CWM Taf today (December 12) officially becomes a university health board.
The change in status follows years of close working with both Cardiff University and the newly-merged University of South Wales.
Health Minister Mark Drakeford first announced Cwm Taf had achieved university health board status in July 2013 during a visit to Prince Charles Hospital.
Speaking at the time he said:: “The change in name reflects a real commitment to excellence in terms of partnership with higher education, the quality of services provided and overall performance.
“This sends out a real message to people who live and work here that they are, in so many ways, at the front edge of the modern health service.”
Allison Williams, chief executive of Cwm Taf University Health Board today said the change in status is much more than adding the word university to the name.
“Research and teaching in our valleys communities is vital to drive up standards and a collective drive for a better future.
“Our university status acknowledges Cwm Taf’s commitment to investing in staff, ongoing learning, research and development as well as our strong links with the communities we work in and serve.
“University health board status cements our strong relationships with both Cardiff University and the University of South Wales, which are manifest in the numerous clinical placements, training opportunities, research activity and joint staff appointments in all areas within Cwm Taf.
“We hope this will help to inspire the next generation of young people to consider a career in the NHS - on the frontline - and we will continue to use our relationship with our university partners to create those opportunities.”
Plans are already underway to work more closely with Cardiff University and the University of South Wales. The health board and its two university partners will work together to ensure excellent health care, research, innovation and education of all healthcare professionals in the region.
In November, Cwm Taf held its annual research and development conference at the University of South Wales.
John Geen, professor of clinical science at the University of South Wales and assistant director of research and development at Cwm Taf University Health Board, said: “We were delighted to hold our research and development conference at the University of South Wales.
“The standard of research submitted for the conference was excellent and we’re looking forward to using that to help us develop and improve our services across Merthyr Tydfil and Rhondda Cynon Taf.”
Dr Tamas Szakmany, consultant in intensive care and anaesthesia at Cwm Taf University Health Board, shared the work underway across the health board to reduce the risk of sepsis. He said: "Sepsis is a huge killer which isn't recognised so we have set about on an improvement programme across our hospitals.
"We have designed and distributed 'sepsis bags' to all wards, with equipment to deliver the sepsis six.
"Our sepsis response bags ensure all the medicines and equipment needed to start treatment of sepsis are readily available in one place. It's not rocket science."
Over the last 18 months, 170 patients have now received the life-saving sepsis six using the sepsis bags.
Sepsis is classed as a medical emergency but quickly identifying the often subtle symptoms and treating the patient with antibiotics and fluids can halve the risk of death.
Dr Chris Jones, chairman of Cwm Taf University Health Board, said: “It is our belief that university health board status will help us in our ongoing drive to reverse the inverse care law and provide high quality response care and services for those communities with the greatest need.
“It will enable us to build effective community links to tackle poor health and deprivation.
“It will also help us to recruit, retain and continue to invest in staff - our staff are at the heart of everything we do and want to do.
“University health board status is a credit to the hard work of all staff right across the organisation.”