Mark Taubman’s Comments

Mark Taubman, M.D.Thank you.  Seven months ago, in what had to be one of the saddest days of my life, I was asked to take the reins as acting CEO while my close friend and colleague, Brad Berk, was being treated for a serious spinal cord injury.  After I addressed the audience in this atrium, several people commented to me that this must be a bittersweet day.  I responded, “Only bitter.  It will be sweet when Brad comes back.”   Today is indeed sweet, because Brad is coming back! 

I’d like to start by thanking Joel Seligman, Brad Berk, the Trustees, and the URMC Board for their support and confidence – both in asking me to serve as Acting CEO, and now naming me as Dean.  I’d also like to thank the Chairs and Center Directors who have shown so much flexibility and support during the last seven months.  I look forward to working with each of you to further strengthen this great Medical School. 

I thank the Medical Center’s Senior Leadership Team for their confidence, collegiality, patience, and commitment.  They have bent over backwards to make my transition easy and I look forward to continue working with them in the years to come.  Finally, I’m deeply grateful to Dr. Paul Levy and the Associate Chairs who’ve stepped up to run the Department of Medicine in my stead.  In the next few weeks, we will begin a national search for a new Chair of Medicine, a search that will be led by Surgery Chair Jeff Peters. 

It is a great honor to be chosen as the 10th Dean of the School of Medicine and Dentistry and to join the list of such distinguished physician educators that have followed in the footsteps of George Whipple. 

I understand that in the near future there will be a formal investiture to officially install me as Dean.  I will outline my vision for SMD in detail at that time, but until then, I’d like to take this opportunity to touch on a few of the challenges and opportunities that we face.

There’s no question that these are particularly challenging times, with the tough economy, decreased NIH research funding, and health care reform looming large on the horizon.  Together, these factors could threaten the health and viability of academic medical centers.

But out of the direst of challenges come the greatest opportunities.  Especially when you have a rock-solid foundation upon which to build.

Over the past decade, thanks to a solid core of long-time, proven scientists and an infusion of talented new recruits, our research enterprise has grown substantially.  We currently have more than $175 million in NIH funding, a sum that has nearly doubled in the last ten years.  According to our calculations, we rank 25th highest in NIH funding.  Even more remarkably, we rank 12th highest in NIH funding among private medical centers.  And given the relatively small size of our research faculty compared with other institutions with similar amounts of funding, we are among the very highest in funding per investigator!

Thanks to all of you, we have the clarity of an ambitious yet realistic Strategic Plan designed to advance key areas of innovative science – and in particular, position the University of Rochester as one of the leaders in translational research.  We have the distinction of being one of the inaugural class of 12 medical centers to receive a first-round Clinical and Translational Science Award.  In 2011, we will cut the ribbon on the Clinical Translational Science Building – the first facility of its kind devoted to bringing breakthrough ideas from the laboratory to the bedside.  Although economic realities will continue to put pressure on these plans, we must and will move forward.

Rochester has always been an innovator in medical education:  founded in the Flexnerian model, home of the biopsychosocial model, and a trendsetter with the Double Helix Curriculum.  The School of Medicine and Dentistry will now be faced with the implications of health care reform and the need to adapt to what may be a radically different health care delivery system. A particular challenge will be the need to provide more primary care physicians, and to ensure that our region has a sufficient medical workforce to maintain the quality of health care we have come to expect in upstate New York.  Importantly, we must do so in the context of providing the next generation of academic physicians and scientists.  Once again, the country will look to places like the UR to establish new curricula to address these issues. 

Last but not least, our physicians and community must adapt to changes in health care delivery.  Concepts such as the Advanced Medical Home, Accountable Care Organizations, Payment Bundling, and Value-based Purchasing will, no doubt, move from the realm of theory and conceptual pilot projects into the mainstream.  Not only will we be called upon to help “bend the cost curve,” we will be expected to address issues of access and quality as well. 

The School of Medicine and Dentistry must provide the laboratory in which new concepts can be tested and perfected.  We can be the linchpin that connects the strength and success of our past with fresh approaches to providing cost-appropriate, accessible, high-quality medical care. 

As Dean, I will relish the challenge of keeping SMD at the forefront in research, education, patient care, and community service.  There is no institution or group of colleagues that I am more pleased to serve.  Thank you.