Delivery of Care

MOU strengthens relationship between URI, South County Health

The potential for a new academic research partnership focused on geriatrics and senior care is one of the opportunities being explored

By Richard Asinof
Posted 4/3/17
A new MOU between South County Health and URI deepens the relationship between the acute care community hospital and the university around academic collaborations, formalizing the ongoing relationship.
What are the opportunities for future collaborations with academic research partners that South County Health may be interested in pursuing? How does this new collaborative relationship fit into the potential design of an innovation center at URI? Is it possible that with the pending sale of Memorial Hospital, the Family Medicine residency program at Memorial that is part of the Warren Alpert Medical School of Brown University might become affiliated with South County? With the departure of Dr. Lawrence Price from Butler Hospital, how will that change be reflected in the re-imagined role of the hospital’s future?
Slowly but surely, the growth of 10 health equity zones in Rhode Island as a community-centered approach to health keeps gaining traction. The work of the Healthy Bodies, Healthy Minds initiative is an example of the ways that the community can be engaged beyond what occurs in a doctor’s or nurse’s office.

WAKEFIELD – In the current dance of hospitals and health systems in Rhode Island as they prepare themselves for the rapidly changing landscape, whether it be from potential federal cuts to Medicare and Medicaid spending or grappling with the continued economic squeeze on revenues, some of the smaller tweaks often get overlooked.

Take, for instance, the announcement on March 28 that the University of Rhode Island and South County Health, the last remaining unaligned acute care community hospital in the state, have signed a memorandum of understanding to enhance educations for health professionals and advance the well-being of local communities, focused on improving population health.

In particular, the MOU aligns the Academic Health Collaborative at URI, comprising the colleges of Health Sciences, Nursing and Pharmacy, with South County Health, with the common goals of “educating highly skilled health professionals and improving the health of communities were we live and work,” according to Brian Blissmer, the acting director of URI’s Institute for Integrated Health and Innovation.

The new collaborative MOU also builds upon the existing relationship between URI and South County Health, formalizing the relationship that exists with the Healthy Bodies, Healthy Minds initiative “to diminish disparities and improve the overall health of local residents through education, health care and social services.

One of the goals of the new, formalized relationship is the effort to identify and pursue funding for clinical research that engages South County health patients and “marshals” the expertise of faculty at URI.

What the new academic collaboration means
ConvergenceRI reached out to Lou Giancola, the president and CEO of South County Health, asking him to provide some further context and insight into the new working relationship.

ConvergenceRI: How does this MOU fit into South County’s long-term plans?
Students from schools all over the state [from] all different academic programs gain experiential learning through opportunities of volunteering and internships at South County Health, as well as at the physician level.

We are specifically working with the URI academic department on further education of our workforce when it comes to elder care and geriatrics.

We believe that formalizing and creating a formal and visible collaboration will allow the parties to improve the education of health professionals and advance the health of the residents of South County.

ConvergenceRI: Are there specific parts of the research enterprise that South County will be participating in?
There are no projects defined at this time, but the hope is that there will be plenty in the future to collaborate on.

ConvergenceRI: How does this new MOU build upon the ongoing work of the Healthy Bodies, Healthy Minds initiative, in particular the launch of a new website,
We are hoping URI can bring resources to the initiatives already in play in Health Bodies, Healthy Minds.

New website as a community resource
The launch of the new website,, with the intent to serve as a resource guide for South County parents and their children, was announced last week, with the goal of answer all the questions that residents might have around health and mental wellness.

“We’ve collected powerful information that people can use in their everyday lives,” said Susan Orban, director of the Healthy Bodies, Healthy Minds initiatives. “We adapted much of the content for the web because many of the parents, caregivers, and teens use it as a key information source.”

The website’s basic content is divided into four topics: Eat Right, Eat Smart, including directions to local farmers markets and even recipes from Gov. Gina Raimondo; Get Your Body Moving, with engaging advice to get kids and parents off the sofa and away from the screen; Mental Wellness; and Your Thriving Child.

“Our goal is to foster healthier lifestyles among all residents of South County,” Orban said, with an initial focus on childhood obesity and mental health. The organization is the designated Health Equity Zone for the region.

Butler Hospital president, COO resigns
Dr. Lawrence Price announced his resignation last week, effective in June, as president and chief operating office of Butler Hospital, a division of Care New England.

Writing about the departure of Price in his weekly newsletter, Dennis Keefe, president and CEO of Care New England, said that it was with respect and admiration that he was accepting Price’s resignation.

“Larry has served Butler for more than 20 years in a leadership position guiding the hospital’s research and treatment environment to international stature,” Keefe wrote.

In his personal letter to colleagues announcing his decision to step down as president, Keefe continued, “Larry noted the need for ‘leadership that, while deeply informed by the past, is not tethered to it... and will bring creativity and commitment to innovation that preserves the best of what we do but reflects the new emerging reality’ of health care.”

Further, Keefe wrote: “[Price] acknowledged the vision of Butler Hospital, one he played an important and valuable role in building, needs to be re-imagined and is making this personal sacrifice willingly and of his own accord so Butler may move into the future with confidence.”

Keefe called Price’s decision a testament to Price’s commitment to Butler. Keefe wrote: “As he aptly paraphrased from William Faulkner, Butler ‘will prevail – because it has soul, a spirit capable of compassion and sacrifice and endurance.’ I believe this to be true, too, for Butler Hospital, and for all of Care New England. These times require we courageously carry forward our purpose – caring for other people – while at the same time fiercely address the business requirements we are facing as a system, as part of a rapidly transforming health care industry.”


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