Ball Brothers Foundation Awards $500,000 to Strengthen Medical Education in Muncie

Dr. Kendal Baker and the Emergency Department team review trauma patient care. Photo courtesy of IU Health/Ball Memorial Hospital.Dr. Kendal Baker and the Emergency Department team review trauma patient care. Photo courtesy of IU Health/Ball Memorial Hospital.

By: Jud Fisher—

Muncie, IN—A series of grants totaling $500,000 is helping to reshape how future doctors are trained in Muncie. BBF awarded grants for the effort to four partnering institutions: IU School of Medicine-Muncie, IU Health Ball Memorial Hospital Foundation, Ball State University, and Meridian Health Services. The grants were developed jointly as a collaboration between the various organizations under the project title “Optimus Primary.”

“Outside of Indianapolis, Muncie’s physician training program is the largest in the state of Indiana,” stated BBF President & COO, Jud Fisher. “The Optimus Primary grants are the result of two years’ worth of conversations about how our community can reimagine medical training. By strengthening the existing four-year medical school program and the three medical residency programs, we want to make Muncie’s offerings even more attractive to aspiring doctors. Furthermore, we know that physicians who train in a community often stay close when they complete their medical training. Our hope is that by giving doctors a great experience while they are training in Muncie, they will choose to practice medicine in our region and state for years to come.”

Grants to each of the four institutions ranged from $100,000 to $150,000. Among the projects funded are efforts to pilot a first-of-its kind “joint-training and team-building program” that will emphasize teamwork, problem-solving, resiliency, and working collaboratively under highly stressful conditions. The program envisions bringing together physicians-in-training, hospital personnel, and emergency first responders for programming that utilizes local training sites. “The future of healthcare relies on the full range of medical professionals—from EMTs to nurses to doctors—being able to work collaboratively in an ever-changing environment,” shared Jeff Bird, President of IU Health’s East Region. “This funding will allow us to push beyond the boundaries of traditional medical education to try innovative new training approaches that help doctors gain critical skill sets.” The collaborative nature of the training also aims to build a stronger culture of teamwork within Muncie’s healthcare community.

Other projects supported through the “Optimus Primary” grants will offer future doctors opportunities to gain specialized training in integrated health care, mental/behavioral health, and healthy lifestyles. Funding will support opportunities for medical students, medical residents, post-doctoral fellows, and even BSU undergraduates to receive training and provide integrated health care services, which focus on primary, behavioral, and social health services directly within the hospital and clinical settings. “The unprecedented demand for integrated health services combined with shortages of physicians and related specialists means that primary care physicians must be working to the top of their own licenses. Excellent quality services can be delivered at the primary care level, and providing this type of specialized training to future doctors will only improve patient outcomes. Embedding these services in primary care settings means patients can get the help they need more quickly,” reflected Hank Milius, President and CEO of Meridian Health Services. “Adding these training opportunities for future doctors will help make Muncie’s program stand out as cutting edge.”

Additional “healthy lifestyles” training components will ensure that future physicians learn to practice medicine in hospital and primary care settings with a mindset toward whole-person health. A pilot program which initially enrolled physicians-in-training in the Ball State University Clinical Exercise Physiology program will be continued through the BBF grants. Through their participation, medical students experience first-hand what it means to engage in regular exercise as part of a healthy lifestyle. The goal is that they would then integrate these lessons into their own care of patients. “Despite the availability of excellent access to medical care in our community,” commented Lenny Kaminsky, Director of BSU’s Fisher Institute of Health and Well-Being, “Delaware County ranks 87th in health outcomes among 92 counties in Indiana. We simply must do a better job of training physicians to support patients in developing healthy behaviors including good dietary habits, regular physical activity and sound mental health practices.” Funding will also support the creation of “Healthy Lifestyle Centers” where physicians-in-training sharing clinical space with a full-range of allied health professionals such as counselors, dieticians, exercise physiologists, health educators, social workers, speech pathologists, audiologists, and others. Access to these wide-ranging healthcare supports holds promise in improving health outcomes in our community and in ensuring future doctors are well-versed in working in an inter-professional environment to deliver high-quality, integrated care to patients.

A final component of grant funding will expand beyond programming innovations to improve housing options for medical students. Housing that is located near both the medical campus and amenities in the heart of the city is attractive to medical students and will help students to experience the city in a positive way. BBF funding will enhance shared academic and residential space where students can both live and learn with their medical cohorts.

In reflecting on the significance of the Ball Brothers Foundation grants, Derron Bishop, Director of the IU School of Medicine-Muncie stated, “During the last academic year, 174 medical students and 64 medical residents spent time training in the Muncie and East Central Indiana region. Each of these individuals represents an opportunity to either return to our community as a practicing physician or to be an ambassador for our training programs and city. These innovative projects will help us to carve out a distinctive niche and make Muncie the state’s premiere training site for primary care physicians and other medical professionals.” Bishop went on to state, “The long-term impact of this funding means, quite simply, better trained physicians and a healthier community.”

A listing of other grants approved during Ball Brothers Foundation’s first grantmaking round of 2017 is available at


About Ball Brothers Foundation

Ball Brothers Foundation is one of the state’s oldest and largest family foundations. Last year, Ball Brothers Foundation celebrated its 90th anniversary, awarding $7.25 million in grants supporting arts and culture, education, the environment, health, human services and public affairs. The Muncie-based private foundation gives priority to projects and programs that improve the quality of life in BBF’s home city, county and state.