stars in sky

More than the Sum of Our Parts

June 28, 2018

I can’t resist a good metaphor.

When I was working on my presentation to the Board of Regents, I found myself using the six sister stars of the Pleiades to represent the six schools/colleges of the AHC. It made a nice visual reference point to use in the slides. Also, it never hurts to throw Galileo in for luck (it’s his sketch).

It is the ability to connect and interact with people from other areas of study, interest, and expertise that allows us to take our own work to a higher level.

I was trying to communicate that the value in what we have here at the University of Minnesota is the ability to interconnect on many levels (Interconnected Mission for Better Outcomes). I was also trying to communicate our aspirations as being greater than the sum of our parts (Steering by the Stars).

The figure on the left shows that each part of what we do connects to and drives the other parts. We train researchers and health care providers; research improves therapies and our health care providers improve the standard of care; these improvements are our legacy; we leave our legacy to improve the community; the community provides students to be educated; etc.

On the right, we have the interconnection among the branches of health sciences, and also that we are part of the larger constellation of the University. Each star can be viewed separately, as part of a larger group of stars—a constellation—or as part of the greater Universe(ity). Like the universe, each of us contains multitudes. Our strength is having multiple areas of interest while serving the overall mission of the University. The need to break down old silos and build an inclusive process of working will see the AHC open University-wide. Our service must expand beyond the narrow mindset of division, department, school, center, institute, and college. We are not competitors, we are collaborators. The strengths of one add to the strengths of all. Our diverse disciplines do not constitute conflicts of interest, but complementary expertise.

It is the ability to connect and interact with people from other areas of study, interest, and expertise that allows us to take our own work to a higher level. Call it collaboration, call it team science, call it collaboration and team science…it is one of the most critical advantages we have as a University. Where else can you access knowledgeable people in everything from engineering to economics to opera?

Critically to those of us in the interconnected health sciences, the University gives us this advantage in our ability to provide interprofessional education and multidisciplinary care. These efforts are underway with our new Health Sciences Education Center, projects like brain tumor research, and clinics like the Community-University Health Care Center. Evolving our connections to improve and optimize patient care continues to be the way we will chart our future.

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