Case History: Med-center Partnership

Case History: Med-center Partnership


This project focused on bridging institutions to advance clinical and community-engaged collaboration, education and research.  Joan acted as chief facilitator and liaison to build a new partnership between MeHarry College and Vanderbilt University, to also include Metropolitan General Hospital.

The main focus was on enabling the partners to work effectively together, to resolve issues and generate productive ideas.  The mission was to coordinate a major medical initiative, creating a collaborative partnership that would result in a highly profitable medical research program between a consortium of universities, hospitals and government agencies.  The target demographic were poor, under-served populations.


Provided ongoing consulting and facilitation to Vanderbilt on two initiatives.

  • The first was focused on setting up and tracking the implementation of a diversity initiative at the VU Medical College (VUMC). This involved benchmarking what other academic medical colleges of equal prominence have been doing, and leading the Cultural Diversity Steering Committee.


  • The second project centered around assisting in the implementation of a formal alliance that has developed between VUMC, Meharry College and Metropolitan General Hospital, focusing on the integration of the various cultures, both organizational and ethnic.


Facilitation: Joan oversaw communications between VUMC and MeHarry and VUMC and Metropolitan General Hospital in forming an extraordinary pioneering alliance. Discussions were focused on bridging racial and cultural gaps between organizations with little understanding of each other or of ways to communicate and build trust and collaboration. She acted as the facilitator at each location as well as for all cross-functional meetings, overseeing the implementation of the complete project.

One challenge was to integrate the diverse cultural, ethnic and organizational environments associated with a white university and a historically black medical university in order to achieve a viable and valuable partnership.

Coaching and Consulting: Joan provided ongoing consulting and facilitation to Vanderbilt on three initiatives:

1) She set up and tracked implementation of the diversity initiative and led the Cultural Diversity Steering Committee.

2) She assisted in the implementation of a formal alliance developed between VUMC, MeHarry College, and Metropolitan General Hospital, focusing on the integration of cultures, both organizational and ethnic.

3) Early on, the scope broadened revealing the need for additional best practices research and assessment in diversity alliances in universities, a project that Joan developed and oversaw. She also reported back the results so that the Alliance committee could make the best decisions possible on how to work together.



The Alliance has become highly successful in leading and advancing inter-institutional efforts and it garnered $340 million+ in grants to date.

All organizations involved have grown in size and reputation. Many sub-alliances have developed and research for minority cultures has increased.

The focus continues to be on medical issues for under-served populations and the initiatives continue to expand since Joan initially set up the structure. For example, the Diabetes Improvement Project at MeHarry-Vanderbilt has been running since 2010. It consists of a consortium of hospitals and universities (including all those in the M-V partnership) across middle Tennessee with 7 systems serving over 106,000 uninsured or poorly insured people.