Jakub Jirsk - Fotolia

Jefferson College of Population Health gets $2M endowment from vendor

The dean of a prominent population health college discussed a new professorship at the school, thanks to an unusual endowment from a commercial health IT vendor.

In a move that is the first of its kind in the country, a for-profit, private health IT company is funding a new, $2 million professorship of population health at a university.

Navvis Healthcare in St. Louis announced the endowment today for the chair at Jefferson College of Population Health, part of Philadelphia University + Thomas Jefferson University.

"This is the first private-sector-sponsored endowed chair anywhere" for a population health school, said David Nash, M.D., founding dean of Jefferson College of Population Health. "Navvis is a national leader just by virtue of putting money where its mouth is." A person will likely be named to the endowed chair in early 2019.

Navvis sells a population health platform. The school faces zero pressure from Navvis about what academic research the new professorship will conduct, Nash said.

Nash expected Jefferson College of Population Health to further examine how poverty influences population health trends. "Unfortunately in our country, the biggest driver of lack of health is poverty," he said, adding that poorer people are more vulnerable to disease and illness because they may not be able to afford care at critical times.

"ZIP code is more important than your genetic code in predicting your life span," a dilemma that no other Western nation faces as much as the U.S., Nash said.

More population health info desired, company says

From Navvis' point of view, the endowment stems partly from the desire to be a good corporate citizen and also because the company sees a commercial need in the area of more in-depth population health studies, said Chuck Eberl, Navvis' chief marketing officer.

David Nash, M.D., dean of the Jefferson College of Population HealthDavid Nash, M.D.

"There's this proliferation of [population health] tools and technologies ... and there are a lot of bright spots all over the industry," Eberl said. However, as medical costs continue to rise, payers and providers are not clear whether population health management might be able to lower some of the costs, he added.

"We're moving from a world of volume to value," Nash said. "It's going to be a bumpy road. ... If the country can't get healthcare onto a value-based platform, then it risks the entire economy." Nash said healthcare makes up 18% of the U.S. Gross Domestic Product, a measure of the amount of goods and services sold in the country.

Business relationship spawned endowment

The endowment for Jefferson College of Population Health came about after Nash had met Navvis CEO Mike Farris when both served on a separate, external advisory board.

ZIP code is more important than your genetic code in predicting your life span.
David Nash, M.D.dean, Jefferson College of Population Health

Farris later contacted Nash for advice on whether he knew who to talk to about establishing a population health endowment somewhere in the U.S., and Nash responded, "Well yeah, talk to me." A dozen conversations later, the endowment agreement was in place for the college, Nash said.

"Will one professorship change the world? Probably not, but it sends a clear signal," Nash said. "Other CEOs will call Mike Farris and say, 'How the hell did you do that?'"

Under the brand name Coreo, Navvis' products use analytics and data visualization to run a population health platform that connects patients, caregivers, insurance payers and data analysts to the same information across subsets of patients.

Eberl declined to provide the revenue of Navvis, which will employee about 200 people by the end of the year.

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