Last July, when Clarian announced plans to change the names of its hospitals—including the one in Tippecanoe County—to Indiana University Health, the Lafayette Journal and Courier ran the headline “IU invades Purdue country.”
Hospital officials braced themselves for the blowback.
Then something funny and surprising happened: nothing.
Well, maybe not so surprising. Before making the change, Clarian surveyed residents in the Lafayette region to compare their reaction to the IU and Clarian names. When it came to questions like which one “can address any medical need” or which one “provides me assurance that I will receive the best care possible,” there was no difference.
Tippecanoe County residents may despise Indiana University sports teams, but they seem to have had no problem welcoming IU to their community to provide health care.
“I can’t say we didn’t get a note, an email or a story shared with someone in our clinics about someone who was a strong fan in the Purdue-IU rivalry and suggested that they wouldn’t continue to come and be served by us if we were part of IU,” said Al Gatmaitan, CEO of Indiana University Health Arnett in Lafayette.
“But we don’t have any evidence to say that they’ve followed through with that. Once they understood what it meant—that this was really their health care stake here, not an argument over who won the last game—we don’t see any evidence that that’s discouraged patients from seeking care.”
Gatmaitan added that the majority of doctors who practice in Indiana are graduates of the IU School of Medicine. So if an IU hater refused to see a doctor trained at Indiana University School of Medicine, he’d be disqualifying more than 60 percent of the physicians in the state.
IU Health gave staff members permission to have fun with the rivalry, Gatmaitan said. If patients bring it up, it’s OK for staffers to announce their allegiance, whatever it is.
“But when they want to talk about their health, the conversation becomes serious quickly,” he said.
Besides, for years IU and Purdue have worked together much more frequently than people recognize—and not just through collaborative efforts like IUPUI, said Victor Lechtenberg, Purdue’s vice provost for engagement.
Indiana University School of Medicine offers the first two years of its physician training curriculum at West Lafayette. Both universities have cancer research centers that work together. Purdue’s Interdepartmental Nutrition Program’s clinical and translational research is done jointly with Indiana University and also with the University of Notre Dame. Biomedical engineering, technology showcases, health care technical assistance—all of them connect Purdue and IU.
“We have contests in the fall and wintertime on the football fields and the basketball courts, and we don’t ever want to diminish the intensity of that rivalry,” Lechtenberg said.
“But it’s athletics. This is programmatic stuff. This is doing research and engaging in programs that benefit people all across the state of Indiana, and we’re both in the business of trying to help the state of Indiana do the best it can do.”
Jim Walton, CEO of the Indianapolis marketing and PR firm Brand Acceleration, said IU and Purdue are respected brands statewide and nationwide. So the idea that IU Health would be accepted in Purdue territory makes sense.
“Sure, there’s a rivalry,” he said. “But when you consider the audience, the users of health care facilities, they’re big boys and girls. I don’t think anybody’s going to have hard feelings about a hospital wearing the IU name.”
Joe Seaman, president and CEO of Greater Lafayette Commerce, said he understands the thinking behind the name change: Indiana University School of Medicine is known worldwide. The name Clarian isn’t.
About the closest Seaman heard to grumbling was when the Clarian signs came down and Indiana University Health went up. “Did you see those signs?” he heard people say. “Those signs are so big!”
“But outside of that,” he said, “I think the whole business-professional world has been absolutely fine with it.”
Maybe the muted reaction occurred because people in Lafayette are used to having their hospitals rebranded.
About three years ago, the 13 Franciscan hospitals in Indiana—including two in Lafayette and St. Francis in Indianapolis—began a name change of their own, taking on the first name “Franciscan” to give them a common identity. So the St. Elizabeth hospitals in Lafayette are now Franciscan St. Elizabeth East and Franciscan St. Elizabeth Central.•