Fairfield is forming a new generation of leaders for the booming healthcare industry — bridging the divide between research and patient care

Fairfield is forming a new generation of leaders for the booming healthcare industry — bridging the divide between research and patient care

Healthcare in America is evolving and it is hiring. Studies show that one in five Americans will work in some aspect of the healthcare industry by 2020, which is on track to create 5.6 million new jobs by the end of the decade.

If they aren’t working as physicians and nurses, then many will be managing healthcare systems; developing medical technologies; managing insurance companies or running the financial systems that will keep healthcare networks afloat.

Since 1970, Fairfield’s School of Nursing and the College of Arts and Sciences have been producing well-rounded, ethically focused graduates who go on to be leaders in healthcare as physicians, nurses and medical researchers.

And that reputation for excellence is nationally recognized: for instance The Marion Peckham Egan School of Nursing and Health Studies at Fairfield was recently ranked among the top ten in the nation by CollegeFactual.com. (The Egan School was named this past fall by former Trustee William P. Egan ’67 and his wife Jacalyn who donated $10 million towards continued excellence at the School).

Now, the University has embarked on a major push to prepare students for the emerging healthcare fields of the coming decades. That means paying close attention to developing trends in healthcare — like the growth of palliative care, where emphasis is on the comfort and quality of life of patients with terminal illnesses.

At the same time, the University has brought the School of Engineering, the Graduate School of Education and Allied Professions, the College of Arts and Sciences and the Dolan School of Business into greater partnership with the Egan School to create a cross-pollinating atmosphere. This new Integrated Health Studies Program as it is called, is structured to allow students from all schools to solve healthcare problems – together.

“As we move forward with a vision for our newly named Marion Peckham Egan School of Nursing and Health Studies, exciting things are happening,” said Meredith Wallace Kazer PhD, APRN, FAAN, dean of the Egan School.

There are two major projects on the horizon that will support the University’s growth in this area.
The first is a new building to house nursing and health studies, with a groundbreaking scheduled for the spring of 2016. The project, when completed, will be 70,650 square feet, over four times the size of the original complex. It will have four stories and each will be equipped with open collaborative areas that will be designed for students and faculty to meet as small groups; state-of-the-art simulation equipment; 20 new instructional spaces; improved clinical learning environments and other specialty workspaces that will enhance and transform real-world and real-time task training. The enhanced classrooms will accommodate more than 650 students.

The second new development is the Kanarek Center for Palliative and Supportive Nursing Education, which will be centered in the Egan School and will focus on developing palliative care awareness, readiness and literacy in every graduate of the Egan School and has plans to extend education into the greater community.

Dr. Kazer said that we are living at a moment of dramatic change in the way health services are provided to patients.

“With The Affordable Care Act, certainly access to healthcare has become a major issue,” said Dr. Kazer. “Now, patients who have never had health insurance in the past are insured, and seeking healthcare in a bunch of new and different environments. That will mandate a higher number of providers.”

Dr. Kazer explained that more nurses are assuming leadership roles in healthcare and will be the primary advocates for new technologies, and better patient services.

“One of the places that we’re seeing it and its impact on education is the need to develop a larger cohort of nurse practitioners (NP) who will become primary care providers for this increasing patient population that we’ll be seeing,” Dr. Kazer said.

“There are not enough primary care physicians to see all of these patients and NP’s are well positioned to assume the role of primary-care providers,” she said. “In the state of Connecticut in 2014, we received full independent practice privileges, so NP’s can actually open their own office and see patients independent of collaboration with physicians. We’ve seen a boom in our NP applications.”

The Kanarek Center for Palliative and Supportive Nursing Education that was recently made possible by University Trustee Robin Bennett Kanarek ’96, BS, RN and the Kanarek Family Foundation, was announced at the official launch of the Fairfield Rising Campaign.

Palliative care is a multidisciplinary approach to specialized medical care for people with serious illnesses, focuses on holistic end-of-life care and on demystifying dying.

“There’s not a nurse on our faculty who has not witnessed a patient who’s being forced into some kind of treatment regime that is not consistent with their quality of life,” Dr. Kazer said about why palliative care is so necessary, and why it’s coming into sharp focus at Fairfield.

“Palliative care considers the whole person — their role in the family, their economic situation, their desires for care and comfort — and puts together a treatment plan that allows the patient to live a high quality of life. It’s very consistent with our Jesuit values.”

The Kanarek Center for Palliative and Supportive Nursing Education will give Fairfield the opportunity to enhance curricula already in place and to open the center as a resource to the community.

Fairfield has also started a new Integrated Health Studies Program that draws from all academic disciplines on campus, and has relevance to students in all five schools.

In addition to the new curriculum, which is available to every undergraduate at Fairfield, new opportunities for applied learning will be developed under Brian Walker, PhD, associate dean in the College of Arts and Sciences and associate professor of biology, who was recently named the first director of the program.

“There isn’t a student at Fairfield who couldn’t benefit from the new health studies minor. This type of program is rarer than it is common. So, I think that is a draw for us. I mean, just look at the numbers,” Dr. Walker said, referring to the more than 60 students who have enrolled in the program since its inception last year.

All students who engage with the program are required to take “HS101: Introduction to Health Studies,” which takes them on an extensive journey through the economic complexities of healthcare in America through a social science lens.

Said Dr. Walker of the new program: “Whether our students becomes healthcare practitioners, or pursue other jobs related to the health professions, or whether they are citizens who will be making health decisions who are better informed about what they do — if we are successful at that, that’s cool for me.” ●F

Fairfield’s Healthcare Pioneers

The Paidas brothers, both prominent physicians, Charles Paidas ’76 MD, MBA and Michael J. Paidas ’82 MD, are examples of the kind of leaders in healthcare that have emerged from Fairfield.

Dr. Michael Paidas is professor and vice chair of obstetrics at the Yale School of Medicine as well as the program director of a Maternal Fetal Medicine Fellowship, director of the Yale Women and Children’s Center for Blood Disorders and Preeclampsia Advancement and the co-director of the National Hemophilia Foundation – Baxter Clinical Training Fellowship Program.

Dr. Charles Paidas is a Tampa, Fla. resident and the vice dean of graduate medical education, professor of surgery and pediatrics, and chief, pediatric surgery at the University of South Florida.

They grew up, they said, in a blue-collar, Italian neighborhood in Stamford, Conn. The Paidas household always held a Sunday dinner and every September the brothers would help their grandfather make wine and can tomatoes.
“Chuck and I would play football in the streets, basketball in the back yard, but half the court was covered by a grapevine — which was out of bounds,” Michael said.

But, on holidays and weekends they would work at their family’s Package Shop. The importance of education and hard work was a mainstay in their post-war family culture.

Dr. Michael Paidas starts his day at 5 a.m. by running about six miles.

Then, on a normal day, Michael sees about 50 patients and oversees another 20 or so. Or, he could be on the labor and delivery floor overseeing five or six high-risk deliveries with another 25 patients to see on the high-risk Antepartum unit, and another 20 on the Postpartum unit. The other half of his time is spent on research.

As far back as he can remember, Michael — who has now delivered over 3,000 babies — knew he wanted to be a doctor. While attending Fairfield Prep, he was a local hospital volunteer, and took on every job he could until they offered him paying roles as a lab assistant.

He became fascinated by gynecology and surgery while working as an attending physician at New York University.

“Twenty percent of the general population in obstetrics is going to have some calamity. That’s a lot — so whether you deal with blood pressure disorders, miscarriage or preterm birth — these are all common problems that we need some answers to,” he said.

Michael said that he feels healthcare students of the future should be compassionate leaders who know how to collaborate and to write well. It was during his time as an undergraduate at Fairfield in an American romanticism class with James F. Farnham, PhD, that he learned “the pain and joy of writing” — a skill he utilizes every day and is so appreciative to have developed. He also recalled the enthusiastic mentorship of Donald J. Ross, PhD, professor of biology and advisor to pre-medical students at Fairfield.

“Those eight years brought richness to my life – true friends who to this day remain close,” Dr. Charles (Chuck) Paidas said in an e-mail interview about his years at Prep and as a Fairfield undergraduate.

He was a capable student at Fairfield and fondly remembers many professors including Dr. Salvatore Bongiorno who taught ecology in the Biology Department, Dr. Evangelos Hadjimichael in physics and Dr. Leo O’Connor in English. But, one of his greatest memories is of meeting his then future wife, Marianne (Belsole) ’76.
When Chuck was 17, a physician friend of his Uncle Billy’s, got him a job at Greenwich Hospital. He was first in microbiology and then served as morgue attendant.

Since then, his career in academic healthcare has taken him through New York Medical College University Hospitals, Memorial-Sloan Kettering Institute and The Johns Hopkins Hospital.

Recognized for his leadership and managerial traits, Chuck is always teaching both in and out of the Operating Room. As a pediatric surgeon, he has also developed many relationships with both patients and their families over the years.
In his role today, Chuck stewards over 730 doctors in training, operates one full day a week and keeps an effective practice, and the remainder of his time is spent shepherding USF’s 86 residency programs.

Somehow, in the midst of their distinguished careers, both brothers have managed to keep family at the core. Chuck has three children and a grandchild; Michael has two children with is wife Anne Marie, Nick ’13 and his daughter Lauren, who was just accepted into Fairfield’s Class of 2020.

“Fairfield always gave you a sense of family,” Michael said with a smile, still wearing his white lab coat and pointing out picture frames on his desk shelf. “Whether it’s outside of work in our other interests, with our family or our friends, that sense of communion together — that’s definitely part of the Jesuit experience.” ●F