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Issue Brief
The Compelling Value Proposition of Academic Health Centers
By Steven A. Wartman, MD, PhD, MACP

Academic health centers represent a unique combination of teaching, research, and patient care. This blend of academe and clinical care creates a perspective in which these multiple roles are not disparate, but rather contribute to a whole that is truly greater than the sum of its parts. But is this idea, which is commonly shared, a form of wishful thinking or naiveté? Or, is it something tangible that can be expressed and codified? In other words, what is the compelling value of academic health centers? When asked to articulate their value, whether it be with government leaders, policymakers, professional organizations, patient groups, communities, or even their own faculty and staff, academic health center leaders often offer the commonly held view that an academic environment with research and teaching contributes to patient care and vice versa. But this can sound more like a statement of a belief than a concrete set of verifiable achievements. As self-evident as it may appear to those working in leadership positions at these institutions, the significance of this complex, integrated mission is not often clearly apparent to others.

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