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January 19, 2012

Host: Ted Simons

Piper Trust Investment in Health Outcomes at ASU

  |   Video
  • Virginia G. Piper Charitable Trust President and CEO Dr. Judy Mohraz and ASU President Dr. Michael Crow discuss the $10-million dollar investment fund Piper Trust has established at ASU that the university will use to improve the delivery of health care.
  • Dr. Judy Mohraz - President and CEO, Virginia G. Piper Charitable Trust
  • Dr. Michael Crow - ASU President
Category: Medical/Health   |   Keywords: president, crow, health, healthcare, ASU,

View Transcript

Ted Simons: Good evening, and welcome to "Arizona Horizon." I'm Ted Simons. A superior court judge orders Arizona to finish rolling out its voter-approved medical marijuana program. The state initially registered patients to possess and use medical marijuana, but under the direction of governor Jan Brewer the state refused to license marijuana dispensaries while it challenged parts of the law in court. The order issued late Wednesday by a Maricopa County superior court judge requires the state to implement its medical marijuana program and overturned plans restrictions as to who can open a dispensary. The governor has the option to appeal the ruling. The Virginia piper charitable trust today announced a major investment in Arizona state University. The trust will put $2 million a year for five years in a fund that ASU will use to improve the delivery of health care. Here to tell us more about the $10 million investment fund is ASU president Michael Crow. And piper trust president and CEO Dr. Judy Mohraz. Good to see you both here. Thanks for joining us. Give me a better definition of what a strategic investment fund is.

Judy Mohraz: Well, imagine venture capital. Imagine critical early dollars that can attract many more dollars. And that can have effects and consequences well beyond those initial seed funds. So what the trustees did was to say to president crow, what do you need to really move forward and propel this vision you have for health outcomes at ASU? And what kind of funds do you need to move in a variety of areas? Not just one, not just two, but across the board? So that's what the fund is there for, and we expect a return on the investment to be astonishing.

Ted Simons: Talk about the expected return on this particular investment. What kind of return should we look for?

Michael Crow: I think there's two things to focus on. First and most importantly is our focus of all of the University's assets that will use this internal investment fund to bring together to catalyze new know-how, new techniques, new tools that are focused on community health outcomes. Not the University's outcome, but the community's health outcomes, and the seed fund, the catalyst fund, whatever you want to call it, will be used to grow what we hope will be $100 million a year sustained knowledge production program which has as its sole objective, not the production of the knowledge itself, but knowledge that measurably affects both the positive health outcomes for Arizonans as well as lower costs for those positive health outcomes.

Ted Simons: The investment is spread across the University through a variety of disciplines?

Michael Crow: What we'll do is focus on a number of initiatives where we bring teams of people together that are already at the University that normally wouldn't work together. Computer scientists working with educators, working with psychologist, social scientists, others, bring them together to develop and then seed fund these new ideas and then advance these new ideas out into the marketplace for ideas. Attract additional resources for those ideas and move the solutions into the health outcomes arena.

Ted Simons: Are there metrics to make sure what you want to see done is getting done that results are happening out there? How do you make sure that -- see what success is going on out there?

Judy Mohraz: I think the first thing is look at the track record of the people involved. And the piper trust over the last decade has made before this grant, over $30 million of investments in ASU. And every single time we have seen the return on the investment. We have seen the measurable results. You recruit a Nobel laureate, beginning a center for sustainable health. Luring away from Harvard one of the top international proteomics experts, then creating international networks of support. We know what has happened with the dollars that have invested so far, we will clearly work out metrics to track and applaud what will be a hit.

Ted Simons: I want to get to some of the initiatives in a second here, but were there specifics? You said basically you asked Dr. Crow what do you need in a variety of ways. But were you asking what do you need within a narrow framework?

Judy Mohraz: Well, one of the areas that the trust has been very interested in is the way that Arizona and particularly the valley, has become this center for bioscience innovation. This center for health innovation. And the trust has made some major investments in this area with ASU, with TGEN to support that, and so certainly we knew that health delivery, one of the intractable issues in the United States related to what we had already invested in. We knew that obesity, which afflicts nearly one out of every four children in Arizona, this matters to us because children are another area. So there was an alignment between the goals of the University and the goals of this foundation.

Ted Simons: You mentioned obesity. One of the initiatives does look at obesity, and the epidemic partnering in this case with the Mayo Clinic. Again, collaboration, partnership, part of the process.

Michael Crow: The way that -- to look at this is, if we're not satisfied with how we're doing relative to obesity, we're not satisfied with the cost of health care, it means that something in the actual structural model of how we do things, how we organize, how we solve problems, how we produce knowledge, isn't right. And what we need -- or isn't complete. And so what we're doing is saying, let's now go back and look at these things like obesity, let's look at how we attack the problem. If you can attack the problem by bringing all the disciplines together rather than some of the disciplines, can we find a way to actually produce tools, routines, educational pedagogies, whatever it is we might produce, that could help lead to a measurable reduction in the obesity epidemic here in Arizona by putting new ways of thinking on the table and advancing them.

Ted Simons: And other new ways of thinking in terms of health care is prevention and nutrition, exercise, these sorts of things. That's one of the initiatives here. Looking at world data to help best handle worldwide epidemics, that's in here as well. That's a lot of ground to cover.

Michael Crow: The way to look at this is, this is the case where the problem space we're working in, health outcomes, is very broad. And what we're doing is taking all the talent that we have at the University and sort of organizing it into about 10 or so specific investment realms, we're going to bet on 10 places we think we can ultimately have a major contribution in terms of improving health outcomes and lowering cost. I can guarantee you not all 10 would work. So it's very much like a venture capital model. You make 10 bets, you hope that several of them will be wildly successful, and that's the approach that we're taking with this particular investment.

Ted Simons: Is that a somewhat refreshing or at least innovative if not new approach to higher education, research outcomes?

Judy Mohraz: Well, I think ASU is the embodiment of innovation. It is the 21st century University of innovation. And I think the idea of risk capital is something that is central to philanthropy today. If you only make safe bets, you're not going to have a catalytic change that foundations hope and work to achieve.

Ted Simons: Is that something that's changed?

Judy Mohraz: I think it has. I think that originally there was more emphasis on good charitable grants. And those are still important. And always will be. But now the question really is what is the impact? What will be not -- it's not the dollars that matter. It's that long tail of impact that follows. So I think foundations are looking at strategic investments, they know that not all of them will be successful. But they believe that it's the big bets that can really bring the kind of change that can make this country more livable, more economically stable, more humane.

Ted Simons: These efforts that we're talking about here, how do these efforts fit into your vision for ASU?

Michael Crow: Well, they fit into the vision in the following way. We as an institution have an articulated version where we, when we do research we want to do research to benefit community. We're very much driven by yes, we want to achieve the campuses dem irk recognition of great papers and medals and great awards for our faculty and our students, but we want to take one step beyond that. We want that energy now to be focused on certain kinds of outcomes. We have health outcomes right now which are not good. We're spending 20% almost 20% of our economy on health outcomes. And we're securing poor health outcomes overall within the country for the level of investment that we're making. We need to change that to change that we think is a responsibility that we as a University need to contribute all of our energy and all of our talent to this. So it fits very well with the design of ASU, the orientation of ASU, and the way we've structured our knowledge enterprise.

Ted Simons: Last question for you, is there a message that goes along with this particular investment?

Judy Mohraz: I think one of the messages is our faith in ASU as an economic engine, as a catalytic force in the valley. And that it's not just new knowledge. But we believe this will affect the lives of the people who live here. Our own neighbors.

Ted Simons: Is that a message that needs to be reinforced?

Judy Mohraz: I think higher education is the key to Arizona's future in terms of jobs, in terms of health, in terms of well-being. So I would simply say to everyone, you know, ASU is an investment that deserves our support.

Ted Simons: It's good to have you both here. Thank you so much for joining us. We appreciate it.

Water for Arizona’s Next 100 Years

  |   Video
  • University of Arizona Water Resources Research Center Director Sharon Megdal and Grady Gammage of ASU’s Morrison Institute for Public Policy discuss issues related to Arizona’s water future. These topics will be explored at a January 24th statewide water conference titled “Urbanization, Uncertainty and Water” at the UA in Tucson.
Category: Environment

View Transcript
Ted Simons: Developing water resources was critical to Arizona's first 100 years of statehood. Continuing to meet Arizona's growing demand for water will be a major challenge as we enter the state’s second century. Arizona’s water future is a topic of a conference taking place next week at the University of Arizona. It's called Urbanization, Uncertainty, and Water: Planning for Arizona's Next 100 Years." Joining me now are co-organizers of the event, Dr. Sharon Megdal, director of the U of A water resources research center, and Grady Gammage Jr., a senior research fellow at ASU's Morrison Institute for public policy. Good to see you both again. Thanks for joining us. The title, explain what this conference is looking at.

Sharon Megdal: Well, some people may not realize that Arizona, despite its vast geography is highly urbanized and continues to be more urbanized. People are living in the centers, Phoenix, Tucson. We know we're going to continue to be an urbanized area. There's great uncertainty we're dealing with. So the idea was to try to focus on some of the big questions or challenges going forward. Such as how do we water the sun corridor, the subject of Grady's report. And other reports and efforts that are looking at how can we be smarter about our water management and so forth? And given our conference is in January, our state's birthday is February, we decided let's talk about the future for real.

Ted Simons: We talk about the sun corridor, we've had you on talking about this a number of times. Pretty down, Sierra Vista? Will we have enough water?

Grady Gammage Jr.: I tell you for purposes of this report we're focusing on only the three big counties, Maricopa, Pinal, and Pima. And I want people to get the report and look at it, because it does conclude that we have enough water to continue to sustain that population, but the real point I'm trying to get to is to get us to shift away from that question. To quit asking do, we have enough water. The right question is, what do we want to do with the water we have? Do we want to use it to support future growth? Do we want to sustain our existing lifestyle of grass and swimming pools? Do we want to use it for the natural environment? Do we want to use it to sustain agriculture? Do we want to use it for industry? We're coming up on a time when we have to begin facing choices about that.

Ted Simons: Yet I think it was your report that said current rates of consumption would top out at about 9.5 some-odd million folks. So, I think there is a little bit of a -- are people just getting a little hysterical?

Grady Gammage Jr.: I do conclude that somewhere in the 9 million range is probably a supportable population. And that's way higher than where we are right now. But there's some real trade-offs. To do that means no more farming. And there's some down sides to that. Some significant down sides we need to think about. It also means that when you get there, you've sort of hit the wall. That's kind of the end. And you need to stop. That's a very difficult thing to do. So I think we need to start thinking more carefully about these management choices going into the future.

Ted Simons: How do we think about those choices? When we don't really have a, well it doesn’t seem we have too firm of a grasp on future demands. It seems as though future demands, there could be a lot of changing of the goalposts here.

Sharon Megdal: Well, in a way, yes. I like to frame the question or the answer to the question of, do we have enough water, the question often is, do we have the water where we want it, when we want it for the purpose we want it? And I think we're at a point here where we've grown into some of the known supplies, we're just about fully utilizing our central Arizona project waters. So it is about choices. It's about looking at our options, how do we meet the demands, what changes do we make now? It may be, yes, do you have a swimming pool or not, but maybe you can serve by taking a shorter shower or maybe you do rain water harvesting, or maybe you put a gray water system in where you're matching the quality of the water with the need. You use it outdoors. So there are lots of choices, lots of trade-offs. So that's what I like to pose is, how do we work to look at these options, weigh them, and make some choices, recognizing that we're working with an existing legal structure that really does affect our options in front of us today.

Ted Simons: The idea of, again, the future demands, not necessarily knowing what those demands could possibly be, but have a general idea of them. I find it fascinating because it seems as though when you talk about growth, it's out there. It's -- you really don't know what's going to happen, do you?

Gary Gammage Jr.: Well, we particularly now we don't know. Back when we were growing fast, we all believed that we continued growing fast. We're not growing anymore. I think most of us believe growth will start up again, that it won't be like it was in the 2005-06 range, but it will return. So there's all kinds of variables and unknowns. But for purposes of this report, we used some updated population projections that were done by the U of A, looking at that 9 million person range we might hit somewhere around 2030, 2035. I think that's a fairly accepted horizon to use a word that you like. Out there in that 2030-2035 frame where we really will not have the flexibility that we have today. So between now and then is kind of when we have to figure out what we're doing.

Sharon Megdal: You know, like economic forecasts, most forecasts are wrong. We do know demand is going up, we do know that growth will return to Arizona. We do know more people require more energy, more water requires more energy, more energy requires more water. We know these things. And so I think the water planners don't get overly hung up on, is this projection absolutely right? But we need to be prepared for when the future demand is there. And we have to start planning now.

Ted Simons: As someone who has had many programs on climate change and drought, how does a continuing drought factor into all of this?

Sharon Megdal: Well, the issues of drought and reduced flows on the Colorado river are a big issue. The need or the demand going up when it's dry or hot and so forth. These are all problems that go into the scenario planning that utilities are doing. So fundamentally the utilities who are the ones really responsible for making sure that water comes out of the faucet, and it's clean, they're doing instead of point planning this, is our future, they're doing scenario planning and they're trying to plan kind of for alternative future and look at those robust kinds of approaches. So one example is our water banking. We have a vast program where we've stored water underground because we know there will be shortages. We're trying not to be surprised and prepare as best we can.

Gary Gammage Jr.: One of the points I try to make with people from other parts of the country who don't understand Arizona, and there are lots of reports talking about Arizona is the most challenged place there is for climate change is, Arizona's different than a lot of the country because we know we have a highly variable water supply. Desert washes, flood, they dry out. They flood again, dry up again. We've built a system to take care of that sort of normal fluctuation. That is much more flexible than most urban areas in the United States. In terms of their water supply. The dilemma for us is the amplitude of that variability is going to get greater. So we have to increase our capacity because of climate change and other things. But we don't know how much.

Ted Simons: Are we doing enough right now, do you think because you don't know how much, but are we doing enough to store groundwater?

Gary Gammage Jr.: We're doing more than virtually anywhere else on the planet by way of storing groundwater, but it's because we've had enough extra water to do it. It's not because we made a concerted decision, this is how much we should store. The question is not unlike how much money should you save for the future. Are you going to lose your job? What's going to happen? Do you have enough money in savings to cover it? The answer is it all depends. What assumptions do you want to make? How much do you want to have in the bank?

Ted Simons: And that goes back to one of my earlier questions about moving the goalposts. It does all depend so you must have a pretty wide ranging set of scenarios.

Sharon Megdal: And people do. What's interesting, in Phoenix, in Tucson both, it may be for some of the other communities, they've seen demand going down for reasons that they can't explain. You know if you raise prices some, rates some, demand will usually go down. Or weather causes fluctuation in demand. But they've seen shifts in demand they can't explain. It's been in the downward direction, which is good as opposed to the upward direction. And so people are trying to understand what is causing the shifts in behavior? Is it because people are worried about climate change? It is because their children are getting better educated on in terms of water conservation? And bringing that home? We don't know everything. But we do know we have to plan for the future. Which is what the focus of our conference is about.

Ted Simons: Are we right now at this moment in a water crisis?

Gary Gammage Jr.: No.

Ted Simons: Do you foresee a water crisis in the near future?

Gary Gammage Jr.: No. I don't think so. I don't think -- near future means the next five years, I don't think so. No.

Ted Simons: What do you think?

Sharon Megdal: I agree with that. I think our challenge is longer term and that we have to recognize that we are water scarce area, water isn't always where the people want to be and so forth, and if they want the dictum to hold true that water will run uphill to money, that you can solve the problem with technology, transmission, and those things, that water is going to become more costly over time.

Ted Simons: With that said, are we -- with no crisis now, are we staying ahead of the curve? Are we ahead of the game here?

Sharon Megdal: I would say generally we are. But we have work to do and we should not have our heads in the sand regarding that.

Ted Simons: Especially when it starts flooding, that’s going to be very dangerous. Are we ahead of the curve?

Gary Gammage Jr.: I think we are. But not by much. We're not as far ahead of the curve as we used to be. And we're not as far ahead of the curve as a lot of people in the water business want to believe we are.

Ted Simons: Why the disconnect?

Gary Gammage Jr.: That's one of the conclusions in my report. A couple reasons. One is, I think we have underestimated what I would call urban demand. We've tended to use that statistic that you and I have talked about before, GPCD as a proxy for how much urban Arizona uses. One of the conclusions of the report is. it's not really right. There are significant urban type uses beyond GPCD. One issue is we've done a lot of planning without making explicit assumptions about climate change. I don't think we can do that anymore. The report suggests 15% reduction in the water supply. I don't know if that's right, I chose that for particular reasons, but I think we have to start build some kind of assumption for that. And I think we have been a little too cavalier about our belief that we have plenty of water because we still use so much of it for agriculture. We just quit farming, we move it to cities. There is some real down sides to continuing to do that as we get closer to the margin of how much we have.

Ted Simons: We've got about a minute left. What are you hoping to get out of this workshop?

Sharon Megdal: Well, what I'm hoping is that we have a meaningful dialogue that involves a number of different perspectives. And I think what's really important here is that we hear the perspectives of agriculture. Municipalities, industry, land managers, environmental interests. Because we have to be, as I said earlier, smarter about our water management and water use going forward.

Ted Simons: All right. Very good. Good to have you both here. Thanks for joining us.