Journal of General Internal Medicine

, Volume 33, Issue 7, pp 1069–1076 | Cite as

Use of Stakeholder Focus Groups to Define the Mission and Scope of a new Department of Population Health

  • William M. Tierney
Original Research



The focus and funding of US healthcare is evolving from volume to value-based, and healthcare leaders, managers, payers, and researchers are increasingly focusing on managing populations of patients. Simultaneously, there is increasing interest in getting “upstream” from disease management to promote health and prevent disease. Hence, the term “population health” has both clinical and community-based connotations relevant to the tripartite mission of US medical schools.


To seek broad input for the strategic development of the Department of Population Health in a new medical school at a tier 1 research university.


Focus groups with facilitated consensus development.


Eighty-one persons representing the Dell Medical School and other schools at the University of Texas at Austin, city/county government, community nonprofit organizations, and faculty from other local university schools along with selected national academic leaders.


Focus groups with subsequent consensus development of emphases identified premeeting by participants by e-mail exchanges.

Key Results

The resulting departmental strategic plan included scope of work, desired characteristics of leaders, and early impact activities in seven areas of interest: community engagement and health equity, primary care and value-based health, occupational and environment medicine, medical education, health services and community-based research, health informatics and data analysis, and global health.


Medical schools should have a primary focus in population, most effectively at the departmental level. Engaging relevant academic and community stakeholders is an effective model for developing this emerging discipline in US medical schools.



The author would like to thank the Design Institute for Health at the Dell Medical School for its help in designing and implementing the qualitative research methods used in this project.

Funding Information

Funding was provided by the Dell Medical School and the University Federal Credit Union.

Conflict of Interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.


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Copyright information

© Society of General Internal Medicine 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Population Health Dell Medical School, University of Texas at AustinAustinUSA

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