The Office of Medical Public Affairs at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis is being restructured and has been renamed WashU Medicine Marketing & Communications. The new structure will put a sharper focus on supporting strategic schoolwide initiatives through compelling, inspiring stories and marketing initiatives that distinguish the medical school and highlight how the school’s education, clinical care and research missions are helping to improve our communities and the world.
The change comes at a pivotal moment for WashU and WashU Medicine, according to David H. Perlmutter, MD, executive vice chancellor for Medical Affairs, the Spencer T. and Ann W. Olin Distinguished Professor, and the George and Carol Bauer Dean. As the Medical Campus has continued to respond to the challenges of the coronavirus crisis, WashU Medicine faculty have made ever-more important advances in the areas of research and clinical care.
“We are a campus in motion,” Perlmutter said. “We have created more scholarships for our students and modernized our curriculum, and we are expanding and diversifying faculty, staff and leadership. We are also in the midst of an unprecedented building campaign on the Medical Campus that will bolster research programs and enhance patient care. The medical school is leading a universitywide drive to commercialize WashU research and is aggressively seeking new, nontraditional sources of funding to fuel and accelerate the work of our faculty. We have constantly evolving stories to share.”
The changes regarding WashU Medicine Marketing & Communications come at a time when not all is smooth sailing across the country. “Like every medical school, we are confronting significant social, cultural, economic and political headwinds regionally, nationally and globally: the worldwide pandemic; a mental health crisis; a rapidly aging population; a challenging political culture afflicted by racism, misogyny and ressentiment; and an uncertain economic environment,” Perlmutter said.
“Still, other external forces are impacting our missions, including workforce shortages in critical clinical, research, and administrative support positions; disruptive competition by private equity companies and large corporations with extensive balance sheets; pressure on reimbursement and steerage of patients by payors; and generational changes in the expectations of patients. As a top-five medical school, we compete with superb medical schools on the East and West coasts for research grants, faculty, students, residents and fellows. We are also internally driven by the imperative to stay at the cutting edge by adapting and improving long before our paradigm of success has become obsolete in a world of rapid change. To maintain our momentum in the face of these significant challenges will demand constant, strategic communications and clear, powerful messaging to our external audiences that align with our school and university goals.”
Moving forward, WashU Medicine Marketing & Communications will work more closely with school and departmental leadership to build marketing campaigns that elevate the school’s brand; develop robust internal communications that support departmental efforts and reach employees; and generate more strategic external communications that emphasize the faculty’s expertise and what sets WashU Medicine apart from our peer institutions.
To accomplish this, WashU Medicine Marketing & Communications will forge strong partnerships with University Marketing & Communications; University Advancement; and university leaders in innovation and commercialization, as well as diversity, equity and inclusion. Further, WashU Medicine Marketing & Communications will more fully engage and leverage the enormous potential of its partnership with BJC HealthCare (BJC).
WashU Medicine Marketing & Communications will have two main areas of focus. The Brand and Marketing arm will lead brand-awareness efforts, as well as strategic marketing campaigns that support the priorities of the school and its leaders, and provide enhanced web and digital content strategy, as well as design support. It also will develop compelling stories about the faculty and WashU Medicine that support Medical Advancement’s mission and ensure that such stories align with and support universitywide messaging and goals.
The second area of focus is Medical Communications. This group will be responsible for all aspects of news and media relations — getting to the public exciting stories about the impactful work the medical school community is doing in the fields of research, patient care, and education — and in collaboration with the Brand and Marketing group, will elevate stories of clinical innovation and excellence in partnership with BJC. Additionally, the communications team will partner with academic, clinical and administrative leaders to support strategic internal communications, provide support for medical school public affairs campaigns and develop internal communications geared to employees.
Greg Barrett has accepted the new lead role: vice chancellor for biomedical strategy, marketing & communications. In his 4½ years at the medical school as associate vice chancellor for Medical Campus strategic projects and outreach, Barrett has played a key role in developing strategic initiatives that engage industry collaborators and philanthropists around the institution’s dynamic research enterprise. Prior to that, he served as president of the Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh Foundation. He also has served as associate vice chancellor for development at the School of Medicine at the University of California, San Diego; associate vice president for development and the associate vice president for institutional strategy at Illinois Institute of Technology; and director of major and principal gifts at Children’s Memorial Hospital of Chicago.
“Greg has a passion for academic medicine, and he will bring that passion as well as his strategic vision and leadership assets to WashU Medicine Marketing & Communications,” Perlmutter said.
Joni Westerhouse, who has led Medical Public Affairs since 2014, will serve as the founding associate vice chancellor for medical communications. Within the next month, a national search will be launched for an associate vice chancellor for medical marketing/chief marketing officer.
“The new WashU Medicine Marketing & Communications is part of our strategy to better resource and support our scientists, educators and clinicians in the work they do,” Perlmutter said. “We look forward to even more remarkable stories about WashU’s legacy of excellence.”
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