly trained health professionals, particularly in Greater Minnesota; develop new interprofessional care models to drive efficiency and strong outcomes; and provide even greater focus on access for underserved communities and priority health care areas, such as mental health. They also highlighted the financial challenges to these important goals without additional support for academic health.

“The State and Minnesotans are asking more of the University of Minnesota. We stand ready to answer that call,” added Ettinger. “But we will need our public and private partners — existing and future — to help us make Minnesota an academic health system model for others to aspire to.”