Reading the description of Victors Care, a concierge medicine program about to be launched by Michigan Medicine, made me think of how far our university has strayed from the vision of perhaps our most renowned University president, James Angell. He encapsulated the mission of the University of Michigan as providing “an uncommon education for the common man.” Leaving aside the exclusion of women, which would be corrected in later years, Angell’s statement is particularly relevant today as we strive to promote diversity, equity and inclusion in all aspects of the University. The more than 200 members of the medical faculty recognized the primacy of this mission in their letter raising concern about the new program of “concierge medical care” when they wrote, “Victors Care purports to offer ‘better’ health care to those with enough money to pay a large access fee. The University of Michigan is a public institution and our commitment is to serve the public, not a private few.”
The new program also brings to mind the controversy regarding the incorporation of “luxury boxes” in remodeling the Michigan Stadium back in 2006. A letter from 33 faculty members, including former University President James Duderstadt, warned of “lavish entertainment facilities for a privileged few” and of “the growing stratification of our society and a sad corruption of our university’s defining traditions.”
What’s the next plan to capture revenue by further stratifying the University experience? Perhaps large donations might offer select students “concierge education,” providing increased time with faculty, personalized mentoring and a separate building for classes similar to the longer patient visits, 24/7 access, “executive” physical examinations and an exclusive clinic building being promised to those enrolling in Victors Care.
The preeminence of the University is not the result of the quality of our education and research alone. It reflects the fact as a public university we strive to provide that education and carry out that research in a non-discriminatory manner, in an attempt to serve society as a whole and not just an elite group.
Hopefully, the leadership of the University or Michigan Medicine will reconsider this inequitable plan. Rather than trying to emulate several other academic health centers that have taken this discriminatory approach, we should distinguish ourselves by constantly striving to provide excellence in health care to all who seek it and not especially to a favored few.
Toby Citrin is the Director at the Center for Public Health and Community Genomics and an Adjunct Professor of Health Management and Policy