Feinberg launches new Institute of Public Health and Medicine

Susan Du, City Editor

Northwestern’s Feinberg School of Medicine is seeking applications to fill 60 staff positions for its recently inaugurated Institute of Public Health and Medicine, an interdisciplinary research institution.

IPHAM is composed of nine centers, each of which specializes in a public health field. The centers are located close to one another across three buildings on NU’s Chicago campus. Feinberg hopes close collaboration among professionals with a variety of medical backgrounds could streamline the transmission of public health research into a clinical setting, according to a news release.

The centers of IPHAM are Behavior and Health, the Buehler Center on Aging, Health and Society, Community Health, Education in Public Health, Engineering and Health, Global Health, Healthcare Studies, Patient Centered Outcomes and Population Health Sciences.

IPHAM director Rowland Chang said the institute’s launch is especially timely considering the many upcoming policy changes in health care. The Institute also fits into Feinberg’s long-term goal of doubling its research enterprises, Chang said.

“Public health has become a growing part of medical schools’ portfolios in terms of research and education over the last 15 years,” Chang said. “And a couple of the external environments of health care costs rising so quickly and issues with access and the direction of health care reform — all of those things kind of led our dean (Eric Neilson) to want to create the institute.”

IPHAM will include a separate center for engineering and health to emphasize that problem-solving potential engineers can contribute to the institute’s work. Chang said IPHAM’s engineering force will apply its skills to maintaining the institute’s digital edge in the world of medical research as well as optimizing hospital operations.

“The new idea is to specifically include engineering,” Chang said. “Engineers are important problem solvers when it comes to trying to make processes more effective and more efficient. For all the processes that occur in hospitals for instance, applying engineering principles has led to important efficiencies.”

Another center, Education in Public Health, will offer public health and graduate programs in health services. Among the 60 positions for which IPHAM is seeking applicants, there are openings for professors with expertise in working on interdisciplinary teams and applying for research grants.

As a research facility first, however, IPHAM’s goal is to become a hub for medical experts to pool their resources.

Chang said the institution has funds to support a small number of research projects annually. Although IPHAM’s budget for research funding is tentative and subject to case-by-case evaluations, he said the institute is able to support eight to 10 small grants of $20,000 to $40,000 each. Chang said he hopes that these projects would qualify for larger grants from larger organizations such as the National Institutes of Health.