Gov. Tim Walz is launching a task force on the future of health sciences programs at the University of Minnesota, a move that comes amid uncertainty about whether the U will extend its current partnership with Minneapolis-based Fairview.

Former Minnesota Health Commissioner Jan Malcolm, who retired in January, will lead the group, which is scheduled to provide a summary of recommendations by Jan. 15.

The timeline extends just beyond the Dec. 31 deadline for the U and Fairview Health Services to signal if they want to continue their current affiliation beyond 2026.

The Walz announcement did not mention Fairview or Sanford Health, the South Dakota-based health system that last month pulled out of a proposed merger with Fairview following opposition from the U.

"The University of Minnesota's health sciences programs provide critical education, training and research to support the next generation of health care professionals and provide high-quality care for Minnesotans," Walz said in a news release.

The task force will review examples from other states to identify options for potential public funding of academic health, according to an executive order from Walz, as well as financial and clinical partnerships with nonacademic health systems.

The group also should consider collaborative financial support and partnership models for academic health at the U, the executive order states, as well as "potential options for governance and oversight of any publicly funded health professions education."

Currently, Fairview provides annual financial support for academic medicine at the University through an agreement that dates back to 1997, when the health system acquired the U's teaching hospital in Minneapolis.

As part of their affiliation, the U and Fairview jointly market health services under the brand M Health Fairview.

During debate over the Sanford merger, the U proposed regaining ownership ownership or control of University of Minnesota Medical Center from Fairview. It also unveiled plans for a massive new hospital on its East Bank campus.

Myron Frans, vice president for finance and operations at the U, told the Star Tribune in an interview this month: "We believe governance and control of the university hospital continues to be a really important point of the future of academic health medicine going forward."

Up to 15 people will serve on the new task force. Members will be appointed by the governor, the Legislature and by leaders from the Minnesota Department of Health and the Minnesota Office of Higher Education.

Two appointees will represent the University of Minnesota, including one representing the U's medical school.

"Academic medicine will play a critical role in ensuring a healthy future for our state, but achieving our shared vision for a healthy, vibrant Minnesota is only possible when we collaborate across sectors, disciplines and industries with an unwavering focus on the wellbeing of all Minnesotans," Jeff Ettinger, the U's interim president, said in a statement.

Fairview said it supports goals of the task force, which it called "distinct" from negotiations over the future of the Fairview-University affiliation.

"As we approach the end of our current agreement, we seek a new and renewed partnership that reflects both today's complex health care environment and the opportunities in continuing to bring together academic and community medicine," Fairview said in a statement.