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Reunion forum showcases Institute for Healthy Futures

Rohit Verma at CIHF
Chris Kitchen/University Photography
Rohit Verma, professor of services operations management, the Singapore Tourism Board Distinguished Professor at the School of Hotel Administration, and dean of external relations for the College of Business, speaks at a Reunion Weekend forum June 11.

Two of the world’s largest industries, hospitality and health, are connected by three growing trends, said Rohit Verma, executive director of the new Cornell Institute for Healthy Futures (CIHF).

“If you look at the hospitality industry … we are looking for more healthy options – healthy options to stay, healthy activities we can do, healthier food and so on, and this is happening all across the world and at all price points,” Verma said at a Reunion Weekend forum June 11 hosted by the Classes of ’71 and ’76.

“In the health care industry, increasingly customers and patients are looking for more service,” he said.

The third trend, said Verma, who is professor of services operations management, the Singapore Tourism Board Distinguished Professor at the School of Hotel Administration, and dean of external relations for the College of Business, is the populations of the U.S., China, India, South Korea, much of Europe, and many other countries will have higher proportions of older citizens and will require more senior living care as people live longer.

CIHF seeks to develop a body of scholarship that addresses the needs of an aging world by integrating hospitality, health management and policy, and design in order to improve service in health care, wellness, senior living and related industries. The institute, which launched in November 2015, is a collaboration of the Department of Design and Environmental Analysis and the Sloan Program in Health Administration in the College of Human Ecology and the School of Hotel Administration (SHA).

Verma said that after looking at universities around the world, he and his colleagues found no single program that directly addressed the confluence of trends in hospitality, health and senior living. In creating the CIHF, they also understood the issues cannot be solved by one discipline, that they needed to bring together faculty, students and experts from various areas, he said.

Along with researchers in Human Ecology and SHA, “we also reached out to colleagues in the Johnson Graduate School of Management and in Industrial and Labor Relations” (ILR), among others, who will make up a cadre of more than 30 faculty fellows to conduct research, Verma said.

At the forum, faculty fellow Sean Rogers, assistant professor of employment relations, human resources and law at SHA, discussed his research that shows how strategies for managing volunteers in the health care industry influence volunteers themselves and then has a downstream effect on patient satisfaction, he said.

Alex Susskind, associate professor of food and beverage management at SHA, described his research with John Cawley, Human Ecology professor of policy analysis and management, and professor of economics, on the impact of restaurant menu calorie labels on diners’ food choices. With chains of more than 20 restaurants required by the Affordable Care Act to include calorie labels on menus next year, Susskind and Cawley realized there was scant research on how such labels affect customer choices in full-service restaurants. Through randomized surveys given after dining, early results showed that labels reduced total calories by 3.7 percent.

Faculty fellow Peggy Odom-Reed, M.S. ’97, Ph.D. ’07, a lecturer who teaches management communication in SHA, discussed her project with Susskind at Cayuga Medical Center in Ithaca that examines the relationships between “the qualitative” (accuracy, depth and quality of interactions) and “quantitative” (how long and how often interactions occur) value of communication between care providers and patients, and overall patient satisfaction and outcomes within emergency departments.

In the coming years, CIHF will launch a health and design concentration for SHA students and a hospitality concentration for Human Ecology students; a universitywide minor linking health, hospitality and design; a graduate level concentration or minor; dual degree master’s programs; and an online certificate program. Industry experts will collaborate on research and will regularly come to campus as visiting lecturers and to be part of industry roundtable discussions. Also, CIHF will sponsor the Cornell Hospitality, Health and Design Symposium Oct. 9-11.

Other speakers included faculty fellows David Filiberto, a research associate in the Yang-Tan Institute on Employment and Disability, and Michelle Williams, assistant professor of organizational behavior at ILR; and CIHF associate directors Mardelle Shepley, professor of design and environmental analysis, and Brooke Hollis, associate director of the Sloan Program in Health Administration.

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Melissa Osgood