Humana Institute Director leads effort to improve value of health care

With a mission to address significant health disparities and unsustainably high health care costs in the United States, the University of Houston has hired an accomplished physician and leader in medical education and health services research to direct the Humana Integrated Health System Sciences Institute. Dr. LeChauncy Woodard becomes the first director of the Humana Institute, which is committed to producing high-impact research that changes policy, innovative educational programs that prepare a new generation of health care providers and novel programs that support community transformation.

Woodard is a general internist and joins the UH College of Medicine after two decades at Baylor College of Medicine where she held several faculty positions in the departments of internal medicine, family and community medicine and more. She was also the director of the Center of Excellence in Primary Care Education at the Michael E. DeBakey VA Medical Center.

“It’s a really exciting opportunity because the unique partnership with Humana provides the foundation to unite the existing health disciplines at UH with the new College of Medicine which will enable our students to collaborate and lead integrated health care teams to increase the value and quality of care for patients,” said Woodard, whose vast research portfolio includes a focus on quality of care, treatment and prevention of chronic diseases, health disparities, and the interrelated social, economic and environmental factors that contribute to health outcomes.

Woodard said she plans to harness UH’s research expertise and form cross-disciplinary teams to tackle the most pressing complex health care problems. “I’m particularly excited to work with the underserved communities of Houston because I grew up in one. I believe that if we take care of the sickest people then we can elevate the health of the entire population.”

Woodard grew up in the Acres Homes neighborhood of northwest Houston where poverty is high and access to health care is low. Her late father’s struggle with chronic illness fueled her passion for medicine and desire to improve health disparities.

“It really impacts the quality of life for the whole family and limits the things you’re able to do,” she said. “I look forward to contributing in a meaningful way to address this problem.”

“We are thrilled to have Dr. Woodard join the UH family to lead the Humana Institute,” said Tray Cockerell, Strategic Relationships, Office of the Chief Medical Officer at Humana. “Dr. Woodard’s background, experience and passion for improving the health of individuals and communities aligns perfectly with our mission. She also understands the importance of integrating the components of care delivery – medicine, nursing, pharmacy, social work and other non-traditional components of the healthcare system – to achieve value in healthcare.  She will be an excellent director of the Humana Institute.”

Along with serving on the College of Medicine faculty in the Department of Health Systems and Population Health Sciences and the Department of Clinical Sciences, she will treat patients at Lone Star Circle of Care, the Federally Qualified Health Center in UH’s Health 2 building.

“Dr. Woodard is a compassionate and confident physician, educator and researcher with an impressive track record and even brighter future. She’s the perfect fit to lead the Humana Institute and our charge to transform the health care system,” said Dr. Stephen Spann, founding dean of the College of Medicine. “Her professional and personal experiences with health disparities and quality of care will ignite development of new health care models to make the system more effective, equitable and patient-centered.”

The Humana Integrated Health System Sciences Institute was launched in September 2018 with a $15 million gift from Humana Inc. (NYSE: HUM) to help defray start-up and operational costs for the College of Medicine, as well as fund endowed chairs at the colleges of nursing, pharmacy, social work, optometry and medicine. The College of Medicine is scheduled to admit thirty students in its inaugural class pending accreditation by the Liaison Committee on Medical Education.

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