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Fordham and Northwell Health Join Forces in New Partnership


Photo by Tom StoelkerFordham and Northwell Health, the largest health care provider and private employer in New York state, have signed a wide-ranging agreement to develop joint programs geared toward training a new generation of knowledgeable and effective health care professionals.

The two organizations signed a memorandum of understanding that commits to initiating several new programs.

“The partnership between Fordham and Northwell Health will be a boon for the University’s students and academic departments and a terrific resource for Northwell employees and researchers,” said Joseph M. McShane, S.J., president of Fordham.

“We believe the partnership will offer significant intellectual and policy cross-pollination between Northwell’s Center for Learning and Innovation, Fordham’s Graduate School of Social Service, the Gabelli School, and other schools and programs across the University, thus expanding Fordham’s curricular and programmatic breadth.”

The agreement will provide several benefits to both organizations. Northwell will lend its resources toward the development of Fordham curriculum, and in turn, the University will extend education opportunities to Northwell employees.

Enhancing Education Opportunities

As part of the agreement, staff at Northwell’s Center for Learning and Innovation (CLI), which functions as the health system’s in-house corporate university and serves as a teaching resource for the Zucker School of Medicine at Hofstra/Northwell, will work to enhance curriculum in Fordham programs.

Staff from CLI will work with faculty at Fordham’s Graduate School of Social Service (GSS) to develop course content for Fordham’s Master of Social Work (MSW) degree.

And in keeping with the patient safety simulation training and career development provided at Northwell’s CLI, the two organizations will create simulation-based training models for both GSS and Gabelli School of Business programs, including the University’s nonprofit leadership master’s program.

In exchange, Fordham and Northwell will explore the possibility of the health system’s employees earning certificates from GSS and other Fordham schools at Northwell facilities.

Defining the ‘Real Role’ of Social Work

For Northwell President and CEO Michael Dowling, GSS ’74, the partnership represents an opportunity for Northwell to expand the skills of caregivers in growing areas of the health care field. For instance, one of the industry’s needs, he said, is to provide additional training to social workers in managing the care of patients with complex needs.

“The partnership will help us define the real role of social work inside a health care system. We’ll be redefining the role of social workers, what functions they should take part in, and what leadership roles they should play,” he said.

“In many ways, it’s creating the talent for an evolving field of health care that is changing dramatically. You can’t have education moving one way and practitioners in the field moving in a different direction. You’ve got to be both moving in the same direction all the time.”

The connections between Dowling, Fordham, and Northwell go back four decades. After graduating from GSS, Dowling served as a professor of social policy and assistant dean there. In 2016, Dowling delivered the commencement address for the institute’s’ International Diploma in Humanitarian Assistance. He received a doctor of humane letters from Fordham in 2017, and this year, he joined the University’s Board of Trustees.

Strengthening Current Ties

Deborah McPhee, Ph.D., dean of the Graduate School of Social Service, said the formal partnership represents a strengthening of an association that already exists. Students from GSS have done field placement work at Northwell facilities for several years.

“Michael Dowling is truly one of the most innovative guys I’ve ever met. He brings a social work perspective to his work in that he cares a great deal about relationships and focuses a great deal on investing in his people,” she said.

“As a result, he has created an incredible organization that is innovative in almost every part of its functions, from its medical school to its resources to its staff.”

In particular, McPhee said, she expects the MSW students in the graduate school’s Palliative Care Fellowship Program to benefit from the partnership. Graduates from that and other GSS programs have a firm grasp on the benefits of integrated health, which emphasizes the relationship between physical and psychological, or mental health, she said.

“One of the things that MSWs do well is interdisciplinary work. So as the health field changes, integrating more mental health and physical health, it’s a great place for social workers to bring their expertise to the table,” she said.

McPhee said GSS students will benefit from the partnership with Northwell because the faculty at the Center for Learning and Innovation has the ability to take a task and turns it on its head conceptually. For example, instead of traditional curriculum, she said, medicine there is reorganized into life stages, from infancy through death.

“The center is about engaged learning, hands-on applied learning through simulation, and observation, rather than through lecture. The folks running that center will talk in very different conceptual ways than say, a traditional academic institution, or other ways we teach,” she said.

Looking Ahead

As part of the agreement, Fordham and Northwell have also committed to exploring new initiatives in the future. The two will work to place more Fordham students in internships and fellowships at or through Northwell, and Northwell will also participate in Fordham’s annual STEM career fair. For Northwell employees, the University will explore the possibility of dedicated admissions services they can use to facilitate early applications both at the undergraduate and graduate level.

Benefits for faculty research will be discussed as well, with Northwell potentially sharing insights into health care-related topics with researchers such as those involved in the Palliative Care program and the Gabelli School of Business’ Global Healthcare Innovation Management Center. Discussions are also planned for possibly connecting Northwell employees to Fordham’s Master’s in Health Administration program, which is jointly administered by GSS, the Gabelli School, and the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences.

Dowling said he’s looking forward to future discussions that will reveal areas of cooperation that aren’t apparent right now, especially with other graduate schools such as Fordham Law.

“Health care is such a broad area, especially in an organization as big as ours. If you want to be in the finance business, we are a $13.4 billion organization with an enormous economic impact on the communities we serve. If you want to be in the IT business, we invest hundreds of millions of dollars annually in technology. If you want to be in the data information business, we’re responsible for storing, managing and integrating millions of patient records,” he said.

“Fordham has all these programs on the academic side, and we’ve got all these programs on the ground level. So we want to examine how each of us can change so that we can help each other going forward.”


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