Donation made to The Dartmouth Institute for new undergraduate health initiative

by Nicolas Berlinski | 4/5/18 2:05am

Undergraduates will have greater access to The Dartmouth Institute for Health Policy and Clinical Practice due to a donation by Eric Eichler ’57. The donation, the amount of which Eichler has stipulated will remain private, will expand the development of the Health Care Leadership Initiative.

Eichler graduated after completing a pre-medicine track at the College. Despite his successful career in real estate afterwards, Eichler, whose father was a physician, said he remained interested in the field of medicine.

Following his growing concern about the state of health care and clinical practice in the U.S., Eichler said he was pleased when he was approached by the College to contribute to a new program based on a conceptual framework for undergraduate-focused education in healthcare delivery science.

Eichler said he wanted to make a donation to Dartmouth that was “beneficial not only for undergraduates and graduates, but [also] the community.”

The new initiative will lead to the development of new undergraduate for-credit and co-curricular classes in collaboration with the College of Arts and Sciences, a paid fellowship opportunity and a weeklong summer program — Dartmouth Health Care Foundations — that will be open to undergraduates from all U.S. higher education institutions. Dartmouth Health Care Foundations will allow undergraduate students to conduct an in-depth study of health care and spend time with Dartmouth faculty who specialize in issues pertaining to healthcare delivery. Ten Dartmouth students each year will also receive the year-long Eric Eichler ’57 Fellowship for Health Care Leaders, attending the summer residency and engaging in community outreach with faculty mentors. According to TDI director of education Timothy Lahey, the initiative will try to encourage more interdisciplinary courses in health care and clinical practice by providing mechanisms and funding for organizing such courses.

TDI primarily conducts research on how to improve health care in the U.S. while making it more affordable and accessible, according to TDI director of advancement and associate director for development Robert Holley. Currently, it only offers a master’s degree in Public Health, healthcare delivery science and healthcare research and a doctorate degree in health policy and clinical practice. However, the institute has been working on a framework that would expand its undergraduate educational programs for some time, Holley said.

Around a quarter of the Dartmouth undergraduate body is interested in a health care career, which motivated TDI’s new undergraduate initiative, Lahey said. He added that the initiative, made possible by Eichler’s donation, will help connect TDI with the College of Arts and Sciences.

“At The Dartmouth Institute there are internationally-prominent people who work in healthcare delivery science and public health. And then feet away, there are people who are similarly experts in medical anthropology, economics [and] sociology,” Lahey said. “Our perception was that the collaboration between those faculty members would be mutually beneficial and something that students across campus would really benefit from.”

Holley and Lahey agreed that the donation allows the institute to finally begin working on visions it has had for the study of healthcare delivery science at Dartmouth. They said that financial gifts similar to the one provided by Eichler allow TDI to move in new directions and undertake new projects.

“There are some upfront development costs that include everything from developing the curriculum to doing the marketing for the program, since the program will be offered [outside of Dartmouth],” Holley said.

Eichler said he is very excited to see how this new initiative will be developed and received by the College’s undergraduate student body. The underlying hope of the initiative is that it can improve health care in the U.S., he said.