RENO, Nev. — For 50 years, Renown Health and the University of Nevada, Reno School of Medicine have had a long history of working together to improve healthcare in Northern Nevada.
This year, the notorious 2020, when an unprecedented pandemic hit every corner of the globe and caused more than 1 million deaths, Renown and UNR Med recognized they could better serve Reno-Sparks if they did more than occasionally collaborate.
“We’re now at a pivotal point where we believe we could advance the work that we’re doing together,” Dr. Anthony Slonim, CEO of Renown, said in a phone interview with the NNBW. “And we’ll be better if we advance it together for the benefit of the community.”
With that, in late August, Renown Health and UNR Med announced their intent to develop a long-term partnership that both entities say will greatly enhance the state’s medical education system while expanding clinical research capacity across greater Northern Nevada.
“Our strategic plan that we created with our board calls into execution the focus on what we’re calling ‘destination health’ programming,” Slonim explained. “We want to be the place where — through amazing clinical care and service — we are keeping people who need to be cared for in our community, right at home.
“And you can’t do that if you don’t have a medical school with you. You have to have the research and the training capabilities because it makes everybody on the team better. It allows you to recruit better, it allows you to educate better. It raises the bar for everybody.”
Slonim pointed to Renown and UNR Med’s previous collaboration in pediatrics as an example of what high-level partnerships can produce. UNR Med doctors and residents provide care in general pediatrics (and a host of other services) at Renown Children’s Hospital, which opened in 2009, the first and only children’s hospital in the region.
“We’re doing the same thing in other services — cardiovascular care, cancer care, neuroscience care — as we continue to demonstrate that world-class kind of care,” Slonim noted.
Bringing those high-level services will not be possible without the school of medicine developing new residency training programs, fellowships and clinical research studies, said UNR Med Dean Dr. Thomas Schwenk — and access to Renown’s large health system would enable UNR Med to do just that.
“It opens a host of possibilities,” he told the NNBW. “And all of those feed back to increasing the access to care and increasing the high-level nature (of care) — and to develop care that does not now exist in the community.”
Both organizations in early September executed a Letter of Intent for their partnership, said Schwenk, who later presented it to the Nevada System of Higher Education (NSHE) Board of Regents, which gave its stamp of approval.
Currently, the entities are in a “due diligence” phase of laying out and examining the partnership’s governances, financial flow and operational structure, Schwenk said, as well as culture, employment, human resources and other details.
Once ironed out, a final agreement between UNR Med and Renown will be taken to their boards for approval in December or January.
If approved, implementation details would be fine-tuned through the first half of 2021, with the goal of officially launching a partnership by July 1, Schwenk he said.
“We’re creating a new entity,” he said. “It’s not just us joining Renown or Renown joining the school. It’s actually a new integration of what you might call an academic health system or a teaching-and-research health system. What we get to do, if this goes through, is have a much larger influence on the care and the community.”
The integration, Schwenk said, would make Reno-Sparks an even more attractive area to companies considering relocating or expanding to the region.
“This is what new businesses want to see when they move into the community, and this is what employees want to see when they are recruited to the community,” he said. “And so I think, ultimately, this is about the quality of life, the quality of the business climate, and the overall economic success of the community. And healthcare is a major driver of that.”
According to Renown and UNR Med, their planned integration resembles other partnerships such as Yale New Haven Health System, Penn Medicine, RWJ-Barnabas-Rutgers and the Washington University-Barnes Jewish Health System in St. Louis.
“I think the world of healthcare now is built on collaboration and partnership to improve the way that we’ve historically delivered on care,” Slonim said. “So, we’re very excited to partner with the medical school. We think it will not only make the school better, it will make Renown better. And together, we think we can bring a higher level of care to the community as we move forward.”