YSU, Mercy Health Formally Join in New Programs

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – Mercy Health Youngstown and Youngstown State University have long been partners, but they’ve strengthened their relationship with a new 10-year agreement announced Wednesday morning.

Under the contract, Mercy Health will work with the university to operate the student health center in Kilcawley Center, sponsor the athletics programs and create the first program in the state that leads to master’s degree in athletics training.

A plan to “to better connect” the hospital, university, the Youngstown Business Incubator, America Makes and the downtown will also be developed, said Don Kline, president and CEO of Mercy Health Youngstown.

“It’s getting into a true partnership. Up to this point it’s really been sending students back and forth,” he said. “This is really trying to establish building blocks for bigger and better things.”

The most immediate noticeable changes will be at the health center where Mercy doctors were already in their white coats in front of a newly installed sign, “Mercy Health Health Center: An affinity partner of Youngstown State University.”

“Our job is to make sure students are successful while they’re here – hopefully we can keep them healthy too – and this is another part of that,” said YSU’s vice president for student experience, Eddie Howard. “This partnership helps us connect more with students to give them the care that they need.”

As a result of the partnership, visitors to the health center will have access to nearly all of Mercy’s offerings, said Dr. James Kravec, president of Mercy Health Physicians Youngstown. This includes specialists in the network.

“It comes with our whole network of care and our Ready Care walk-in model that will now be available to students,” he said.

As many as 300 patients come to the center every week, according to the new medical director, Dr. Jessica Handel. On the staff are student volunteers, many enrolled in YSU’s medical programs. For them, she said, this presents an excellent opportunity.

“It opens access to opportunities within Mercy. A lot of them are here as volunteers and already interested in medicine, so this gets their foot in the door,” she said.

For now, things will little changed at the health center but, Howard noted, he foresees see an expansion of services. Nothing been determined outside of Wednesday’s announcement, he said.

“We’d like to see some expansion of hours and maybe even some other opportunities for faculty and staff to use it,” he said. “They’re all in the works and there’s still work to do.”

Relatively few students at YSU are even aware of the health center, many acknowledged. By bringing in a group such as Mercy Health, more students could be inclined to visit, YSU President Jim Tressel said.

“Name-brand recognition is very important,” he explained. “It’s our responsibility to do a good job of letting our students know what resources are available to them, whether it’s health or tutoring or mental health counseling.”

Mercy Health will play a role in developing the curriculum for the new master’s program in athletics training, Kline and Tressel said.

“You hear and read all the time about athletic injuries and concussions and kids being active,” Tressel said. “We haven’t got enough trainers out there to protect kids and make sure they’re being treated well.”

Many results of the agreement will be most visible at YSU, but Mercy Health Youngstown will also benefit, Kline said, including a better-trained pool of employees coming out of the university.

“The ability for YSU to do better with their training benefits us as an employer,” Kline said. “That synergy is what we’re looking for. This has been considered for years and is finally coming to fruition. What’s exciting about this step is getting to ask the question, ‘What’s next and how quickly can we take it to another level?’ ”

Pictured: Don Kline, president and CEO of Mercy Health Youngstown, explains the partnership at Wednesday’s press event.

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