UR Medical Center to Invest $500 Million Over Next 5-10 Years

New Strategic Plan Boosts Patient Care, Research, Education and Community Health

January 17, 2008

"This plan builds on that success by focusing on the priorities of the NIH Roadmap -- faster translation of scientific discoveries into innovative patient care by fostering collaboration among scientists and institutions, and between scientists and physicians."

Within the next decade, new research and patient care investments will change the footprint of the University of Rochester Medical Center (URMC) as it aims to become one of the top 20 academic medical centers in the nation – and it will use that scientific prowess to bring breakthrough discoveries to its patients, as well as new jobs to the regional economy.

Today, URMC CEO Bradford C. Berk, M.D., Ph.D., unveiled the Medical Center’s new strategic plan, a recipe for prioritization, growth and collaboration that he believes will continue the transformation begun in 1996.  The plan calls for investing $500 million over the next several years in new facilities, technology and strategic recruits. 

“Our last strategic plan, developed under Dr. Jay Stein, effectively reversed the downward slide in National Institutes of Health (NIH) funding, and re-established us as a national force for basic science and patient care,” Berk said.  “This plan builds on that success by focusing on the priorities of the NIH Roadmap – faster translation of scientific discoveries into innovative patient care by fostering collaboration among scientists and institutions, and between scientists and physicians.” 

The plan is the result of a comprehensive, 18-month planning process that engaged Medical Center and University leaders, trustees and board members, faculty and staff.  According to Berk, the plan has had thoughtful input and support from University President Joel Seligman.

“The Medical Center’s plan is a carefully reasoned plan that capitalizes on the extraordinary expertise that we have on both sides of Elmwood Avenue,” Seligman said. “It has full support from the Trustees and from me.”

Response to a Dynamic Environment

Unlike URMC’s 1996 strategic plan which called for heavy investment in research buildings and scientists at a time when the NIH budget was rapidly growing, this plan provides ways to grow amid NIH’s currently flat budget and shifting priorities.  The Medical Center has a solid head start, given its selection as one of the first 12 institutions to receive a $40 million Clinical and Translational Science Award (CTSA), grants awarded to help speed the flow of research discoveries into bedside medicine.  Plus, while peers have struggled to maintain research funding levels, the most recent NIH data shows URMC’s funding up a remarkable 11 percent last year, growing from $143 million to $159 million.  URMC will need to grow at a faster pace than its peers to move up the NIH ranking. 

The Medical Center faces similar challenges in its patient care mission.  The emergence of new, highly specialized patient care programs is creating greater regional demand for care provided at Strong Memorial Hospital.  This, coupled with the closing of St. Mary’s Hospital and The Genesee Hospital, have left URMC’s hospitals with occupancy rates that often force long waits for inpatient beds.  Capacity constraints make it more difficult to achieve aggressive quality and safety goals, and create real challenges for renovating or updating current facilities.  At the same time, URMC must compete nationally for faculty physicians to replace those who are retiring or have been lured by other regions offering higher salaries and more modern facilities.

Clear Priorities Reshape Organization

To achieve the goals set forth in the 2007-2012 plan, URMC has focused on nine, high priority clinical and research programs.

“We are calling these priority areas our ‘signature’ programs because they represent areas in which, with strategic investments, we can stake our future reputation for innovation and excellence,” Berk said.  In total, about 140 new faculty members will be recruited over the next several years to augment faculty already working in these priority areas. 

The Medical Center will organize itself around five major disease areas, focusing patient care, research, and education on the conditions that plague large segments of our population.  These “Integrated Disease Programs (IDPs)” also represent areas in which URMC has already built considerable research and clinical expertise.  In each of these IDPs, the emphasis will be on translating basic discoveries to patient care, and developing novel therapies that extend and improve life. 

“The goal is to break down institutional silos so that scientists from different departments whose work is relevant to these disease areas begin working together more intensely. Also this structure will foster better collaboration and feedback among scientists and doctors seeing patients with those conditions,” Berk said.  The five Integrated Disease Programs include:

Research in each of these disease programs will be further catalyzed by investments in four new scientific programs that take advantage of emerging science.  The plan calls for the creation of four “Innovative Science Programs (ISPs),” chosen because they are areas in which URMC has a clear advantage or needs to strengthen to remain competitive.  In all four ISPs, there are strong opportunities for commercialization. Three of the new centers are joint ventures between the Medical Center and the University’s College of Arts, Sciences and Engineering.   The four Innovative Science Programs include:

Key Investments

With the recent completion of the Aab Cardiovascular Research Institute and with the construction of the new James P. Wilmot Cancer Center proceeding on schedule, the 2007-2012 Strategic Plan takes a long-range facilities view.  The centerpiece of the plan is the proposed PRISM project, a six-story clinical expansion and renovation that would add 123 beds to Strong Memorial Hospital.  The $259 million PRISM will be the most ambitious construction project undertaken in the Medical Center’s history. 

“This plan invests squarely in the clinical enterprise, recognizing that taking care of patients is the reason we exist, and that clinical revenues contribute to the financial viability of our teaching and research missions,” Berk said. 

In addition, the plan calls for the creation of a 52,000-square-foot, off-campus Ambulatory Surgery Center (ASC) to handle the 5,000 outpatient surgeries that can’t be accommodated in Strong Memorial’s current operating rooms.  The New York State Department of Health recently approved the center’s plans, and construction could begin as early as this spring. 

Finally, the Medical Center continues planning for the 150,000-square-foot Clinical and Translational Sciences Building (CTSB), a facility that will house scientific disciplines, educational and training programs, critical support operations and several large clinical research programs.  Organizing these support services more efficiently will make URMC clinical science programs more effective, and make the Medical Center a stronger competitor for government and private research dollars. Just yesterday, Governor Elliot Spitzer announced his support for $50 million in state funding for this project.  

Economic Impact

“Just as the previous strategic plan propelled growth and contributed to the University’s ascension as the region’s largest employer, the current plan will strengthen the Medical Center’s role as an engine for local economic development – by growing our patient care services, research programs, and consequently, our intellectual capital,” said Thomas S. Richards, chair of the URMC Board.  “Maintaining the status quo is not an option. We’re better positioned than most other medical centers to leap forward and we have an unprecedented opportunity to establish the national prominence of our region.” 

By  2015, the strategic plan will result in the hiring of 771 new staff at the Medical Center – research/clinical faculty and support staff.  A Center for Governmental Research (CGR) study estimates that the plan will also result in the creation of an additional 1,000 permanent jobs in the community and the capital projects (PRISM, ASC, and CTSB) will sustain, on average, 1,400 construction jobs per year between 2008 and 2012. CGR also estimates that by 2015, total research funding at URMC will increase by approximately $50 million over current levels as a result of investments in research infrastructure and faculty.

The growth in research in particular will strengthen the Medical Center’s role as a catalyst for economic development. New technologies are an important byproduct of research and these advances can be harnessed for regional economic growth. The University already has a strong track record of developing new technologies with high commercial value and transferring these innovations into the marketplace.

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For more information, go to:  www.urmc.rochester.edu/strategic-plan

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Teri D'Agostino
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