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2011 State of the School Address

Published October 24, 2011

Michael E. Cain, MD, dean of the School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences, delivered his 2011 State of the School address on October 21 in Butler Auditorium.

He said the progress we have made to transform our school is based on a “new, very aggressive mission and vision statement” developed by our faculty council:

To advance health and wellness across the lifespan of the people of New York and the world through the education of tomorrow’s leaders in health care and biomedical sciences, innovative research and outstanding clinical care.

In order to fulfill this bold mission, he said, we need to have transforming governance, effective leadership and 21st century facilities. 

Governance Structure Reorganized

Cain reported that the school’s governance structure was reorganized in 2010 in preparation for the LCME visit and to better align it with the school’s new mission statement.

Further restructuring took place in June of this year, when President Satish K. Tripathi appointed Cain to serve as vice president for health sciences (VPHS) in addition to dean of the school of medicine and biomedical sciences after David Dunn, MD, PhD, the former VPHS, announced his departure. 

Cain said that although he missed David Dunn and enjoyed working with him closely, “this summer was as good a time as any in the last five or six years for the consolidation to take place.”

“I think you’ll agree from the information I share with you today,” he continued, “that this is an optimal time to have the clinical efforts of the school—formerly managed primarily through the VPHS office—and the educational and research missions of the school under the oversight of a single office.”

New Faculty Leaders Recruited

In addition to having an effective governance structure, “it is also important, to have new leaders when our current leaders retire or, frankly, don’t perform up to the expectations that this school now upholds its leadership to achieve,” Cain stated.

“We have been fortunate,” he added, “that our institution, along with our hospital partners on the clinical side, have progressively come together to recruit outstanding new leaders as chairs of our department and leaders of new research facilities.”

He then summarized the recruitment of six news leaders, including the recent hiring of Gil I. Wolfe, MD, who came to UB in December to chair the Department of Neurology.

Cain reported that searches are under way for a chair of microbiology and immunology, and we have reopened a search for a chair of gynecology and obstetrics after the initial search failed.

He said we will soon begin chair searches for radiology and for physiology and biophysics and will reactivate a chair search for structural biology, which will be renamed structural and computational biology.

“We also are working in a 50-50 joint effort with our partner School of Engineering and Applied Sciences to identify a chair for the Department of Biomedical Engineering,” he explained, “and for my senior leadership team, I will either identify or recruit externally a senior associate dean for clinical affairs.”

Transformational Goals Require Resources, Partnerships

Cain noted that we need substantial funds to hire these individuals and to provide them with the resources required to expand and strengthen their respective departments and research centers.

“These funds have come from many sources, which is a sign that I take very positively,” he said.

“Increasing contributions from and collaborations with our hospital partners—Roswell Park Cancer Institute, Great Lakes Health and Hauptman Woodward Medical Research Institute—have made it possible to recruit some of the individuals that I have spoken about.”

“And, importantly,” he added “we also have received increasing funds from philanthropy due to the success of our Office of Development, as well as increased help for UB Central.”

New Facilities Downtown Nearing Completion

As we bring in new leaders, Cain said, “It is crucial that we expand our research facilities and begin to locate more of them in close proximity to our fundamental teaching hospitals.”

“One of the goals of the Health and Wellness Across the Lifespan, a UB 2020 strategic strength,” he said, “was first to build an infrastructure that would support in an elegant way translational and clinical research, so we began planning the Clinical and Translational Research Center (CTRC) four years ago and construction began three years ago.”

Cain showed a photograph of the CTRC taken in September and explained that the new facility “has truly helped to cement our partnership with Great Lakes Health and with Kaleida Health System, in particular.”

He explained that the lower half of the building will be occupied by Kaleida’s Gates Vascular Institute (GVI), which will include a new 21 century emergency room, scheduled to open November 11, with the other departments in the GVI opening in December and January.

The CTRC, will occupy the upper half of the building, he said, and will begin opening in March and is expected to be fully operational by July 2012.

He added that the CTRC provides research space for 31 additional investigators—many of whom will be physician-scientists hired through our clinical departments.

Update on School’s CTSA Application and CTRC Activities

Cain said that the CTRC is directed by Timothy Murphy, MD, who has led our school’s efforts “to write a very credible and competitive” Clinical and Translational Science Application (CTSA) that was submitted a year ago.

He reported the grant was ranked seventh by the National Institutes of Health (NIH), which funded the top five, “so while we missed it by two, ours remains a very, very competitive application.”

He said that the NIH will release the next version of its request for applications for the CTSAs in June 2012 and we will submit our revised application in November or December 2012.

In the meantime, he said, we continue to operate as though the grant were funded and he outlined progress being made by CTRC’s educational and research programs, as follows:

  • The UB School of Public Health and Health Professions now offers a master’s degree in mentored clinical research training.
  • We completed our first round of funding for pilot projects in CTRC and held a colloquium featuring work being done on these projects. A second round of funding is under way with another $200,000 in seed money provided by our CTSA consortium partners.
  • As part of the CTSA application process, the CTRC has begun a new seminar series on mentored training in clinical and translational research, and RPCI is holding a seminar series on Core Curriculum in Clinical and Translational Research that is geared toward “helping anyone who wants to discover ways to reform clinical research.”
  • We are working to change the governance structure of the Institute for Healthcare Informatics in order to expand its potential role. Our objective is to ensure that the institute’s goals align with our CTSA application, which will designate it as a resource for clinical investigators at UB as well as in our community.

Philanthropy Key to School’s Goals

It will cost $30 million to equip and supply the CTRC once the building has been completed, Cain said. The funds to construct the building came from the state and other sources, but the remaining costs must be borne by UB.

He spoke about the recent success of our Office of Development in obtaining major gifts and explained that the $40 million gift we recently received from an anonymous alumnus “couldn’t have come at a better time and will be used to a large extent to support hiring new faculty, endow additional chairs and provide the research, educational materials and equipment that is needed to make the CTRC fully functional.”

He also said that a number of our faculty have been successful in obtaining grant funding to purchase equipment.

He noted that our school “is fortunate to have a reasonable number of endowed chairs” and explained that we have recently added new endowed chairs in the departments of medicine, pediatrics and dermatology.

We also now have gift commitments for an endowed chair for the director of the CTRC, which Cain said will go to Timothy Murphy, MD, when sufficient amounts of the funds become available.

In addition, he reported that Anne B. Curtis, MD, chair of medicine, recently worked with our Office of Development to obtain a $1.5 million endowed chair that she will use to recruit a chief for the Division of Nephrology.

Cain reported that we also received a $1 million gift from the Ralph Wilson Foundation to support orthopaedics and ongoing support from Ralph Behling, MD ’43, which made possible the recent opening of the Behling Simulation Center.

Cuts in State Support for Our School

Cain said that this increase in philanthropic giving has occurred at a good time since the school has lost over $8 million of recurring state funds through state budget cuts in the last five years.

The good news is that passage of the NYSUNY 2020 bill on June 24 allows a rational tuition increase and halts any further cuts to the SUNY system.

“As the rational tuition policy takes effect over the next few years, our school will notice about a $4 million return of recurring state funds,” Cain explained. “If this legislation is renewed, then it will take about 6 to 7 years to return to where we were in 2008-09, which in today’s world is actually remarkable good news.”

Despite Cuts, Net Growth in New Faculty Hires

Despite the loss in state funds, there has been a net growth in our total faculty from 670 to 750 between 2008-11.

“And, importantly, there has been a breath of fresh air in that we are bringing in youth again by increasing the number of assistant professors,” said Cain while showing a chart that indicated the number of these faculty increasing from 250 to 375 between in 2008-11.

In discussing new faculty hires, Cain provided an overview of the other major strategic strength in which the school is involved: Molecular Recognition in Biological Systems and Bioinformatics, led by Kenneth Blumenthal, PhD.

Over the last year there has been a series of hires related to this strategic strength, primarily in the Department of Pharmacology and Toxicology, due to the planning process that the chair, Margarita Dubocovich, PhD, has undertaken to rebuild the department, as well as by others who are associated with the strength.

“These efforts are increasingly being recognized, appropriately so, both nationally and internationally,” said Cain.

A Sharp Increase in Revenue from Grants

Cain reported that “the group of people who have been hired and those who have been working actively in the Molecular Recognition in Biological Systems and Bioinformatics strength have been very successful this last year in either competitively renewing or acquiring new grant support, primarily from the NIH, despite this being a time when such success is certainly not guaranteed.”

He said that if you just look at the our school—excluding our faculty at Hauptman Woodward Medical Research Institute, Roswell Park Cancer Institute and the Buffalo Veterans Affairs Medical Center—it is clear that our investments in faculty and facilities are starting to have a return: the number of grants funded between 2008-11 has increased from 64 to 125, and the annual dollar amount has increased from $20,526 million to $32,400 million.

“With the resources and facilities that this school is now developing, we have the potential to triple the amount of NIH funding that we have over the next 5-10 years,” said Cain. “We are capable of doing that, and I believe we will in fact achieve that goal.”

Above Average Students Entering Our School

The school is attracting an increasingly talented pool of students, Cain said.

He pointed to data indicating that our students’ average MCAT scores have risen from 28 to 32 since 2004, with a similar rise in GPAs.

He said that we were able to achieve these numbers while still drawing 82 percent of our students New York State for the class of 2015.

Our students are now scoring above the national average, rather than at the average, on their Step 1 exam.

The newly renamed PhD Program in the Biomedical Sciences (PPBS) has a new group of leaders on its Admission Committee and the program’s GPA and GRE scores are on the rise, as well.

“Not only are we recruiting a smart group of individuals into the PPBS, but due in part to the CLIMB Program, led by Margarita Dubocovich, PhD, we also are seeing a more diverse group of students in this program,” Cain said.

GME Programs Receive Maximum Accreditation Interval

Every year our school trains about 780 residents and fellows through 58 accredited programs and three dually-accredited programs.

The quality of these programs has steadily improved as measured by the interval of time that the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education’s (ACGME) residency review committee accredits them.

More of our programs are now meriting the prestigious 4- and 5-year accreditation interval.

Too, a recent survey indicates that our residents are increasingly satisfied with their training at UB, as 91 percent said they would recommend their program to others.

Other good news is that almost half of our graduating residents elected to stay and practice in New York State.

Of these, 64 chose to stay and practice in Buffalo and Erie County in 2011.

Some of the measurable improvements in our GME program are attributed to our school’s sustained involvement in mentored training and education provided through a collaborative effort with the Royal College of Physicians.

“Seventy of our faculty have completed this program, representing a broad spectrum of our clinical departments, which are now benefitting from this additional mentored training in residency education,” Cain reported.

Website Transformation and the Importance of Communication

Cain then stressed the importance of our school’s website transformation effort led by Kathleen Wiater and the Office of Communications.

He said this transformation is being driven by data about what kind of information prospective students and faculty are looking for, “and our job is to provide them with this information.”

He reported that the following new websites have been launched this year:

  • Department of Pediatrics
  • Continuing Medical Education
  • Medical Scientists Training Program
  • Department of Pharmacology and Toxicology

Major new sections of the website have also been launched, including:

  • Summer Undergraduate Research Experience (Recruiting results: expected 30 applicants, received 130
  • About Buffalo (UB subsequently picked it up for its university-wide page)
  • Medical Student Life
  • Resources for the Research Community
  • Teaching and Learning Facilities and Undergraduate Education
  • Office of Communications

In addition, during a seven-month period, 100 stories about faculty, residents, students and the school were published, dramatically increasing our news presence on the school’s website.

Also, the Office of Communications launched Insight, a new bimonthly online newsletter that keeps our internal community informed of news, events and website enhancements.

The department also greatly improved our faculty’s visual presence on the web by uploading more than 250 faculty photos.

They also tested faculty professional summaries and used the recommendations to enhance our faculty’s eCV presence on the web.

Cain encourage all faculty who haven’t yet had their photographs taken to do so by availing themselves of free photo services at the school.

“If you are a prospective graduate student or medical student,” he said, “or head of a professional society looking for people who are being considered for prestigious national awards or offices, you will want to find information on them that is robust, updated and professional,” he said.

Why We Are Moving the School Downtown

Cain concluded his address by discussing plans to move the medical school downtown, reasons for the move, how construction of the new school will be financed and what the timeline is.

He said that moving the school to the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus “allows us to create a comprehensive academic medical center in Buffalo.”

He explained that construction of the new medical school would be coordinated with two other large building projects that will take place concurrently on the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus: a medical office building that UB and Kaleida Health will share, and a new Women and Children’s Hospital of Buffalo.

“Why do this?” he asked, adding, “I hope the reasons are obvious.”

He stated that “in many ways, we’re already mostly there” and outlined how the school currently has a significant number of faculty at Roswell Park Cancer Institute, Hauptman Woodward Medical Research Institute, Buffalo General Hospital and at UB’s New York State Center of Excellence in Bioinformatics and the Life Sciences.

Also, the school’s faculty practice plan, UBMD, is headquartered downtown in the old M. Wile Building.

The Gates Vascular Institute and the Clinical Translational Research Center will soon be completed, the latter of which also will house a large number of our school’s faculty.

He said that the plan is to build the new school, medical office building and Women and Children’s Hospital of Buffalo in close proximity to one another so that they can be seamlessly connected.

“This will provide us with an environment that allows us to conduct our triple-mission of patient care, research and education under one roof,” Cain said.

He explained that there are economic efficiencies associated with a robust academic health center and outlined the following 2008 statistics:

  • Across New York State, one dollar out of every 13 dollars generated is related to an academic health center.
  • One job in every 11 in the state is related to an academic health center.
  • One dollar in every 14 dollars in taxes in New York State is generated from an academic health center.
  • Every dollar that one of our faculty brings in in federal or New York State research funding returns $7.50 to the state.

“So, we are not a bad investment,” said Cain, who added that this has helped SUNY win passage of legislation in Albany that allows the university to pursue its plans to move the medical school downtown.

The other economic justification, he said, is that our school’s 60-year-old buildings are “six miles in the wrong direction,” and for the amount of money that we would need to spend to renovate a lab on the South Campus, we could build three new labs on the Downtown Campus.

“With resources that will become available through increased clinical volume, more research success, careful management of our funds,” Cain said, “we will be able to add 100 faculty to the school, create additional service lines that we don’t have or that are anemic, and expand or build modern-day research and educational facilities.

“We expect over the next 5 to 8 years to be able to increase our UBMD clinical revenue by $100 million, bring in additional $25 million in research funding, and look to our development staff to generate at least $20 million of funding every few years to help support this enterprise.”

With a new school, he continued, we will be able to expand our medical school class from 140 to 180.

The move downtown is expected to create over 1,100 new health care jobs, 1,600 new construction jobs and, Cain concluded, “help fill gaps in clinical care that is now being outsourced to other states and regions of our country.”

Projected Costs to Move the School Downtown

The cost to accomplish the first phase of the move—which represents approximately 75 percent of the overall project—is $375 million, Cain said.

“This is a relatively large challenge,” he acknowledged. “But we’ve met the challenge of building the CTRC, and we can meet the challenge of building a new medical school.”

Of the $375 million, it is estimated that about 40 percent will be paid for in cash from the following:

  • $35 million will be paid by cash that comes from the NYSUNY 2020 Challenge Grant Program
  • $50 million from the UB Capital Appropriation
  • $50 million from philanthropy
  • $25 million in school reserves
  • The remaining $215 million will come from sale of New York State bonds (debt that the school will need to pay off over time)

In talking about the goal to raise $50 million through gifts for the new school, Cain said: “We have established very strong ties with many alumni and friends of our school and university, and with the naming rights available for the new school, we are confident that we will be successful in raising this money.”

He reported that in recent weeks, the school’s Office of Development secured $5 million of this $50 million goal for the new medical school.

He also explained that the fund raising goals of our school are part of a larger $200 million campaign for the medical school that began several years ago, the silent phase of which will soon be ending.

“There is a national search under way for a senior vice president for development at the university,” he added, “and the school has hired a development consultant to work synergistically with Barbara Hole, Eric Alcott and David Draper and others in Development to increase our staffing in this area and our school’s fundraising capabilities.”

Cain also said that, in addition to the $50 million (now $45 million) in gifts that is needed for the new school, he would like the Office of Development to raise another $25 million for the CTRC and another $50 million “for probably our most important constituents, which are our students, for scholarships, and for you, the faculty.”