Cain Reflects on Growth, New Med School During Annual Address

Michael Cain, MD

The new medical school will feature a host of innovations aimed at fostering a dynamic learning environment, said Michael E. Cain, MD, during his state of the school address.

Published February 3, 2014

In a year marked by significant growth, the UB School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences added 35 faculty positions in 2013, launched a new department and graduated the largest number of medical students choosing to remain at UB for residency.

“Both the number of investigators who are being funded and the number of grant dollars are moving in the right direction despite tightened NIH funding and the effects of sequestration, which are still very real.”
Michael E. Cain, MD
Vice president for health sciences and dean, School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences

Those were some of the highlights that Michael E. Cain, MD, underscored during his annual state of the school address, Jan. 17 at the UB Clinical and Translational Science Institute.

Cain, vice president for health sciences and medical school dean, also looked to the future during his address, providing additional details about the new medical school, which is set for completion in December 2016.

Faculty Numbers Increase to 747

The number of medical school faculty increased “dramatically” over the last two years, Cain said — from 688 in 2011 to 747 in 2013.

That increase aligns with key objectives of the UB 2020 strategic plan and allows the medical school class to grow from 140 to 180 students when the school relocates to the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus, he explained.

Researchers Awarded More Federal Grants in ’13

As UB has added faculty, increased federal research dollars are channeling into the school, Cain said.

In 2013, investigators were awarded 175 federal grants, excluding those received by faculty at Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center and the Hauptman-Woodward Institute. That’s up from 131 in 2012.

UB faculty received $36.4 million in federal grant money last year, nearly $2 million more than in 2012.

“Both the number of investigators who are being funded and the number of grant dollars are moving in the right direction despite tightened NIH funding and the effects of sequestration, which are still very real,” Cain said.

New School Will Enhance Learning, Teaching

With the architectural plans for the new medical school complete, UB has begun inviting construction bids for the project and will soon select a firm, Cain said.

Construction is expected to begin this March.

As he described the building, Cain noted several features that will foster a dynamic teaching and learning environment.

These include:

  • state-of-the-art surgical skills and robotic surgery suites
  • tiered classrooms that allow for group interactions or individual learning
  • modular laboratories designed to facilitate 21st century research
  • small group-learning rooms that feature soundproof, easily folding dividers
  • a team-based learning and seminar room
  • a second floor main entrance connecting the school by bridge to the John R. Oishei Children’s Hospital, Buffalo General Medical Center, Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center and the CTRC
  • a spacious computer laboratory on the sixth floor along with the Behling Simulation Center, the Clinical Competency Center and conference rooms

In addition, a new Structural Science Learning Center, housed on the seventh floor, will focus on the computational analysis and teaching of human structure in anatomy and human cell biology. The SSLC will combine the work of investigators and teachers in biomedical sciences and engineering to restate human structure in computational terms.

CTRC Opens Centers for Clinical Research, Imaging

Under the direction of Timothy F. Murphy, MD, senior associate dean for clinical and translational research, UB’s CTRC expanded its capabilities last year, opening a facility to support high-impact clinical research and offering state-of-the art imaging equipment for preclinical studies.

The Clinical Research Center, also directed by Murphy, features:

  • nine patient exam rooms
  • a satellite pharmacy that meets clinical trial criteria
  • a sample processing laboratory
  • work stations for coordinators

The center will house the Clinical Trials Office, originally in the Department of Medicine. Within the CTRC, the office will evolve into an institution-wide resource, providing comprehensive support to UB faculty for clinical research supported by all funding sources, Cain said.

The CTRC’s Molecular and Translational Imaging Center opened last fall and is directed by John M. Canty Jr., MD, Albert and Elizabeth Rekate Professor and chief of cardiovascular medicine.

The center houses a PET CT scanner supported by a National Institutes of Health shared instrumentation grant and a 9.4 Tesla Micro magnetic resonance imager purchased with funds from the medical school and the Hunter James Kelly Research Institute.

Through a collaboration with the Department of Neurosurgery and Toshiba, the center will add a 3 Tesla MRI to its inventory in 2014, as well as a 320-slice computed tomography scanner — one of the most advanced medical imaging devices available.

“These are remarkable facilities for conducting clinical and translational research that are open not only to researchers in the school of medicine and our other health science schools but to our partners at Erie County Medical Center and on the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus,” Cain said.

Leading Researchers Filling CTRC Labs

The CTRC continued to help the medical school attract highly regarded clinical and translational investigators to Buffalo in 2013, Cain noted.

Recently recruited faculty working in the CTRC are:

Biomedical Informatics Department Launched

The medical school launched the Department of Biomedical Informatics in 2013, naming Peter L. Elkin, MD, inaugural chair, Cain said.

The new department will advance translational medicine by providing the data infrastructure needed to perform translational and clinical genomic research more efficiently. This will position UB to more rapidly advance the scientific understanding of biomedicine and more rapidly translate that knowledge into new, safe, effective treatments.

The department will offer master’s and PhD programs, replacing the current certificate program. Plans are underway to eventually offer a bachelor’s degree program in biomedical informatics.

The medical school also established the interdepartmental Genetics, Genomics and Bioinformatics program last year, directed by Richard M. Gronostajski, PhD, professor of biochemistry.

The program offers degree tracks for master’s and PhD candidates.

New Chairs, Chair Searches

In addition to Elkin, new department chairs announced in 2013 were Leslie J. Bisson, MD, June A. and Eugene R. Mindell, MD Professor and Chair of orthopaedics, and Elad I. Levy, MD, chair of neurosurgery.

The school is actively recruiting chairs for the departments of biochemistry, family medicine and surgery, Cain said.

Searches will soon begin for chairs in the departments of physiology and biophysics, radiology and structural biology.

Deans Named in Clinical Affairs, Research

The medical school created a new deanship in 2013, Cain said, naming David P. Hughes, MD, senior associate dean for clinical affairs.

Hughes’ responsibilities include:

  • maximizing the integration of the clinical aspects of patient care
  • creating a rich clinical environment for medical students and residents
  • working with UB’s affiliated hospitals and the UBMD practice plan to develop an optimal health care environment for patients

In July, Anthony A. Campagnari, PhD, was named senior associate dean for research and graduate education.

More UB Med Students Choosing UB for Residency

In a vote of confidence for the school’s residency programs, 50 percent more graduating UB medical students chose to stay at UB for their training in 2013 than in 2012, Cain said.

Additionally, a majority of graduating residents — both UB medical school alumni and alumni from other medical schools — elected to remain in Buffalo to practice.

Holistic Med School Admission Process Initiated

In keeping with the school’s commitment to diversity, the Office of Medical Admissions initiated a holistic review process for medical school applicants in 2013, Cain said.

When reviewing applications, the committee assesses academic performance and MCAT scores in the context of many other factors, such as life experiences, leadership roles and community engagement.

“As we continue to build a stronger, more diverse and brighter class, we recognize that certain groups of students do better on standardized tests than others,” Cain said.

“We’re selecting students based not just on those traditional cut-off points — a certain score on the MCAT exam or a certain grade point average — but on other important factors as well.”

Fostering Diverse Workforce, Student Body

The Office of Inclusion and Cultural Enhancement continued to build upon its mission in 2013, Cain noted.

Under the leadership of Margarita L. Dubocovich, PhD, professor and chair of pharmacology and toxicology, the office has formed a council dedicated to inclusion in medicine and science. Members make recommendations about such issues as faculty and staff diversification, medical and graduate trainee recruitment and development, and community engagement.

The office also helps lead several university-wide initiatives. These include CLIMB, a program Dubocovich founded that develops students and junior investigators into leaders in science, and the Institute for Strategic Enhancement of Educational Diversity, which promotes a culturally and academic inclusive community at UB.

Other 2013 Highlights

In other 2013 news, Cain said:

  • UB initiated a comprehensive review of its medical school curriculum, in compliance with the Liaison Committee on Medical Education’s mandate for periodic curriculum updates
  • the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education awarded the Office of Graduate Medical Education continued accreditation, with no citations, for a 10-year-cycle
  • the medical school’s comprehensive fundraising campaign to support capital projects and build endowment has raised $115 million of a $200 million goal
  • visits to the medical school website increased 25 percent as the Office of Communications continued to launch new sites for programs and divisions, bolstering the school’s recruitment efforts
  • 100 percent of UB medical students passed the U.S. Medical Licensing Exam’s Step 2 clinical skills exam on their first attempt