Letters from Leadership
In this issue of Rochester Medicine, we can take a clear look into the future.
Much of this issue is devoted to our new Saunders Research Building and the work that will take place there. The University of Rochester Medical Center and the School of Medicine and Dentistry have long been active leaders in clinical and translational research. The Saunders building and the varied and multi-disciplinary groups that now call Saunders home mean we will be even more active and productive in taking new ideas and discoveries and advancing them to treatments and better care for patients.
What we accomplish in the Saunders building is important to future improvements in health care and in the lives of all of us.
By the time you read this, we will have announced good news about the future of our Clinical and Translational Science Institute, so make sure to check the Website for the online edition of Rochester Medicine that will feature the news.
To secure the future of the School of Medicine and Dentistry in what continues to be a challenging economy, we will look more and more to endowed chairs, professorships and even endowed research programs.
As is reported in this issue, Karen Webb Sutherland, a 1961 graduate of the University of Rochester School of Nursing, and her husband, Robert M. Sutherland, Ph.D., a 1966 graduate of the University’s School of Medicine and Dentistry, have given $1 million in support of an endowed scholarship and an endowment for research and technology commercialization.
A Rochester area businessman, Richard T. Bell, who is grateful for the successful treatment of his cancer, has contributed $1.5 million that will be used to establish the Richard T. Bell Endowed Professorship in the Department of Radiation Oncology at the James P. Wilmot Cancer Center. He made the gift in honor of Yuhchyau Chen, M.D., Ph.D., interim chair of the department and a professor of radiation oncology who treated Bell.
I also can tell you Phil and Marilyn Wehrheim, longtime supporters of Rochester area charities and foundations, have pledged $1.5 million to the Wilmot Cancer Center to fund the Philip and Marilyn Wehrheim Professorship. Their gift will support Craig Jordan, Ph.D., director of Hematological Translational Research for the Wilmot Cancer Center. Craig Jordan is a nationally recognized leader in cancer stem cell research and his lab is making breakthroughs in understanding and eradicating those cells that give rise to cancer. The focus of his research is on innovative therapies for leukemia and other hematologic malignancies.
Each of these gifts is very encouraging for the future of our School of Medicine and Dentistry.
In this issue of Rochester Medicine, I also recommend the interview with Frank J. Edwards, a member of the School’s Class of 1979, who has written a book about a murderous medical school deanâ€”a novel, of course.
Earlier this year, I had the opportunity to join a group of University trustees, alumni, and friends at a volunteer retreat on Kiawah Island, South Carolina. We discussed the setting of overall priorities, the University’s strengths and the challenges it faces, perception of the University and communication.
At the retreat, we heard findings from a series of in-depth interviews with major donors to the University, many of whom have ties to the Medical Center. One of the most telling findings for me—even as an alumnus— was the degree to which the Medical Center and our School of Medicine and Dentistry are still nationally regarded as the birthplace of the biopsychosocial model, a place that discovers, teaches, and practices humanistic medicine.
Two physicians who came to the School of Medicine and Dentistry in the 1940’s, George Engel and John Romano, significantly influenced psychiatry and psychosomatic medicine and forever changed the training of American physicians by developing a paradigm premised on the belief that diseases have multiple causes, not all of which are biological. To achieve true healing, physicians must account for all of the underlying biological, psychological, and social factors that contribute to an illness.
Engel often wrote that patients complained that physicians were preoccupied with procedures and lacked interest in the personal problems of patients and their families. He routinely emphasized the necessity of putting the whole patient at the center of what we do as a way to better cure illness. Engel’s seminal paper on the biopsychosocial model appeared in Science in 1977 while I was a Rochester medical student, so it is a part of my personal history.
No one should diminish the influence of the biopsychosocial concept. For years, many of my fellow alums have insisted that they can recognize a Rochester graduate by the distinct way in which he or she practices medicine. This fundamental respect for the whole human being is etched into each Rochester alumnus and alumna through a faculty that remains committed to the teachings of Engel and Romano.
Today, Rochester physician/scientists like Ronald Epstein, M.D., and Kevin Fiscella, M.D., M.P.H., carry on the biopsychosocial tradition as they study how healing relationships are grounded in strong communication and trust. Their article, “Why the Nation Needs a Policy Push on Patient-centered Health Care,” appeared in Health Affairs last summer.
And now through our Patient- and Family-Centered Care initiative, which we initiated earlier this year, the Medical Center is rededicating itself to practicing humanistic medicine. My own personal experiences with the health care system have reaffirmed the value of involving patients and families in the care process, of sharing patient satisfaction data directly with practitioners, and of supporting each other as together we provide care with patients and families.
So, as the 35th anniversary of George Engel’s proclamation of the biopsychosocial model approaches, I’m proud to report that humanistic medicine is not only alive and well in Rochester, we are expanding it. And throughout each of our missions, it continues to distinguish us from our peers.
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Praising and sustaining the Rochester model
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