Op-Ed Archive

Kathy S. Matt, PhD

Kathleen S. Matt
Dean of the College of Health Sciences at the University of Delaware
and Executive Director of the Delaware Health Sciences Alliance

A STAR Is Born

The rejuvenation of the former Chrysler site is in the making. The University of Delaware announced last month that the property has been named the STAR campus, a link back to honor the former Chrysler plant and its logo, the pentastar, and a link forward to the site’s new role in Science, Technology, and Advanced Research (STAR).

The STAR campus presents a great opportunity to integrate academics, business, and the community in an environment that will promote innovation and generate impact. It is a location that will foster faculty research and entrepreneurship and further student internship opportunities. In line with the goals of the State of Delaware, it will be a place of economic vitality where jobs are created and nurtured.

This week, the University formally announced a strategic partnership with Delle Donne & Associates, Inc. and Bancroft Construction Company to develop phase one of the project.

The anchor academic tenant on the site will be the UD College of Health Sciences. Within the next 18 months, the former Chrysler administration building and a portion of the back bays will be transformed into primary care clinics, physical therapy clinics, and much-needed facilities for clinical teaching and biomedical research.

While phase one will include this remodeling and expansion, the project is about much more than renovating a building—it’s about building a community.

The STAR Campus will enable us to engage the community in what we do as a university, at the same time engaging us with the community so that we can understand real-world challenges.

What we do here will impact all Delawareans, as we bring together a critical mass of experts and resources to make our state a healthier place for all of us. This includes training a new healthcare workforce, developing and testing new models of healthcare delivery, and supporting cutting-edge research that informs diagnosis and treatment plans.

The STAR Campus will be the perfect setting for us to establish interprofessional education opportunities for healthcare students, where they will learn side-by-side with others as they work toward better patient outcomes and reduced costs. Through our interdisciplinary Healthcare Theatre Program, we’re pioneering a new way of teaching communication and interpersonal skills to future healthcare professionals, and we plan to expand this program and develop others.

Our Nurse Managed Health Center (NMHC), a partnership with Christiana Care Health System, offers episodic healthcare and routine screenings. It also provides direct connections to behavioral health and disease prevention programs, while offering our students valuable opportunities for cross-disciplinary education. On the new campus, we will expand the NMHC and our physical therapy clinics while also making them more accessible to the public.

In addition, we plan to create core labs and shared research spaces that invite basic scientists, clinicians, physician scholars, and students to work together in an environment that erases barriers across disciplines. We will work on-site with clinical partners, companies involved in developing medical devices, and businesses focusing on health and wellness. Our goal is to foster interdisciplinary and translational research that changes people’s lives.

The STAR Campus will provide the venue for us to realize our vision of a 24/7 “healthy community by design,” where health is not only the topic of our research, education, and clinical programs but also a way of life—with fitness facilities, walking and biking paths, convenient mass transit, and cafes serving healthful food.

The Newark Chrysler assembly plant was an important part of the local and regional economy for decades. What we are launching on the STAR campus is intended both to honor the richness of the past and to transform the future. We look forward to working with the community to realize the tremendous potential of the STAR campus.


UD's 'virtual medical school'
a secret gem

As the University of Delaware moves forward with determining the feasibility of launching a law school, many people are asking, "Why not a medical school?"

The answer to that question is that we already have an excellent virtual medical school through the Delaware Institute for Medical Education and Research (DIMER) program and the University's partnership with Thomas Jefferson University (TJU).

We are also part of a regional consortium that functions as a great medical school -- the Delaware Health Sciences Alliance (DHSA), a partnership with TJU, Christiana Care Health System and Nemours/A.I. DuPont Children's Hospital.

Like many things in Delaware, the power of these partnerships is among the precious little secrets of our state.

Through DIMER's virtual medical school, we have all the advantages but none of the large financial burdens of a "bricks-and-mortar" medical school. And there will be expansive growth of health care programs in the state enabled by our collaborations in DHSA and the build-out of the Science & Technology Campus on the site of the former Chrysler assembly plant in Newark.

TJU has been an incredibly generous partner to this state, dedicating 20 slots at Jefferson Medical College to Delawareans and providing a significant edge to the approximately 60 students from the First State who apply every year. It is unlikely that we could do better than this if we had our own medical school, and establishing and sustaining one would consume resources that a small state like Delaware cannot afford.

At the same time, DHSA is enabling us to further pool our resources to conduct cutting-edge biomedical education and research. The partnership allows us to provide joint educational programs for uniquely training health professionals as part of the team approach to health-care delivery. We are working to train physicians, nurses, physical therapists, nutritionists, exercise physiologists, athletic trainers, behavioral health experts, medical technologists and others together to provide a comprehensive care system that delivers effective treatment plans for patients and their families.

These new teams of health-care professionals will be extremely important in answering the demands placed on caregivers and providers with the rollout of health care reform. The primary changes will most likely come with mid-level professionals such as nurse practitioners, physician assistants, health coaches and disease management navigators. In this new paradigm, physicians will play an increasingly specialized role on a continuum of care that includes these other professionals. The planned health sciences complex at the Science & Technology Campus will provide a venue for inter-professional training, facilitating care on that continuum by helping to break down the barriers often encountered in the traditional practice of medicine.

The clinical partnerships we have established through DHSA are enabling us to provide outstanding residency opportunities at Christiana Care and Nemours, and we are working to expand opportunities at other hospitals and clinical centers throughout the state. Medical professionals tend to put down roots where they do their residencies, so these efforts will help the state to attract and retain health care practitioners.

DHSA is also contributing to the development of a strong biomedical research platform through seed grants and other initiatives to fund early-stage research, laying the foundation for projects that can be linked to bioscience and biotechnology companies. This research generates learning opportunities for students, financial opportunities for alliance partners and patient access to the latest in clinical trials.

Delaware may be small, but its size makes it the ideal place to pilot and showcase innovative new ways to provide health care education and conduct multidisciplinary health sciences research. The strategic partnerships we've developed have the power to transform our state into a national leader in health-care delivery.