On October 28, E. Albert Reece, MD, PhD, MBA, Vice President for Medical Affairs at the University of Maryland, and the John Z. and Akiko K. Bowers Distinguished Professor and Dean of the University of Maryland School of Medicine (UM SOM), delivered his annual State of the School speech to a standing-room-only crowd.
The theme of this year’s State of the School address was Undaunted in Purpose, Resilient in Execution. “I know that I stand before an undaunted community this afternoon,” said Dean Reece. “I sometimes marvel at our resilience in face of inevitable challenges. Each day, we improve the trajectory of progress in science and medicine. For this reason, it is important that we set aside time each year to collectively celebrate our successes. This Address includes just a small sample of the collective progress that we have made over the past year. These examples illustrate what happens when we set our sights on valiant outcomes, and not on temporary obstacles.”
Resilience has been necessary over the last few years, with sequestration and flat NIH funding adding to the already challenging task of securing grant funding. Yet UM SOM continues to grow in this area, earning $402.4 million in Research Grants and Contracts in FY 15, a nine percent increase. Contributing to this were numerous multi-million dollar grants, both from the National Institutes for Health (NIH) and from non-NIH funding sources such as the CDC, the Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, and GlaxoSmithKline, with whom UM SOM researchers worked in testing a potential vaccine against the Ebola virus.
Also adding to the funding success were the collaborations that came out investments in research such as the Dean’s Challenge Award and the Joint Seed Grant Program with the University of Maryland, College Park (UMCP). Both these initiatives encouraged senior and junior researchers to collaborate on “Big Science” projects, those that require broad collaboration across a variety of disciplines and departments. In its first year, the Dean’s Challenge Award awarded seed money to four of the 19 UM SOM teams who submitted proposals. The Joint Seed Program continues to grow and will have a new track this year, one that will fund some teams for two years rather than just one.
The number of students applying to medical school has been rising across the country, including at UM SOM, where 5,240 applicants competed for the 159 spots available in the Class of 2019. These students, ranging in age from 21 to 38 years, came from 67 different colleges and universities, and had GPAs and MCAT scores above the national average. Students in our Graduate Program in Life Sciences (GPILS) have been finding great success even before graduation, securing grants and publishing papers, many as first author, while still working on their degrees.
Greatly propelling forward UM SOM’s efforts to improve global health was the establishment of the Institute for Global Health (IGH). The Institute houses the reconfigured Center for Vaccine Development, now directed by Kathleen Neuzil, MD, MPH, and the newly formed Division of Malaria Research, directed by Christopher Plowe, MD, MPH. Dr. Plowe is the Director of IGH, and Dr. Neuzil is Deputy Director.
Community outreach has become ever more important as Baltimore recovers from the unrest that took place in April and tries to find ways to prevent such violence from happening again. UM SOM students serve as mentors in programs for students who are interested in science and medicine. Faculty and staff are also volunteering to serve as mentors for the recently launched UMB CURE (Continuing Umbrella of Research Experiences) Scholars program, a partnership between the University of Maryland, Baltimore and theUniversity of Maryland Marlene and Stewart Greenebaum Cancer Center that aims to establish a science pipeline that will put middle school students in West Baltimore on the road to rewarding research and healthcare careers.
“Each year I look forward with great anticipation to this address,” said Dean Reece. “I am particularly excited this year, as I am soon to mark my 10th anniversary as Dean of this School of Medicine. We have much to reflect on, but still have much more to accomplish, and, of course, exciting times ahead.”
Research was only one of five areas of focus that Dean Reece discussed in his speech, with clinical care, education, global outreach and community impact also being highlighted.
UM SOM’s clinical practices continue to expand. Our faculty physicians provided care to 1,245,411 patients in FY 15, 3.2 percent more than in FY 14. Clinical revenue increased 5.2 percent, to $292.2 million. The Maryland Proton Treatment Center is preparing to treat its first patients. UM Faculty Physicians at Waterloo Crossing in Columbia is now open. The medical center has a new state-of-the-art Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU), named for generous benefactors Drs. Rouben and Violet Jiji. And our Executive Health Program is attracting business, community and government leaders, as well as international patients, to our institution.