"Navigating and Prevailing Through Challenging
Times" was the theme for the 2009 State of the School Address, delivered by E. Albert Reece, MD, PhD, MBA, Vice President for Medical Affairs, University of Maryland
and the John Z. and Akiko K. Bowers Distinguished Professor and Dean, University of Maryland School of Medicine. Speaking to a standing-room-only crowd in the MSTF auditorium, Dean Reece said the School of Medicine has thrived in the face of extraordinary challenges, including early constraints in NIH funding, furloughs and hiring freezes, and space limits that threaten continued growth.
"We kept our eyes firmly on our goals to overcome the unexpected barriers," said Dean Reece. "Through the use of creative navigational means, we were able to create a successful path to those goals and have had an extraordinary year in many ways, thanks to the outstanding accomplishments of our faculty, staff and students."
At a time when NIH funding remained relatively flat (the impact of stimulus funding won’t be seen until next year), researchers at the School of Medicine were awarded $425.8 million in grants and contracts in FY09, a 13 percent increase over FY08. "This is a big deal," said Dean Reece. "The growth in research funding reflects the quality, strength, and high caliber of excellence of our research enterprise."
The continued growth in research funding helped propel the School of Medicine to even higher rankings by the Association for American Medical Colleges (AAMC). Among all 131 medical schools, the School of Medicine now ranks 18th in direct grants and contract expenditures – up from 19th place last year. The School of Medicine jumped from 7th to 6th place when compared to all 76 public U.S. medical schools.
The school's total revenue, which includes grants, tuition, state funding, faculty practice and philanthropic gifts, was $818.3 million. Fifty-two percent of total revenue comes from grants and contracts, while clinical revenue accounts for roughly 40 percent. Thanks to outstanding practice plan performance, total clinical care revenue increased 8 percent to $210 million in FY09. Dean Reece noted that the School of Medicine’s partnership with the University of Maryland Medical System (UMMS) remains very strong. Together, the School of Medicine and UMMS generate an enormous economic impact of $5 billion for the state of Maryland.
Despite plummeting investment returns, philanthropic funding for the school remained strong, thanks to generous private gifts and endowments, which increased 9.5 percent to $53.8 million. These included three gifts of more than $2 million each to fund endowed professorships in radiation oncology, transplant surgery and OB/GYN, etc. Assessing the school’s fundraising efforts, Dean Reece said "in light of the difficult economic times, it was one of our best years."
- The national spotlight shone on the School of Medicine’s Center for Vaccine Development, which was one of only eight sites in the nation testing the H1N1 (swine flu) vaccine. Three faculty members were also named to the Maryland State H1N1 Influenza Board.
- Attracting national media attention was Dr. Michael Miller, whose study revealed the cardiovascular benefits of music; Dr. Stephen Liggett and Dr. Claire Fraser-Liggett, who cracked the genetic code for the common cold; and Dr. Johannes Bonatti, who performed one of the first robotic triple bypass surgeries in the nation. National coverage of these stories helped drive total media placements in print, broadcast and online outlets to an all-time high.
- School of Medicine researchers submitted 170 new patent applications and were awarded 40 patents for their work.
- High-profile faculty were recruited to leadership positions in the school, including Dr. Curt Civin, who leads the Center for Stem Cell Biology & Regenerative Medicine; Dr. Alan Faden, who leads the Anesthesiology Research (STAR) Organized Research Center; and Dr. Stephen Davis, who will chair the Department of Medicine.
- Four new joint degree programs were approved and began recruiting students. These new initiatives will allow those pursuing their MD to concurrently earn a Masters degree in Business Administration, Epidemiology, Clinical Research or Health Services Administration.
- The School of Medicine is making strides to increase diversity at all levels. Underrepresented groups accounted for 14 percent of medical students and 15 percent of graduate students.
Dean Reece is both optimistic and realistic about the School of Medicine’s future. Despite tough economic times, development of Health Sciences Facility III research building remains a priority, along with continued growth in research funding, and finding ways to leverage federal stimulus funds.
"We have confidence that our momentum will continue unabated despite the mountain of challenges we envision," Dean Reece said, as the strains of Marvin Gaye’s "Ain’t No Mountain High Enough" swelled in the background. "As the song says, there will be no mountain high enough to keep us from reaching our goals."