We are celebrating our 150th anniversary as the land grant institution of West Virginia!

Back in 1862, the United States Congress granted land to states to establish colleges specializing in agriculture and mechanic arts. The bill was titled the Morrill Act, after Vermont Congressman Justin Morrill who sponsored the bill. 

There are 106 land grant universities in the country, but I think West Virginia University plays a particularly critical role in our state compared to all the others.

The university is a huge economic, intellectual and social engine in our state.

Our healthcare enterprise, WVU Medicine is the largest employer in the state.

Our university exists to educate the state’s citizens, provide innovation and knowledge for the state’s economy and to provide for the health of the state’s citizens.

While we have embraced this land grant mission, the question before us today is how to become a land grant university for the next century.

This is an area that WVU President Gordon Gee targets as his purpose and legacy.

I think the answer starts with defining and living our purpose.

From my perspective in healthcare, our purpose is to innovate a healthcare and health enterprise that truly reduces health care spending and improves outcomes by helping people live abundant lives and experience wellness.

I have previously blogged about the fact that WV citizens report the lowest wellbeing index in the Gallup poll for the sixth year in a row.

It is striking how this index (consisting of physical, social, financial, social and community health indicators) parallels findings from longevity studies.

Of all the technical and medical things we can do to create a healthy state and workforce, it appears that the most personal and human are the most important – love, safety, positive relationships, purpose, community pride and a mindset of hope and abundance.

So how will WVU contribute to the state of WV in the next 150 years?

I suggest by connecting to our communities, to our citizens, and families to create a new sense of hope, safety, connectedness, purpose and a feeling that we have all we need to thrive, versus just survive.

Hoppy Kercheval recently interviewed me and he asked our secret in recruiting talented care providers and innovators to WVU and WVU Medicine.

Our secret is letting them see the deep and resounding purpose that drives our organization.

Albert Wright and I recently held a town hall to discuss the future of WVU Medicine and the School of Medicine, together as One WVU.

Our purpose to improve lives and futures and to provide love and safety for our team and for our state by collaborating with industry, healthcare providers, universities, schools and governmental agencies.

Through this approach, we help these recruits reconnect with the purpose of their roots in medicine and healthcare – not to seek a ranking, list or quantitative metric of billing or customer satisfaction – that is the business of medicine.

Instead, to reconnect to the purpose of helping people, improving lives and changing medicine from sick care to wellness.

For I deeply believe that wellness is a human condition that connects providers to people through trust, faith and caring.

Moreover, wellness is a personal frame of mind and perception, where the mind and the heart of the person is touched by another human to nourish his or her body.

It is the way we evolved and the way we will thrive – together.

Godspeed West Virginia University, to another 150 years.