A Category of One: Creating a New Kind of Partnership

Mayo Clinic Health System and the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire are creating a new kind of innovation hub to transform student, faculty and physician research in service to patient care. In the process, they’re re-writing the roadmap for collaboration.

James Schmidt
University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire

Tim Nelson
Mayo Clinic

Background and Objectives
Mayo Clinic Health System, NW Wisconsin (MCHS) encompasses 11 hospitals, clinics and medical facilities throughout northwest Wisconsin, U.S.A., employing 4,949 people. Part of the renowned Mayo Clinic—consistently ranked among the best providers in the United States—physicians and staff are committed to Mayo Clinic’s “three shields” mission: patient care, research and education. MCHS is the leading and preferred health care provider in the region, recognized for quality care and service, world-class specialty services and dedicated care for the community.

The University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire (UWEC) is a four-year, regional comprehensive university, one of 13 in the University of Wisconsin System. Located in northwest Wisconsin, it serves 10,000 primarily undergraduate students and is highly ranked by U.S. News for its academic quality and its undergraduate research program, for which it has been named best in the U.S. by the Council for Undergraduate Research.

In June, 2017, MCHS and UWEC signed what was then only the second collaborative research agreement in the world between a university and the Mayo Clinic. The agreement facilitates joint research efforts between the two institutions, enabling faculty and students at UWEC to participate in research projects with Mayo physicians and scientists.

While the initial agreement envisioned joint research projects, in the past two years, the partnership has become a much more comprehensive collaboration between higher education and a premier healthcare organization. In the process, it is opening doors for academic program development, student recruitment, joint appointments, shared philanthropy, facilities development, educational symposia, community change, employee recruitment and retention—in addition to the anticipated research outcomes.

The shared mission of the MCHS-UWEC collaboration is to advance patient care and innovation by engaging young researchers, faculty and physicians. In the process, the partnership enables both UWEC and MCHS to be more regionally responsive and deliver collaborative solutions. “There is no daylight between the two organizations,” in the words of one of the principles. This is the case study of how a university and a healthcare provider are creating a unique collaboration—a “category of one.”