Northern Arizona University announces NAU Health, new college of medicine focused on underserved, rural and Indigenous populations

Northern Arizona University President José Luis Cruz Rivera announced Sept. 29 that NAU will launch NAU Health, which will focus on improving health outcomes for all of Arizona with a focus on rural, Indigenous and underserved communities throughout the state.

As part of this announcement, President Cruz Rivera also announced the launch of a new College of Medicine for NAU. The new NAU Health will also include a College of Nursing, which was previously under the College of Health and Human Services. The College of Health and Human Services, which has a sizable presence on the Phoenix Bioscience Core with its Occupational Therapy, Physical Therapy, Athletic Training and Physician Assistant programs, will focus on doubling the number of degrees awarded in the next decade.

“It will be through holistic approach of the various components of NAU Health that we will strengthen health systems and and increase workforce capacity improving access to care for vulnerable patients and populations in Arizona,” said NAU President Cruz Rivera during an Arizona Board of Regents meeting held Sept. 29 at the NAU Flagstaff campus.

NAU Health will be led by Dr. Julie Baldwin, who currently serves as the director of NAU’s Center for Health Equity Research. Her new title will be Vice President of NAU Health, and her new role will be funded in part by a philanthropic gift from the NARBHA Institute, which is a 501(c)3 in Northern Arizona focused on community programs, research, treatment, and services in the mental health field.

The NAU College of Medicine will focus on directly improving Arizona’s physician workforce shortage that it currently faces. Programs will be designed to retain graduates in the state of Arizona, offer acerbated pathways with three-year medical degrees, as well as 3+3 undergraduate-to-medical school pathway programs for NAU undergraduate students, President Cruz Rivera said.

Arizona Governor Katie Hobbs also announced $11 million of support to the AZ Healthy Tomorrow initiative, which is in addition to the already $15 million awarded by the state earlier this year.

“I’m encouraged by all the initiatives that will accelerate meeting our workforce needs, and I’m looking forward to working in partnership with the board,” Gov. Hobbs said.

NAU’s announcement is part of the Arizona Board of Regents AZ Healthy Tomorrow initiative, which is meant to supercharge the Arizona’s three public research universities’ efforts to decrease the healthcare workforce gap in the state. Earlier this year, Arizona State University announced ASU Health, which will include a new School of Medicine and Advanced Medical Engineering, a School of Public Health Technology and a Health Futures Observatory. Additionally, the University of Arizona announced a deeper partnership with Banner Health in Tucson, and increased its residency and fellowship relationship with Banner Health and the University of Arizona College of Medicine – Phoenix.

“Our universities truly are one of our states strongest assets,” said Arizona Governor Katie Hobbs.

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