New ETSU College of Medicine Dean outlines vision, discusses challenges in health care

Brandon Paykamian • Feb 10, 2019 at 7:57 PM

East Tennessee State University President Brian Noland named Dr. William Block dean of the Quillen College of Medicine Wednesday. Block had served as interim dean since July and became the first Quillen alumnus to lead the college. 

Previously, Block, a 1992 Quillen graduate, held multiple faculty positions at the school from 1998 to 2004. After that, he served as the medical director for the Minnesota Perinatal Physicians in Minnesota before returning to Quillen in 2016 as chairman of Quillen’s Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology. 

With intimate knowledge of the university and its faculty, Block said he hopes to encourage interprofessional cooperation between various health care disciplines and with other colleges at ETSU, such as the College of Pharmacy, College of Nursing and College of Public Health.

Block said this interprofessional approach to health care is a big part of his vision as the college’s new dean. On Thursday, Block spoke to the Johnson City Press about his vision to make Quillen graduates as “well-prepared as any students in the country when they finish their training.” 

“We're still, as a field, figuring out how to secure access for all patients and keep costs under control. When we look at it from an educational standpoint, we try to be creative with how we teach students to work as interprofessional teams,” he said. “We want to involve the College of Pharmacy, College of Nursing and Health Sciences, and get everyone involved, making sure we optimize the care for the patients.

“We’ll continue to try to add faculty from different specialties so that students have exposure to all aspects of health care,” he later added. 

In the past, he said getting multiple health care disciplines to converge to meet all the needs of patients has been a challenge, not just in local health care but in American health care in general. Making sure that patients are treated efficiently in a “one-stop” clinic in a cost-effective manner is a challenge Block said health care professionals need to think about more in the future. 

This is a goal he said ETSU clinics should work toward. 

“From a clinical aspect, we’re in the process of developing what’s going to be termed ETSU Health, and it will hopefully be multiple interdisciplinary clinics,” he said. “In doing that, we’re hoping to bring up our level of patient service and maintain the high quality we expect from our faculty as being trainers of future physicians.

“But we have some adjustments to make in our customer availability to see patients in a timely and convenient manner so that it’s easy for patients to see their doctor.”

Block said one of his goals as dean is to continue Quillen’s commitment to preparing physicians to practice rural medicine. 

“This region has suffered a long time from not having enough economic growth to give the care — especially in the rural areas — that might be available if we had more of an expansion (with our clinics and programs).” 

Block also discussed his opinions on Medicaid expansion, an initiative supported by nearly 65 percent of Tennesseans but opposed by much of the Republican-dominated state legislature and the new governor, Bill Lee.

Block said he hopes Tennessee can work toward some kind of system that allows “everyone to have access to health care,” but he said the answers vary from state to state, whether it’s Medicaid expansion, block grants or even Medicare for All. 

“From a providers’ standpoint, we want to take care of patients and not have them be unable to afford their medications or office visits,” he said. “I wouldn’t pretend to know what the correct political answer is, and it’s going to vary from state to state.” 







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