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Intermountain, University of Utah team up to keep communities healthy through prevention

SALT LAKE CITY — The two largest health care organizations in Utah are hoping to transform medicine through a new program.

It’s focused on prevention, a priority brought home by the pandemic.

Their very first students are already hard at work.

For as long as she can remember, Arielle Melen has wanted to be a doctor.

When she was 6 years old, she helped her mom who was on bedrest expecting twins.

“I used to take her temperature and her blood pressure every evening,” said Melen, a medical student at the University of Utah School of Medicine.

Melen is part of a new medical education program.

“It is one of the most exciting but definitely most difficult things I’ve done,” Melen said.

The Population Health Student Scholars Program is a partnership between Intermountain Healthcare and the University of Utah.

They’re training the next generation of physicians in population health, keeping people and communities healthy through prevention.

“How can we prevent these issues such as Type 2 diabetes, hypertension, obesity, problems like that,” Melen said.

Intermountain is investing $50 million to prepare physicians to not only consider a patient’s immediate needs, but also the social determinants of health like financial, social, and behavioral issues.

“These things actually contribute to health, maybe even more so than the healthcare we’re delivering,” said Mikelle Moore, senior vice president and chief community health officer at Intermountain Healthcare.

Moore said they aim to get ahead of health crises before they happen.

“A healthy community will make our job easier, and of keeping people healthy, as opposed to carrying them when they when they fall ill,” she said.

It’s an approach made ever so important because of the pandemic.

“We have to do this, if we’re going to save ourselves, and save our communities and save the people we care deeply about,” said Dr. Sara Lamb, vice dean of the University of Utah School of Medicine.

Experts hope to create leaders in medicine, like Melen, who look at the big picture, and return to serve in the community after residency.

“It’s given me more purpose now than ever to see how physicians can positively impact communities,” Melen said.

As part of the program, students receive scholarships to help pay for medical school. They’re also committed to returning as practitioners at Intermountain Healthcare after residency.

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