Spectrum CEO Says Not So Fast

March 15, 2004
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GRAND RAPIDS — Aligning the health system with Michigan State University’s medical school is a move that requires far more analysis and is “not a done deal by any means,” Spectrum Health CEO Rick Breon said Monday.

As MSU weighs relocation or significantly increasing the role of the College of Human Medicine in Grand Rapids, Breon said Spectrum Health only recently begun its own due diligence to determine the potential affects an affiliation may have on the health system’s operations.

The biggest questions are the potential financial impacts involved, such as whether medical school affiliation would drive up administrative costs to the point where it’s not financial viable, and how well the College of Human Medicine’s faculty of practicing physicians would integrate in the Grand Rapids medical community.

While MSU President Peter McPherson has publicly stated he hopes to have a decision on the College of Human Medicine’s future direction by May, Breon says Spectrum Health is under no such timetable for reaching a conclusion on whether to affiliate with the medical school. Spectrum Health needs to complete its due diligence before the health system’s Board of Trustees can make that kind of decision, Breon said.

“We’re going to make the right decision. We’re not going to be hurried into anything,” Breon said in an interview today with the Business Journal.

“We need to take this a step at a time,” he said. “We’re taking an approach that considers patients, the community, employers, personnel, finances, faculty, logistics and our physicians. Our goal is to develop a win-win strategy for Spectrum Health and MSU.”

In addressing the issue, Breon seeks to temper public expectations about MSU’s future role in Grand Rapids and to “throw caution” onto what he regards as the growing perception that the College of Human Medicine will, indeed, relocate here.

“This is not a done deal by any means,” Breon said. “We are not saying, ‘It’s a done deal and we are working out the details.’ These are the kinds of discussions we’re just getting into.”

MSU administrators have indicated they would like to at least eventually offer the entire four-year medical program in Grand Rapids. Some of MSU’s third- and fourth-year medical students now receive their clinical training at Spectrum Health and Saint Mary’s Mercy Medical Center.

While a complete relocation is part of MSU’s deliberations, many see a scenario where the university elevates the medical school’s role in Grand Rapids over a period of several years.

That increased presence and a formal affiliation with the College of Human Medicine could benefit Spectrum Health in physician recruitment and medical research, Breon said.    

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