As the 2008-2009 academic year comes to a close, I write to thank and congratulate each of you for all that you have done during the past year. Your individual and collective accomplishments are impressive.
The College of Medicine is the most research-intensive college in one of the nation’s largest and most comprehensive institutions of higher learning, and our research faculty continues to increase the scope, impact and value of our research portfolio. In the current academic year, the COM has already received nearly $70 million in direct NIH grant support and nearly $140 million in total external research funding. In AY0809, COM faculty submitted a record number of grant applications, more than 350 during the month of April alone, with most of these to the NIH.
Our October 2008 application for an NIH Clinical and Translational Science Award (CTSA), developed and written by a large team under the leadership of principal investigator, Dr. Peter Stacpoole, was favorably scored, with an award announcement due in early July. A joint UF-Moffitt inter-institutional, intra-mural grants program was implemented under the direction of UF&Shands Cancer Center Director Dr. Joe Simone, with many of the 30 funded project teams preparing to publish the results of exciting scientific work. More important than the research metrics are the importance and impact of the discoveries. Significant scientific advances are being made in many research areas, including cancer, genetics, brain, aging and diabetes. For example, exciting human gene therapy clinical trials are underway to restore vision, and stem cell therapy is being used to improve cardiovascular health after acute myocardial infarction.
UF medical students continue to make us proud, with COM graduates being awarded highly competitive positions in top residency programs, including one or more graduates headed to 16 of the top 25 medical schools in the country. Nearly 30 percent of our 2009 graduates will begin residency training at programs in the state of Florida, and nearly 40 percent are entering primary care programs. Incoming residents to the 60 UF COM residency programs arrive this week from an equally impressive array of medical schools.
Under the leadership of Dr. Tim Flynn and the residency and fellowship program directors throughout the college, in AY0809 the Gainesville-based graduate medical education program received a full five-year institutional accreditation, our fifth consecutive five-year accreditation. Having 60 different accredited specialty and subspecialty training programs with no programs on probation, no warnings, no RRC adverse actions and an average program accreditation of 4.4 years (compared with a national average of 3.8 years), clearly demonstrates the quality of our GME program. All involved in the GME should take great pride in these ongoing accomplishments and for having one of the very best GME programs in the entire country.
There were also many notable accomplishments in our graduate student and physician assistant programs during AY0809. If you attended the graduate student presentations on Research Day, you know that the work of our graduate students, their mentors and research programs are simultaneously creating both new scientists and new knowledge. The physician assistant program was elevated by the UF Board of Trustees earlier this month to become the first school within the COM.
As we foster our missions in research and education, it is no coincidence more patients are seeking care in our clinics (visits up 3 percent), hospitals (Shands/UF admissions up 15 percent), operating rooms (Shands/UF cases 7 percent over budget), and emergency department (visits up 10 percent) than ever before. The faculty group practice continues to provide high-quality and compassionate care to many patients. During the past year, an interdisciplinary team led by Dr. David Kays created the Children’s Surgical Center, our first facility dedicated exclusively to the care of pediatric patients. After months of planning, the ambulatory electronic medical record will begin clinic-by-clinic activation in August. After years of construction, we will move into a brand new cancer hospital and critical care center in November.
Others have noticed the quality of our clinical-care programs. UF&Shands programs were identified as “top 50” in 11 of the 16 specialty areas ranked in the “Best Hospitals” edition of the US News and World Report. This accounts for more rankings than any other hospital in the state of Florida and an increase from seven programs ranked just one year prior. Shands HealthCare received both the Thomson Reuters “Top 100” award for accelerated performance improvement and the Governor’s Sterling Award, the state of Florida award recognizing organizational performance excellence based on the criteria for the Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award. And, on the basis of a composite score of reputation, medical student admission statistics and NIH research funding, the UF COM retained its position at number 48 in the medical school rankings of US News & World Report.
Important partnerships with Shands and the Malcom Randall Veterans Affairs Medical Center were strengthened in AY0809. COM faculty radiologist Dr. David Wymer and psychiatrist Dr. Rajiv Tandon have recently been appointed as chiefs of the VA radiology service and VA psychiatry service, respectively. Innovative collaborative college-hospital pilot projects are being implemented with Shands to foster growth of the cancer care program, and to provide needed faculty coverage of the new emergency department, anesthesiology services throughout both hospital towers, and hospitalist care provided by UF faculty physicians from the departments of medicine and community health and family medicine.
Despite the financial turmoil around us, COM financials are solid: expenses are down, revenues increased and both volume and collection indicators are positive. We experienced no loss of principal in our cash reserves. The COM leadership has worked exceptionally hard to make clinical work RVU targets as low as possible, creating compensation plan incentive opportunities and allowing time for attention to critical research and education initiatives. Thanks to the efforts of Dr. Bernie Machen and our legislative team, we were able to gain $5 million in additional recurring state funds for our medical education program.
Ann Braun continues to lead a hard-working and talented COM development team, who, with your help, this year will set an all-time COM record of over $60 million in gifts and pledges. We are especially grateful to Jerry and Judy Davis for their $20 million gift to benefit our cancer programs, the largest single gift ever to the COM.
Eighty-seven faculty were hired by the COM during AY0809. Sixteen faculty received tenure, and 37 were promoted. Thirteen COM faculty were awarded faculty enhancement opportunities, and 58 faculty received salary equity adjustments. Led by Dr. Marion Limacher and a faculty steering committee, the COM joined the AAMC Faculty Forward initiative to better understand satisfaction with our workplace environments and how to improve them.
The past year has also allowed us to better understand where we should focus our future efforts and energies and to establish, if you will, a few academic new year resolutions.
We need to make it easier for our basic and clinical scientists to accomplish their work that will change the world, and in doing so, drive the size of our NIH portfolio, upon which a research university’s reputation is so heavily weighted, to unprecedented levels.
We need to renew our efforts to achieve the highest quality and safety across the clinical enterprise, focusing on externally reported quality metrics such as those promulgated by the University Hospital Consortium and the National Quality Forum.
We need to update more rapidly our students’ educational curricula to assure that we are preparing the physicians, biomedical scientists and physician assistants that the citizens of our state and nation will require and expect in the years to come.
We need to do a better job helping faculty realize their professional dreams because success in the COM results from their efforts and accomplishments. We need to recruit and retain a diverse faculty who will help us accomplish our missions and serve as mentors and role models for a diverse student body. Faculty development efforts need to be enhanced and expanded.
Finally, because success in the COM also depends so heavily on the success of Shands and the other HSC colleges, we need to fully support the efforts of our new Senior Vice President of Health Affairs, Dr. David Guzick, as he arrives and builds a more fully integrated academic health center.
So, in summary, much accomplished, but still so much to do. Thank you for your efforts during the 2008-2009 academic year, and for being a part of the UF COM family. From many different perspectives, our COM future is exceptionally bright. Happy (academic) new year!