Allison Brashear, MD, MBA, makes a point during her first State of the School address Oct. 19 at the M&T Auditorium.

Brashear: ‘There’s Never Been a More Exciting Time’

Dean Highlights Jacobs School Momentum in First State of the School Address

Published November 2, 2022

By Bill Bruton

The Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences is seeking to put Buffalo on the map by leading the future of health care innovation in Western New York. During her first State of the School address, Allison Brashear, MD, MBA, presented how the Jacobs School is intent on making that goal a reality through impactful research, education and clinical programs.

“There’s never been a more exciting time to be at the Jacobs School at UB. People are extraordinarily excited at the opportunity of bringing in new researchers, filling up the labs and working collaboratively with our hospital partners. Our faculty, students and staff are energized by being in this wonderful building,” said Brashear, UB’s vice president for health sciences and dean of the Jacobs School. “This is a time when we’re going to be able to train the next generation of clinicians and researchers, to do research that really has an impact, and to be a real active, integral part of our community. The future is bright.”

Flagship Designation is Point of Pride

“There’s never been a more exciting time to be at the Jacobs School at UB.”
UB’s vice president for health sciences and dean of the Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences

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On Jan. 6, 2022, UB and Stony Brook University were designated as “flagships” of the State University of New York system by Gov. Kathy Hochul, recognizing the two institutions for their status among the nation’s leading public research universities.

“The flagship designation puts the wind in our sails. I want to emphasize the power we have for research and the potential implications not just to complete research and to bring innovation, but to bring economic development,” Brashear said. “We’re going to create smart goals that are achievable and that we can show actually move the needle, so we can become a top 25 public research institution.”

This is reflective of achievements across UB. The university set a record for fiscal year 2022 with $200 million in federal research expenditures, up 7 percent in the past year. The goal is to double that to $400 million by 2030.

“The vision for the future is to take our strength in basic sciences, the innovative laboratories we have in this building, and our translational research and use that impact to improve health for patients and their families in Western New York,” Brashear said. “We want to create hubs of innovation and to think about bringing in cluster hires and individuals who will help synergize with our large patient population and our strong basic and clinical research programs.”

Kickoff for Strategic Plan

To help chart the path to the top 25, the Jacobs School conducted a strategic planning kickoff meeting in late September with more than 100 people in attendance, including department chairs, senior leaders and other faculty and staff in the planning process.

Goals were discussed for research, education, diversity and clinical enterprise.

“We talked about modernizing the curriculum, we talked about recruitment — especially recruiting faculty and staff from diverse backgrounds. We also talked about ways we can expand our basic, translational and clinical research. The excitement of that afternoon meeting was the beginning of our faculty mapping out the next chapter in the Jacobs School,” Brashear said.

Increasing Recruitment for Clinical Trials

Brashear also emphasized the importance of clinical trials in providing patients high impact care, and the need to increase recruitment for those trials.

Brashear praised the work that Sanjay Sethi, MD, professor of medicine, chief of the Division of Pulmonary, Critical Care and Sleep Medicine and director of UB’s Clinical Research Office, and his team have done to fast-track clinical trials.

“There’s much more work to do. We need to set up databases so that all of our patients who walk through the doors of our various clinics and our partner hospitals see the opportunity to participate in research,” Brashear said. “My family and my husband’s family have participated in clinical research. We should have a culture where it is the norm for patients to participate in clinical trials. This is how we can bring innovation directly to our patients in our community.”

Researchers Tackle Variety of Illnesses

Brashear also highlighted several researchers and their work that’s “changing the world.” She noted that her goal is to create a culture of celebration so that “our faculty, staff and health care partners are aware of the impactful work performed at the Jacobs School.”

Included were:

Continued Success of CTSI Lauded

Brashear also noted the continued success of UB’s Clinical and Translational Science Institute (CTSI), which has received $37.6 million in funding from the NIH since 2015.

Timothy F. Murphy, MD, is the founder and director of the institute, which serves as the hub of the Buffalo Translational Consortium. Murphy is also a SUNY Distinguished Professor of medicine and senior associate dean for clinical and translational research.

“It was the brainchild of Dr. Murphy. It is a significant endeavor, and a source of pride at UB,” Brashear said. “To have this in Western New York is really a gem, a gold mine. Dr. Murphy is to be congratulated for his vision and perseverance.”

Long COVID Registry Established

Brashear announced that the Western New York Long COVID Recovery Center is now enrolling patients.

“It’s a registry for people who’ve had COVID. And the goal is to transition this into potential NIH funding,” Brashear said.

The UB Community Health Equity Research Institute — of which Murphy also serves as director — was also recognized.

“The goal of this institute is to attract researchers from multiple disciplines and to apply for an NIH specialized center for excellence in minority health disparities,” Brashear said.

UB is also engaging in a robust hiring initiative with the aim of 180 to 265 new faculty tenure track hires over the next two years, Brashear noted.

UBMD Physicians’ Group is Force in WNY

Brashear also highlighted the UBMD Physicians’ Group, the largest multi-specialty group in Western New York.

With more than 550 physicians, UBMD sees over 400,000 unique patients a year in 92 specialties at 61 offices.

“UBMD is a force,” Brashear said. “We really cover the gamut — and cover the map — with our care.”

Brashear also noted the strong collaborations the Jacobs School has with its clinical partners, and she expressed gratitude for the many partnerships. 

There is a great willingness on behalf of hospital affiliations and UB to further strengthen these relationships, said Brashear.

“Our hospital partners appreciate that the Jacobs School is a leader in academic medicine and the gravitas that brings to our region,” she added.

School Trains Large Number of Undergrads

Another area of strength of the Jacobs School is the large number of undergraduates at the school.

For 2021, there were 1,075 undergrads with a major at the school. All told, the school interacts with more than 3,200 students every year. The Jacobs School is the fifth largest school at UB and growing; the incoming class of 340 freshmen is the fourth largest among UB schools. There are also 121 doctoral students, 125 master’s students and 47 postdoctoral students.

“We have a significant presence as a school at UB,” Brashear said.

The Jacobs School’s medical admission profile showed 5,170 applications, the third-largest pool in school history. Of that number, 6.9 percent were accepted (358) and 3.5 percent (184) enrolled.

Eighty-eight percent of the Class of 2026 — 163 students — are from New York State and 77 are from Western New York. Thirty-nine students earned their undergraduate degrees from UB.

Residents, Fellows Enthusiastic About Training

The Office of Graduate Medical Education (GME), under the direction of Gregory S. Cherr, MD, senior associate dean for GME and professor of surgery, has one of the largest programs in the U.S. with 835 postgraduate trainees — 679 residents and 156 fellows — in 67 ACGME-accredited programs.

A resident survey shows that 62 percent of the residents and fellows had a very positive evaluation of the program.

“Our residents are enthusiastic about their training programs,” Brashear said. “Now, it is our job is to make sure they all want to stay in Buffalo.”

Shining a Spotlight on Diversity

Brashear gave credit to Dori R. Marshall, MD, director of admissions and associate dean; David A. Milling, MD, executive director of the Offices of Medical Education and senior associate dean for medical education; and others for increasing the diversity opportunities at the medical school.

“The Jacobs School is committed to diversity. We are working directly with the community and must make sure we are training a diverse workforce. We know if patients share some background with their physicians, they’re more likely to go to the doctor and see the doctor as a partner — likewise the family,” Brashear said. “A year ago, there were no Black tenure-track faculty. Now there are four. Thank you to the chairs who heard and realized these numbers had to change. We have much more to do, and I commit that we will continue to expand our existing efforts to increase the diversity in our faculty and staff.”

The spotlight on diversity also took place when more than 200 people gathered in person for this year’s Igniting Hope Conference, with the focus on “Advocating in a New Reality: Breaking Barriers, Maintaining Resilience and Reconstructing a Community of Care.”

Scholarships Lessen Burden of Student Debt

Brashear also took on the subject of student debt, which keeps some talented people from pursuing a medical degree.

“Our students have more debt than the average medical student. Many of our students are graduating with over $200,000 in debt. One of the ways we can help lessen that burden is with scholarships,” said Brashear, who noted recent memorial scholarships have been set up in the names of Jonathan D. Daniels, MD, and David Paul Hughes, MD.

The Vazquez Family Medical Student Scholarship is another scholarship that has been established in the past year and is geared toward medical students from historically underrepresented backgrounds in medicine.

New Director for Office of Communications

The Office of Communications recently welcomed Patrick S. Broadwater as its new director of communications.

With an extensive communications background — including more than 20 years in higher education public relations, strategic communications and marketing — he is working to build awareness and strengthen the school’s reputation.

“Patrick’s going to help us help you tell a good news story,” Brashear said.

The Office of Communications has published 216 stories on research, honors and awards, and new faculty members since January 2021.

The address took place Oct. 19 at the M&T Auditorium at the Jacobs School building.