Brenau President Ed Schrader speaks during an event announcing the naming of the Brenau University Ivester College of Health Sciences on Dec. 13 at the Brenau Downtown Center.

Brenau a leader in wellness, well-being

A person would need to be drastically out of touch to be unaware that one of the most persistent problems facing our country today is the American health care system.

I say persistent because it has been going on since the White House days of Theodore Roosevelt, which began at the dawn of the 20th century, about the same time Brenau got its name and its first clear statement of what its role should be in higher education. Although the rhetoric in today’s ongoing argument is more heated than ever before and the politics of pitting the myriad parts of the health care system against one another more and more divisive, the verse from Ecclesiastes rings true: There is nothing new under the sun.

Perhaps it is my sometimes overly optimistic nature that suggests if we all just take a breath, forget about labels like Republican or Democrat, liberal or conservative, we can in short order transform bitter argument to thoughtful conversation, fix the collateral damage and unintended consequences that we have already experienced, and work together toward sustaining the best health care system in the world and making it available to everyone. That is my New Year’s wish, and I truly believe it is that simple.

Why? For the answer, look to Brenau. Years ago, before my time, a board of trustees comprising people with vastly different political perspectives and faculty and administrators from different backgrounds saw a serious problem that was only going to get worse and started working  together to do what they could to address it. That work continues today – not without debate and the occasional argument, mind you, and not without occasional missteps and shortcomings – in collaboration and collegiality among people committed to do the right things for our students, our institution and the communities we serve.

We get it at Brenau. And because we get it, we lead public and private institutions of higher learning throughout the region in understanding the importance of wellness and well-being, and are willing to vigorously apply significant financial resources and intellectual muscle to sustaining that leadership.

The “we” here is the collective we at Brenau. In this issue of Brenau Window, you will have the opportunity to learn more about the individuals who have contributed significantly of time, treasure and inspiration to the endeavor. Not least of the group are Doug and Kay
Ivester, whose major financial contributions to health care education are helping Brenau reach its goal for the multiyear, multifaceted ForeverGold campaign, the largest fundraising initiative in university history.

Although the Ivester gift puts us above the published $40 million ForeverGold target, there still is work to be done before we wrap up the campaign in mid-2018. And a lot of that work relates to health care professions. Several years ago, generous donors helped us build a showcase hospital simulation center that used realistic robotic human models to give nursing students extensive patient care skills under “battlefield conditions.” We still need to finance a major expansion of that facility. Soon we will ask the trustees to approve going forth with an application to accrediting agencies to develop a high-level graduate program to produce physician assistants as a companion to our already established doctor of nursing practice program. Since the educational pipeline in Georgia and most other states simply cannot keep up with the increasing demand for services of primary care physicians and medical specialists, these Brenau DNPs and PAs, who can do many of the direct patient care tasks a medical doctor can do, help fill the gap.

With this decentralization of primary care selectivity and with the growing realization among health professions that preventive care is more economical than reparative, we are already at capacity in our occupational therapy and physical therapy programs. We need to expand other programs, including clinical psychology and nursing, particularly in areas of specialization. All of that will be bolstered by strengthening undergraduate programs in health sciences, including adding more programs like the new one in exercise science that we launched in the
fall. Not only will those undergrad programs prepare undergraduates for jobs that are already available in the workplace, but they will also be good stepping stones into the doctoral health profession programs.

That is why I am optimistic. We are making a difference at Brenau, and that means we are making a difference in the world. Join our part of the conversation today with your enthusiasm and support, and let’s take this thing viral.

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