issue Fall 2020

President's Message

By Dr. Wendy Rheault
Dr. Rheault records a message of gratitude to faculty and staff.

Rosalind Franklin University has been guided by values throughout its 108-year history that prioritize caring for our community. We take the long view during times of uncertainty, as we prepare students who will help lead us out of this pandemic and into a new, more equitable era of health. We began another chapter in that story when we launched our fall quarter on Aug. 17, thanks to the hard work and dedication of so many faculty and staff.

I am grateful for our university community’s resilience, and particularly for our future health and biomedical professionals and 20,000 alumni, as they push through the COVID-19 crisis, offering compassionate care while protecting one another and their patients. I am proud of their advocacy for health equity, their call for equality and justice, and their desire to understand their role and responsibility in addressing health disparities.

Together, we’re helping, leading and serving while absorbing a painful lesson: We can’t neglect the underlying causes of poor health in the day-today scramble of responding to illness and its impacts.

“It’s up to us to make sure innovation advances the greater good — that it empowers health professionals to offer across-the-board, high-quality, compassionate care that prioritizes prevention and helps achieve lifelong health.”

RFU is committed to the reinvention of health care, which has been underway for more than two decades. Through innovation, experimentation and an unflinching examination of the structural factors that undermine health, we’re battling our way back toward improved well-being for more people — and ultimately for all people. In the process, we are speeding toward a very different future in which health will be much more holistic and easier to manage, driven by digital technologies that help us take charge and make informed, real-time decisions based on our own interoperable health data. These improvements will also continue to rapidly transform health professions education and training along with scientific research.

The changes ahead are useless to us if they are not shaped by our values and based in trust. Exponential innovation — robotics, genomics, the ubiquitous smartphone — in health and biomedical research and every other field is only as good as the social contract that binds us. New technologies may promise to lower costs, prevent or cure disease and knock down barriers to care. But will they be truly accessible, given our nation’s inequities, including persistent digital divide? It’s up to us to make sure innovation advances the greater good — that it empowers health professionals to offer across-the-board, high-quality, compassionate care that prioritizes prevention and helps achieve lifelong health.

Because medical care is responsible for just 10 to 15% of preventable mortality, we need to shift our focus. Health is really about behavior, and health behaviors, by and large, are shaped by socioeconomic factors: income, wealth, education. We’re convinced that the road to health equity is paved with partnerships that build trust between us and our patients, between communities, institutions, businesses and government agencies, including social services and public health.

Our newly redesigned Helix teems with stories that, at their core, revolve around community partnerships and interprofessional collaborations that inform advocacy and nurture the art of care. Our student-driven Interprofessional Community Clinic (ICC), which makes us so proud, has earned the trust of our most vulnerable neighbors by going above and beyond in offering compassionate, team-based care. The ICC was quick to adopt telehealth after the spread of COVID-19 prevented in-person patient visits. These young pre-professionals offer a very hope-filled glimpse into the future of health.

I want to thank our many community and clinical partners and faithful friends and supporters on whom we have come to rely. You are helping RFU train new generations of health professionals and researchers who will practice in a future driven by new technology and tools. And they will be guided by the empathy, caring and excellence your support helped to instill.

We join you in unwavering commitment to a healthier future for all humankind.

Very sincerely,

Wendy Rheault, PT, PhD, FASAHP, FNAP, DipACLM
President and CEO