March 4, 2021

March 4, 2021

Presidential message

Today we are announcing a significant development for our Phoenix health sciences campus that will transform health care for underserved people in the area. 

The Virginia G. Piper Charitable Trust is investing $10 million in a collaboration between Creighton and the Society of St. Vincent de Paul Phoenix that will provide improved access and quality of care to those most in need in Maricopa County.

The initiative will more deeply integrate the Virginia G. Piper Medical Clinic at St. Vincent de Paul into our Creighton University Health Sciences – Phoenix Campus curriculum. Creighton School of Medicine faculty and third- and fourth-year medical students have staffed the Phoenix clinic monthly for the past decade, and now the clinic will serve as the primary teaching facility for our first- and second-year medical students, as well. 

In addition, our nursing, physician assistant, pharmacy, occupational therapy, and physical therapy faculty and students will work with medical faculty and students to serve patients at a weekly interprofessional clinic, using a team-based approach shown to improve patient outcomes and reduce health care costs. 

This vital initiative is happening at a critical juncture, as the pandemic has cast light on broad health inequities in the Phoenix area, as in many cities. It will specifically address growing health disparities that, according to the Coordinated Community Health Needs Assessment for Maricopa County 2017–2020, disproportionately affect low-income populations and people of color.

We are very grateful to the Piper Trust for its generosity, foresight, and confidence in combatting this injustice. A spokesperson for the trust said now is the time for “higher education, social services, and philanthropy to join and use our collective capacity to create a healthier, more resilient future.” I could not agree more. Creighton is proud to partner with the Piper Trust and the Society of St. Vincent de Paul Phoenix in this effort that gives life to our Jesuit, Catholic mission by serving those on the margins of society and providing valuable, life-changing educational experiences for our students.

The resources provided by the Piper Trust will allow Creighton and St. Vincent de Paul leaders to help address the problem of uninsured patients often turning to emergency rooms for complications arising from unmanaged chronic disease, which not only results in worse long-term outcomes for these patients, but also increases health care costs.

Together, we will work with health systems in the Greater Phoenix area to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of referrals between hospitals and the Arizona Safety Net System — a collaboration of more than 40 clinics providing services to those most in need.

The School of Medicine will appoint a chief medical officer and the Virginia G. Piper Chair in Medicine to lead these efforts. Embedded at the Piper Medical Clinic, this position will oversee the clinic and facilitate communication and collaboration among Arizona Safety Net clinics and hospital systems.

As we work to navigate a new care model, all of the parties involved will continue to evaluate strategies, developing new practices focused on reducing inequities in health care systems. A new School of Medicine role, the Virginia G. Piper Fellowship in Health Disparities, will conduct research and inform the partnership’s efforts to drive systemic change and patient-focused improvements in care.

The stability, dignity and hope we can offer patients at the Virginia G. Piper Medical Clinic at St. Vincent de Paul will touch countless lives, including those of our health professions faculty and students. The experience will affirm firsthand that health care is a sacred calling, and that they have been selected to help God’s people in their moments of greatest need.

And we express our appreciation to the Virginia G. Piper Charitable Trust once again for their support, which follows their 2018 lead gift for our health sciences campus in Phoenix. The Virginia G. Piper Charitable Trust Health Sciences Building, which houses our health sciences programs, will open in September 2021, making Creighton the largest Catholic health professions educator in the nation.

Sincerely,

Rev. Daniel S. Hendrickson, SJ, PhD