MISSOULA – Only three years after its creation, the University of Montana and University of Montana Foundation today announced a significant investment to benefit the L.S. Skaggs Institute for Health Innovation.
Known as SIHI, the institute will use this investment to expand its influence as a statewide hub for health education, research and outreach — with a goal of improving access to emerging health innovations for all Montanans. The $8 million grant to the University of Montana Foundation from The ALSAM Foundation will allow the UM to engage a wide variety of stakeholders who are committed to improving health outcomes of Montanans, as well as construct a community facing high-tech space to house SIHI programs.
“SIHI is a driving force that is bringing the UM College of Health together to solve some of the most pressing health care challenges facing our state,” said Donna Beall, interim dean of the UM Skaggs School of Pharmacy. “Without the generosity of key stakeholders, alumni and philanthropists, UM and the College of Health would not be in the position to build a healthier and more equitable world where every individual has access to quality health care services and the opportunity to live a fulfilling life. We are grateful for all those who contributed to enabling us to improve the overall well-being of our communities.”
The community of support for SIHI includes the numerous donors who collaborated with the UM Foundation to unlock the ALSAM grant by donating $2 million in challenge gifts.
SIHI is led by Dr. Erica Woodahl and Dr. Hayley Blackburn — UM professors in the Skaggs School of Pharmacy — who focus on addressing health disparities in Montana through an interdisciplinary approach. Leveraging the pharmacy expertise based on UM’s campus and the Skaggs School of Pharmacy’s longstanding efforts to promote rural health, SIHI’s programs use pharmacist-led and team-based care approaches to increase access to health care services and support partners in rural and tribal communities across the state.
SIHI also includes innovative research programs — including those in precision medicine and pharmacogenomics — to ensure that benefits resulting from research are realized for underserved communities who have largely been left behind. These programs provide unique training opportunities for pharmacy and graduate students in the Skaggs School of Pharmacy as well as learners in other disciplines, preparing the next generation of health professionals and researchers to use innovative approaches and emerging health technologies to promote health and serve communities across Montana.
“Through this investment in SIHI, we can develop programs and infrastructure to address health equity for rural and tribal Montana communities,” said Woodahl. “Through access to research, education and clinical services, SIHI’s pharmacy faculty and other partners within the College of Health can help fill the gaps in some of Montana’s medically underserved areas.”
“SIHI can creatively partner with communities and fellow health professionals to improve access to care across Montana, while simultaneously training our students to practice effectively in interprofessional teams,” said Blackburn. “We have the opportunity to be a national leader by providing a blueprint for pharmacists to expand their traditional roles in an effort to reduce the health disparities that exist across our country.”
“Approximately half of the patients enrolled in our remote disease management program are from Primary Care Health Professional Shortage Areas,” added Lonnie Murphy, a pharmacist within SIHI. “We are grateful that we will be able to grow our program to help fill the primary care gaps in Montana.”
Launched in 2020, the L.S. Skaggs Institute for Health Innovation was jumpstarted by a donation from The ALSAM Foundation to accelerate the adoption of telehealth and precision medicine training in Montana.
The ALSAM Foundation is a Utah-based organization founded by L.S. Skaggs and his wife, Aline W. Skaggs. From his time living in Great Falls, through his establishment of a chain of pharmacies in the West and Midwest, business pioneer L.S. Skaggs had a long association with Montana. Since the early 1990s, Skaggs, the companies he owned and The ALSAM Foundation have made significant grants to the University of Montana Foundation in support of UM’s School of Pharmacy. In 2005, the University of Montana named the program the Skaggs School of Pharmacy to honor Skaggs’ generosity.
“The generosity and vision of The ALSAM Foundation and UM donors are enabling the College of Health and SIHI to help improve access to health care for all Montanans, particularly those living in underserved communities,” said Cindy Williams, president and CEO of the UM Foundation. “These gifts demonstrate the life-changing power of philanthropy.”
The UM Foundation is an independent nonprofit organization that has inspired philanthropic support to enhance excellence and opportunity at UM since 1950.
Contact: Erica Woodahl, professor, UM Skaggs School of Pharmacy, 406-243-4129, firstname.lastname@example.org; Hayley Blackburn, associate professor, UM Skaggs School of Pharmacy, 406-243-6796, email@example.com.