Created in partnership with Crain's Content Studio - Detroit for the Monday, August 12 print edition of Crain's Detroit Business.
Herman Gray, M.D., M.B.A., chair of Wayne Pediatrics, discusses why the need for a new
clinical pediatrics home came about and its vision for the future, serving the children of Detroit.
Dr. Gray is a former president and chief executive officer of the DMC Children’s Hospital of Michigan, and former president and chief executive officer of United Way for Southeastern Michigan.
Tell us about the new Wayne Pediatrics?
Wayne Pediatrics is the academic clinical practice that will be home to Wayne State University Department of Pediatrics faculty physicians. It also will serve as the School of Medicine’s official clinical service group for pediatrics. Those faculty that will join us are very excited about this new opportunity, as they become founding members of Wayne Pediatrics.
What prompted the creation of Wayne Pediatrics?
The leadership of University Pediatricians (UP), a medical group in which Wayne State faculty members served Detroit for 22 years, severed ties with Wayne State and signed an affiliation agreement with Central Michigan University (CMU) in Mount Pleasant.
All medical schools must have a department of pediatrics to train future physicians. Wayne Pediatrics offers academic pediatricians who are committed to serving the children of Detroit an opportunity to do so while integrating teaching, research, patient care and community engagement.
In conjunction with Wayne Pediatrics, we are also launching the Urban Children’s Health Collaborative (UCHC).
Can you tell us more about the Urban Children’s Health Collaborative (UCHC)?
The UCHC is a community-based initiative with a focus on the urban child and lifespan development that will foster improved individual, family and community health.
Social determinants of health – which often are rooted in poverty – are known to increase the risk of poor health outcomes, not only in children, but also in adults. Social determinants of health include access to quality housing, food insecurity, quality education, transportation, unemployment and accessible health care. These complex and overlapping issues are responsible for most health disparities, and we intend to tackle them head on.
We are fortunate that Wayne State has 13 schools and colleges with experts in these areas. The university also has strong community partners excited to make a difference and partner on this initiative.
What is the vision for Wayne Pediatrics and the UCHC?
Our vision is for a healthier future for metropolitan Detroit’s children and families through holistic, community-based primary and specialty pediatric care, medical education and training, and community- and population-based research.
Detroit has the largest big-city poverty rate in the country for children aged 5 and younger. All children in Detroit should have an equal opportunity to be healthy, ready to learn and to achieve their full potential. A child’s ZIP code should not be the determining factor for future health or well-being. Pediatricians are, first and foremost, advocates for all children.
This new initiative will enable Wayne Pediatrics faculty physicians to help many more children achieve their fullest potential. The UCHC, working in collaboration with Detroit’s myriad child- and family-focused organizations, will ultimately help to improve the lives of children and families in our community.
Will all of the pediatric subspecialties be located together?
We are very pleased to have secured a great facility to house our central patient care and administrative activities on Mack Avenue, very close to Children’s Hospital of Michigan. After renovation, our patients will visit with our pediatric specialists in a lovely, warm and welcoming environment, where they will receive state-of-the art care. The building’s location also makes it easy and convenient for our pediatricians to see their patients who have been admitted to the hospital. Similarly, highly specialized pediatric hospital services, if needed, will be readily available.
As Wayne Pediatrics grows, we also plan to have additional “family pediatrician (primary care)” sites in Detroit and surrounding areas to better serve patients close to where they live, work and go to school.
What are the big challenges in launching Wayne Pediatrics?
There is a lot of hard work ahead, but this is a labor of love for our faculty, who are dedicated to serving Detroit’s children. Also, the decision by UP to sever ties with Wayne State and partner with CMU – despite many efforts on our part to come to an agreement – raises challenges. UP leadership has indicated it may attempt to enforce personal contracts against Wayne State physicians that would bar them from providing services in Detroit. Or they may try to force Wayne State faculty to become CMU faculty. Neither of these would be good for the faculty physicians or the patients they serve. We hope, instead, that they do what is best for the children of Detroit and allow faculty and physicians the freedom to continue to practice medicine as Wayne State physicians.
What will the new Wayne Pediatrics and UCHC mean for teaching and research?
Wayne State medical students and residents (physicians-in-training) will learn in primary care settings about community health, advocacy and the power of partnerships. Students and trainees will receive firsthand experience seeing children in non-hospital settings, giving them additional insight into the challenges faced by many families. Additionally, undergraduate and graduate students in education, psychology, public health, social work, nursing and other fields will benefit from similar learning experiences.
Research initiatives will focus on improving the health and well-being of urban and underserved populations. The UCHC research agenda will build on the successful thematic platform of WSU’s Integrated Bioscience (iBio) Initiative to tackle key urban challenges across a spectrum of disciplines.
I am confident that Wayne Pediatrics and its Urban Children’s Health Collaborative will ultimately emerge as a national leader in understanding how to reduce childhood health disparities, resulting in the reduction of adult chronic diseases and conditions, and a healthier and more prosperous Detroit.