Wertheim College to partner with Baptist Health

baptistWertheim College of Medicine Dean Juan C. Cendan, M.D., outlining the affiliation agreement with Baptist Health to the Board of Trustees on Tuesday, Nov. 28. | Elise Gregg, PantherNOW

By Alexander Luzula | Assistant News Director

After months of deliberations and negotiations, the Herbert Wertheim College of Medicine will be partnering with Baptist Health South Florida. 

The decision was approved unanimously at the most recent Board of Trustees meeting on Nov. 28. The board voted to approve a full affiliation agreement, which was presented by Wertheim College Dean Juan Cendan. 

Cendan outlined the timeline of developments and negotiations, dating back to June 2022, as well as the three main focuses of the new affiliate agreement- teaching, clinical care, and research. 

Under the new agreement, FIU will be sponsoring 22  graduate residencies and fellowships who will be placed at the West Kendall Baptist Hospital. Baptist, in return, will be helping provide significant support to Wertheim College.

The support includes increased funding and enhancements for FIU’s Ambulatory Care Center, as well as investing in and establishing a new Integrated Medical Center, a faculty clinical practice, and providing funding for new research, the majority of which will be operated jointly by Baptist Health and FIU through an Academic Medical Center Steering Committee, which will be managing three subcommittees for each focus point. 

The collaboration is projected to generate a revenue of $140 million, a significant increase from Wertheim College’s current revenue of $90 million, and would reduce the school’s dependency on student tuition and government support from 82% total to 52% total. Cendan also noted that the biggest potential risk of the new collaboration would be requiring both parties to come together and agree on all of the goals necessary.

“We’re integrating two existing… institutions that have their own way of working, their own way of solving things, so I think what I see coming up for us is really like a mission alignment exercise,” said Cendan. “We have to get past ‘it’s about us, it’s about them’ and it’s gotta be together. Aligning our brains, aligning our work to really be able to achieve all these lofty goals that we have in mind and that we do believe we can achieve.”

No new business was introduced at the meeting, although several trustees took the time to vocalize their support for the collaboration.

“Baptist started in 1960. We’re 50 years old, our medical school less. We look at them as two separate entities, and Baptist has been one of the great corporate citizens in the history of South Florida and certainly is one of the great healthcare systems in America, and we’ve become one of the great public universities within the country,” said Trustee Dean C. Colson.

“But I believe, in the healthcare field, within a decade, we’re gonna be looking at Baptist and FIU as a single entity. And I think that’s great for South Florida and the future of South Florida, and I couldn’t be prouder of the choice that we’ve made and feel more comfortable having Baptist as our partner.”

Student Government President and Trustee Alexander Sutton also vocalized support from the student perspective. 

“I spoke with some of the medical students, including the SGA rep from the medical student council, and he told me these students are really excited for this partnership,” said Sutton.

“Just since the announcement a couple of months ago, they’ve already been trying to get more in contact with representatives from Baptist Health, trying to build those relationships, and I just know from the student perspective, there’s a lot of excitement, and I think everybody including the students, can see the full magnitude of this project.”

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