Vital Signs - November 2003

November 2003

On the Road To National Prominence

C. McCollister
Dr. Evarts at the Research Patent Awards Ceremony.

This September, C. McCollister "Mac" Evarts was appointed as senior vice president and vice provost for health affairs and Medical Center CEO. With more than four decades of experience as an orthopaedic surgeon and health care administrator, Dr. Evarts takes over the helm of the Medical Center at a critical juncture in its growth and development. Below we talk to Dr. Evarts to find out a bit more about his career, and how he plans to use his years of experience to shape the immediate and long-term future of the Medical Center.

Q: So back where it all started?
Dr. Evarts: Yes. It's true that some things in life do come full circle. I came to medical school having selected Rochester over some other notable schools. I was given the advice that it was the best college of medicine in the Northeastern part of the United States by my uncle, who at that time was the dean of the Downstate College of Medicine. Being from Fredonia (a small southwestern New York town about 60 miles south of Buffalo), I think I was bit reluctant to move to New York City. And, I liked the philosophy of medical education at Rochester. Rochester really had—and still has—a stellar reputation for medical education.

Q: When you decided to become a doctor, did you know what you would specialize in?
Dr. Evarts: Absolutely not. I fell into the category of someone that wanted to be a doctor from a fairly young age, but really wasn't clear at all what type of medicine I wanted to pursue. So after completing medical school, I entered the two-year rotating internship at Rochester to help select a specialty. As an outcome of that, I moved into general surgery.

I was then drafted during the so-called "doctor draft," and spent two years in the U.S. Navy, one year on an aircraft carrier. I came back to Rochester and began the orthopaedic residency program. After completion, I joined the Cleveland Clinic in their orthopaedic department, and served as chair of the department from 1970-1974. In 1974, I came back to URMC to head the newly formed Department of Orthopaedics. I stayed until 1987.

Q: Then you went to….
Dr. Evarts: Then I went to Penn State College of Medicine at the Hershey Medical Center. My role there was Senior Vice President for Health Affairs, Dean of the College of Medicine and CEO of the Hershey Medical Center. In 2003, we moved back to Rochester.

Q: Why back to Rochester?
Dr. Evarts: Both Nancy (my wife) and I consider Rochester as our professional home. I've been associated with academic health centers throughout my entire career, and URMC is an academic health center that is really on the move—growing in size and stature, and making waves in research. After some urging, the senior leadership at Rochester convinced us to move.

Q: With the many years of experience you have, first as a physician, and then as an administrator of a major academic health center, what do you hope to bring to the University of Rochester Medical Center?
Dr. Evarts: I understand what the components are of an outstanding academic health center. There needs to be a balance between the four missions of research, education, and patient care, and community outreach, and an integration of these missions so that each can excel in its particular area. I think the outstanding academic health centers in this country today not only have this integration, but they are at the leading edge of research, education, patient care and community outreach. That requires a special commitment by the leadership to create an environment where the faculty and staff driving each of the missions have the tools and support needed to ensure their growth and success. So right now, I am concentrating on integration and creating an environment to enable URMC to continue its growth.

Q: Can you give us a sense of what your vision is for each of the mission areas?
Dr. Evarts: In the educational arena, we have to continue to refine what is currently a very innovative curriculum in order to educate our students to become outstanding physicians in the 21st century. There are different demands that are going to be made on these students. One of them is going to be to collaborate with other parts of the health care team—no longer is there a role for a single physician controlling everything as far as health care delivery. Physicians will have to work in teams of nurses and others. And, the cost of medical education has risen exponentially. We have students who are leaving with major debts, and that sometimes leads to the selection of a specialty inappropriately.

Also, a recent survey by the Council on Graduate Medical Education suggests that there will be shortage of all types of physicians—not just specialists—in the near future, so we are being encouraged to educate more students and perhaps compress the timeframe for medical education. Both of these present challenges that we are studying very closely so that we can continue to provide the very best education for our students.

Q: What about the research initiative here?
Dr. Evarts: There exists an absolutely wonderful research infrastructure at URMC. We have state-of-the-art biomedical research buildings that are filled with some of the world's most distinguished basic science faculty poised to make significant research discoveries. The construction of the two research buildings and the subsequent recruitment was and continues to be a dramatic undertaking. We have created a certain momentum in the research area that is not slowing down. The momentum is reflected by the stunning increases in NIH funding we have recently sustained. In fact, our percentage of growth in research funding is fourth among the top 20 schools. That doesn't mean we are fourth in funding, but we are fourth in the percentage of growth. It is truly remarkable. And it's not slowing down.

My main objective here is to continue to attract top-notch scientists established in their field of research. Sometimes, I think we all tend to focus on the numbers—let's increase our funding; let's increase our rank. But if we maintain and enhance the quality of our research programs, those numbers will continue to grow.


Dr. Evarts speaking
C. McCollister "Mac" Evarts, M.D.

Q: Speaking of growth, are there any particular clinical areas we will focus on?
Dr. Evarts: All major academic health centers are full service institutions. So while we will continue to be a full service provider, there will be some very specific areas that will grow, especially in relation to the demographics here. The reality is that our region is home to an aging population, and we must be able to provide the care and services needed by these folks. At the same time, we will continue to focus on those niche programs that have proven successful or have the potential to draw patients from a broad geographic region.

Q: And what about community outreach?

Dr. Evarts: I think community outreach is one of the areas that we need to pay a fair amount of attention to. We need to be able to collaborate with the Monroe County Health Department, along with the other institutions in town, to address the health of our citizens. We have some of the basic building blocks to be able to do this, and if we partner with other health systems and the health department, we will have a pretty strong coalition.

Q: How would you characterize your leadership style?
Dr. Evarts: Hopefully, my leadership is one of transformation rather than transactional. By that I mean setting the direction so that people can respond and work towards a common goal. I try to do this in a deliberative and evaluative manner to reach conclusions and to make decisions.

This is one of the reasons I have identified the senior leadership team that meets every morning at 7:30 a.m. It includes the hospital CEO (Steve Goldstein), the chief financial officer (Mike Goonan), the dean (David Guzick), the chief medical officer (Ray Mayewski), and the Medical Center's chief operating officer (Peter Robinson), and we have almost 100 percent participation every day. I think right now they are afraid not to attend (chuckles).

This meeting helps to achieve the integration I talked about earlier; all parts of the institution are talking with each other on a daily basis. Now part of the reason for the formation was that I had a very, very steep learning curve about what was going on around here. But now, it helps me to review what happened yesterday and what is going to happen today and what is going to happen tomorrow. We use it as a mechanism so that I am not arbitrarily making decisions--or avoiding making them either.

This meeting also allows me to get different perspectives. If someone comes in to talk about space or has an issue, you have a very wise group of people with a lot of history here who can help formulate a response or decision that takes ALL parts of the institution into account.

Q: Should faculty and staff expect to see any significant changes?
Dr. Evarts: We have already talked about growth. We should continue to see growth, not necessarily in new buildings, but more activities. I also hope faculty and staff will see an openness in the institution and responsiveness by senior leadership to their concerns. I think we want to create a place where they are proud to say they work—make them part of the institution, and not just some gigantic place where you have to work.

Q: When you leave, what would you like your legacy to be?
Dr. Evarts: I would like to think that when I leave we will be among the very, very top academic health centers in the world. And I'd like to leave it in a position to continue its growth. Historically, academic health centers do not plan well for succession. I would really like to create an environment where when it's time for me to leave we can attract a successor that is the very best in the country.

Q: Do you have one message for faculty and staff?
Dr. Evarts: Yes. The potential here is absolutely incredible in all areas--the research enterprise, education, patient care and community outreach. We have barely scratched the surface!


$2 Million Gift Spurs Construction of New ICUs


Laurence and Dennis Kessler are donating $2 million to help fund the construction of an adult ICU for burn and trauma patients
The Kessler family at the naming ceremony of the Kessler Family Burn/Trauma ICU. From l. to r.: Laurence Kessler, Karen Kessler, Dennis Kessler, Strong Memorial CEO Steve Goldstein.

Continuing their long-standing commitment to the emergency and trauma services at Strong Memorial Hospital, Rochester restaurateurs Laurence and Dennis Kessler are donating $2 million to help fund the construction of an adult ICU for burn and trauma patients. The new Kessler Family Burn/Trauma ICU will be the state's largest and most modern trauma and burn facility outside of New York City. It is part of a larger $20 million construction project at Strong Memorial and Golisano Children's hospitals to expand intensive care units for children and adults, as well as bring a Ronald McDonald House on-site to the hospital.

As Strong Memorial and Golisano Children's hospitals continue to become a magnet for specialized services in the Finger Lakes region and beyond, a ripple effect has been felt in the adult and pediatric intensive care units, which are operating at capacity almost every day. For example, more than 800 children are treated annually in the PICU, an increase from 550 a year in the early 1990s. The number of burn/trauma patient cases has increased nearly 25 percent in the last five years.

Recognizing this need, leaders at both hospitals collaborated on a plan to meet the growing needs, and as a result of their hard work—and the tremendous generosity of area donors—construction for these new units is now under way directly above the two-story emergency department and Laurence and Dennis Kessler Regional Trauma Unit on Elmwood Avenue. Each unit will occupy a complete floor, and construction is slated for completion by the end of 2004.

"These projects will provide our most critically ill and injured patients with the best chance for survival and recovery, and the best opportunity to return to healthy, productive lives," says C. McCollister Evarts, M.D., Medical Center CEO.

Kessler Family Burn/Trauma ICU
Strategically located directly above the emergency department, the new location will allow for easy transfer of incoming trauma cases from the ED for more seamless patient care. The 22-bed unit is three times larger than the current trauma space, and will increase by 50 percent the number of beds available for trauma and burn patients. Fifteen beds will be devoted to trauma care and seven beds designated for adults suffering from burns, although a flexible configuration will allow rooms to be used depending on patient needs at any given time.
In addition, the new unit will include a family waiting room, centralized nursing stations with advanced patient monitoring equipment, a hydrotherapy room, exam room, and consultation room.

"I have great respect and admiration for the life-saving work performed at Strong to give people suffering from terrible injuries the best chance they can to live a normal life after an accident," Dennis Kessler, who is also a University of Rochester Medical Center board member, said. "Our gift is a testament to the passion and commitment that the doctors, nurses and staff bring to their work everyday, and to ensure that Strong, as the region's only trauma center, provides the best treatment and care to people at a time in their life when they need it most."

Enhancing Pediatric Intensive Care

Laurence and Dennis Kessler are donating $2 million to help fund the construction of an adult ICU for burn and trauma patients
Laurence Kessler and his wife Karen sign a construction beam of the new Kessler Family Burn/Trauma ICU.

The new PICU will nearly double in capacity, from 12 beds to 22. Twelve of the beds will be used as a Pediatric Cardiac Intensive Care Unit. Some rooms also will be designed with special monitoring areas to provide staff with greater visibility of patients who need more observation and intervention. All rooms are larger in size, designed to incorporate comfortable space for parents to stay with their child, reinforcing our belief that a parent's presence has a positive impact on the emotional and physical well being of an ill or injured child.

Other amenities include a procedure room to accommodate minor surgeries; the Quiet Room for private meetings between staff and families; and a blood-gas room staffed around the clock to measure various blood chemistry levels in just 30 seconds.

Significant gifts from B. Thomas Golisano, Daniel and Nancy Robbins, and Wal-Mart and Sam's Club have made the PICU construction possible.

A House Within the Hospital
The Ronald McDonald House at Golisano Children's Hospital will be the third hospital-based Ronald McDonald House in the world. The 4,000-square-foot house will offer eight bedrooms, a family lounge, kitchen and dining area, and laundry facilities for parents who have children in the PICU. More than 4,400 families have taken advantage of the "home-away-from-home" service provided by the local Ronald McDonald House during the past 13 years, and this second House will allow them to offer more services to more families.


Medical Center Honors Patent Recipients

Walk through one of the Medical Center's research labs some evening, and you'll see lots of people in rumpled white coats and blue jeans putting in long hours. But if you think they're up late writing grant applications, think again. These days, it's a good bet they're writing patent applications.

Since January 2000, more than 30 faculty members in the School of Medicine and Dentistry have won patents on inventions they've developed as part of their research. Recently this group of new faculty-inventors was honored at a reception hosted by Medical Center CEO C. McCollister "Mac" Evarts, M.D., and David Guzick, M.D., Ph.D., dean of the School of Medicine and Dentistry.

Among the honorees were Donald Young, M.D, professor of Medicine and Biochemistry, and Kerry O'Banion, M.D., Ph.D., associate professor of Neurobiology and Anatomy, the team that discovered the cox-2 gene (which led to the development of the arthritis medicines Celebrex and Vioxx), and Ruola Ning, M.D., associate professor of Radiology, who has developed a new type of CT scanner that's able to detect cancer at a much earlier stage than conventional CT.

Winning patents on such work is becoming increasingly important to universities, because it allows them to charge fees – called licensing fees – to companies that want to develop those innovations into new drugs or medical devices. Two years ago, the Medical Center established the Office of Technology Transfer, led by Marjorie Hunter, to help faculty determine whether their inventions are patentable, and if so, to guide them through the process of getting a patent and then finding a company interested in licensing the invention. In some cases Hunter's staff advises faculty on forming their own start-up companies to commercialize their inventions.

Over the past five years, faculty at the Medical Center have been awarded nearly 40 patents and formed several start-up companies. The University as a whole earned $42 million in royalties last year and is ranked seventh in the nation in royalty income.

Using inventions as a source of revenue has become a major focus for academic medical centers recently, as they have struggled to offset shrinking reimbursement for health care services. But it's more than just money driving the effort, as Evarts noted during his remarks at the patent winners' reception.

"At the very heart of our mission is the pursuit of knowledge for the purpose of treating and curing disease," said Evarts. "But the fact of the matter is that we as an academic institution can't do that alone. A discovery made in one of our labs can't help people until a company in the commercial sector takes that knowledge and uses it to produce a product, such as a drug or a medical device or a diagnostic test. That's when our discoveries have truly helped people." 


Website Features New Diversity Database

A new online database launched earlier this month offers faculty, staff, students, and volunteers a centralized location to search for ongoing diversity activities throughout the University and Strong Health. Part of the University's Diversity Website, the database includes programs, initiatives and training opportunities, and will soon expand to include a calendar of diversity-related events. Those visiting the site are not only encouraged to search for programs but to submit new items to the database as well.

"I'm pleased to announce the expansion of the University's Diversity Web site, and I encourage all members of the University/Strong Health community to view the site and submit information about diversity-related initiatives and activities under way," says Charles Murphy, associate vice president for human resources.

The Diversity Initiatives Database was developed under the guidance of a group that includes representatives from many University and Strong Health units and departments. The goal was to create a database that is searchable in various ways, including by area of interest (race, age, gender, etc.), by target audience (faculty, alumni, students, etc.), and by affiliation (Eastman School of Music, School of Nursing, the College, etc.).

Visitors are encouraged to use the online form to submit new information on programs and events or to visit the guestbook to offer comments or suggestions. All submissions will be reviewed by site administrators before being added to the site.

"Our hope is that this new Web site will become an outlet for faculty, staff, students, volunteers, and others to share information and further enhance our efforts to create and maintain an inclusive environment," says Marcia Furey, manager of human resources.

To view the site, visit



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Last updated: 06/23/2009 10:10 PM