Five Questions With: Ronald K. Machtley

RONALD K. MACHTLEY is president of Bryant University. / PBN FILE PHOTO/MICHAEL SALERNO
RONALD K. MACHTLEY is president of Bryant University. / PBN FILE PHOTO/MICHAEL SALERNO

Ronald K. Machtley is president of Bryant University, which recently received a $2.5 million challenge grant from The Warren Alpert Foundation for the university’s School of Health Sciences. Before being named Bryant University’s president, Machtley served as a Republican member of the U.S. House of Representatives, representing the First District of Rhode Island, from 1989 to 1995.

Machtley talked with Providence Business News recently about the university’s School of Public Health Sciences, which was established in 2014, in conjunction with a Master of Science in Physician Assistant Studies, the matching grant and how the new funds will be used.

PBN: Bryant University is renowned for its accounting, finance and international business programs; what were the motivations and thought processes to expand into establishing the School of Health Sciences, especially with so much pre-existing competition from Brown University, Rhode Island College and the University of Rhode Island, for example?

MACHTLEY: Bryant University has a 154-year tradition of innovation – delivering exceptional education that anticipates the future and the needs of students in a changing world. Bryant alumni have been distinguished leaders in the business of health care for decades. We are building on our historic strengths to make significant contributions to the fastest-growing sector of the U.S. economy, which is now almost 18 percent of our national Gross Domestic Product.

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To enhance our capacity to make a positive impact on the business of health care, we determined that we needed to be in the clinical heath care setting as well as in the business sector. With our first clinical program, the Master of Science in Physician Assistant Studies, one of the programs that changes health care delivery and reduces costs, Bryant is uniquely positioned at the intersection of the business and clinical dimensions of health care. While most programs address these areas independently, our goal is to develop and integrate the understanding of both the delivery of health services and the business of costs.

PBN: How does the School of Health Sciences complement or support the university’s strategic plan, Vision 2020?

MACHTLEY: Innovation, differentiation and internationalization are the key driving principles of Bryant’s Vision 2020 strategic plan. The world is not divided by academic discipline, and we are removing traditional intellectual, physical and geographic boundaries to innovate in higher education to prepare future leaders. This integrative approach can be applied to health care, where increasing demands for high-quality care at manageable costs are driving the need for business leaders and practitioners to work collaboratively and think innovatively across disciplines to improve outcomes. With this approach, the U.S. health care industry can lead the way to creating integrative, scalable solutions that can be adapted and implemented around the world, allowing even better quality care at reduced prices with better results.

PBN: The School of Health Sciences currently only trains students in physician assistant studies. Why was that expertise chosen for the inaugural degree program and what additional degree programs do you envision offering?

MACHTLEY: In today’s health care environment, there is a shortage of primary care providers and a distinct need for specialty physician assistants, particularly in hospital medicine. The Affordable Care Act has provided millions of additional people with health care coverage, some for the first time. As such, there’s a significant gap in health care providers’ ability to treat so many new patients.

The growth of the physician assistant profession made this an excellent first choice for Bryant’s School of Health Sciences. This clinical graduate program began in a new $8 million, state-of-the-art clinical teaching space on the Bryant campus and a model teaching relationship with The Warren Alpert School of Medicine of Brown University.

Bryant is now developing a Master of Science in Health Services Administration and MBA and certificate programs that will leverage Bryant’s core business strengths and the new clinical program for health care professionals, including physicians, who recognize the need to update their education as health care changes. Initial funding for our health care management program will come from a $2.5 million challenge grant from The Warren Alpert Foundation, of which more than $1 million has already been raised.

PBN: How many students have enrolled in the School of Health Sciences and how many can the program accommodate? Are most of your applicants for this program Bryant graduates or otherwise?

MACHTLEY: We just enrolled our third class of 43 graduate physician assistant students, with our first class set to graduate in March of this year. This most recent class was selected from more than 700 applicants, with an average of 5,000 hours of health experience. Currently, there is a total of 109 graduate students enrolled in the physician assistant program. The inaugural class of 30, representing some of the finest undergraduate schools in the country, started in January 2015 and will graduate this March.

The program can accommodate as many as 48 new students annually, based on the availability of clinical sites, including The Warren Alpert School of Medicine of Brown University, the Care New England Health System, Lifespan Corp. and the Southcoast Health System.

PBN: How will the funds from The Warren Alpert Foundation be used for the School of Health Sciences and what do you envision their impact will be?

MACHTLEY: The Warren Alpert Foundation Challenge Grant will enable Bryant to develop an innovative business health care curriculum design that includes hybrid and online delivery systems for health care practitioners and business professionals. As the School of Health Sciences continues to grow, Bryant University will be a resource regionally and ultimately nationwide to physicians and other health care providers, hospitals and health care delivery systems on how best to respond to the changing dynamics in the practice of medicine.

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