What’s in a name?

When did the Academic Health Center become the Academic Health Center?

For the first twenty-some years, the Academic Health Center was actually referred to as the University of Minnesota Health Sciences Center. At some point the moniker changed and we became the Academic Health Center.

Sometimes it is the simple questions that can be the most difficult to answer. A name change is usually a fairly significant event, but in certain cases it can be elusive to pin point an exact date especially if a string of attributive adjectives gives way to a proper noun.

The phrase “academic health center” is a common term found in the discussion of health sciences education since the 1940s. Yet, documenting the use of the name as it relates to Minnesota helps narrow the specific point we stopped referring ourselves as the Health Sciences Center and became the Academic Health Center.

The Board of Regents organized the Health Sciences in July of 1970 without using the term Academic Health Center or Health Sciences Center.

In January of 1992, the use of the proper noun is first documented in the Board of Regents minutes, yet it is only a cursory mention in the motion to acquire the Interstate Medical Center, P.A. in Red Wing and is not an official designation. This part of the motion reads

“WHEREAS, the Board of Regents, in recognition of the changing health care delivery environment, wishes to support and encourage the administration, the University of Minnesota Hospital and Clinic (UMHC) and its Board of Governors to seek new relationships — including but not limited to, joint ventures, affiliations, collaborative relationships and acquisitions — to assure the Hospital and Clinic’s ability to fulfill its mission of supporting the clinical, educational and research needs of the schools, colleges and programs of the Academic Health Center and enhancing its statewide service mission;”

Jump ahead to May 17, 1994 when the Board of Regents appointed William Brody as Provost. This documents the still institutional use of Health Sciences Center.

“President Hasselmo called the meeting to order, stating that the purpose of the meeting was to appoint the Provost of the University of Minnesota Health Sciences Center.”

On September 9, 1994, President Hasselmo presented to the Board of Regents the “Recommendations on Organizational Structure for Central Administration” and specifically discussed the creation and appointment of the provost position overseeing the Academic Health Center. Hasselmo noted the Regents’ approved the creation of the Provost, Academic Health Center in December 1993, but the actual terminology used in the minutes is Health Sciences Center. He also inaccurately stated that the recruitment of the Provost, Academic Health Center, occurred in May 1994 when in reality it was of the Health Sciences Center as documented above.

It turns out it is Hasselmo’s presentation and his anachronistic references that are the true first documented uses of the proper noun Academic Health Center and its replacement of Health Sciences Center at the University of Minnesota. They are further institutionalized by inclusion into the Regents’ minutes that same day as an approval of the “Restructuring Central Administration” motion.