Dr. Ken Holmen: Why our community should have an academic medical center

From the commentary: (CentraCare is committed to) the development of an academic medical center that supports a vibrant campus of the University of Minnesota Medical School focused on preparing doctors to practice in the rural and small-town communities we serve.

CentraCare logo.jpg
Contributed / CentraCare

The communities in our region have been well served over the years by the clinics, hospitals and dedicated professionals that are vital to our communities. We’ve worked hard to attract excellent physicians and health care providers to ensure our families' and neighbors' health and well-being.

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From the commentary: Now it is up to the whips in the Congress to deliver. I always get nervous when politicians start talking about what the "American people" want, as if anyone can speak for a monolith, let alone one as divided as we are.
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Our shared passion to improve the lives and health of our patients, families, and communities is core to our purpose – and CentraCare’s collaboration with the University of Minnesota to build a medical school based in St. Cloud speaks to that purpose and passion.

The “why” is clear — it is about today and tomorrow. Today, we know that we have less than optimal healthcare outcomes in our communities and that to improve these outcomes we need to invest today for a brighter tomorrow. Additionally, demographic data clearly predict provider retirements for a population that already has too few health professionals.

Ken Holmen, CentraCare, Chief Executive Officer, June 2018
Ken Holmen, CentraCare, Chief Executive Officer
Contributed / CentraCare

We are committed to responding with an innovative solution that is a proven success. That is the development of an academic medical center that supports a vibrant campus of the University of Minnesota Medical School focused on preparing doctors to practice in the rural and small-town communities we serve.

We’re excited by the prospect of becoming an academic medical center because they are known for leading-edge health care found at the forefront of health advancements. Most of the top hospitals and health systems in the nation have an academic affiliation. We know that becoming an academic medical center will help us attract highly skilled providers to our communities. And our patients will benefit from access to innovative therapies and state-of-the-art treatments that may not be available elsewhere.


Much of academic medical center success has to do with the research and innovation that is core to their mission. Research and clinical trials are how medicine progresses by asking if there are better ways to treat a condition or disease, and offering new solutions and hope to those patients who could benefit most. The possibility of providing these advanced therapies to people in Greater Minnesota is driving our desire to become an academic medical center.

Then there’s the education and training that will be key to our mission. As CentraCare works with the University to create an educational program, we look forward to having a steady stream of medical students, residents, and fellows who will learn with us as they become highly skilled healthcare professionals for our communities. And, as an academic medical center, we look forward to providing additional opportunities for continuing education and professional development for our region’s current providers.

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Finally, we know that academic medical centers can have a significant positive economic impact for all communities in the region. By engaging in research and education, we will attract research funding and contribute to the regional economy by collaborating with local businesses. We know that these businesses depend on our clinicians, clinics and hospitals for the health of their employees. Based on the experience in other parts of the country, adding academic medicine to an already strong health system will certainly lead to increased investment and growth for the region.

We look forward to working with our community and our colleagues at the University of Minnesota as we pursue becoming an academic medical center for CentraCare. Thanks to the many people, businesses and organizations that have already expressed enthusiastic support for this project.

Dr. Ken Holmen is president and chief executive officer of CentraCare, a medical community of 12,000 employees in Greater Minnesota and headquartered in St. Cloud. This commentary is the columnist's opinion. Send feedback to:


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