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Health Center Today, October 6, 2010

Medical Dean: ‘Challenges Are Opportunities’

By Chris DeFrancesco

Photo of Dr. Cato T. Laurencin

Dr. Cato T. Laurencin addresses faculty on the state of the medical school.

Photo by Chris DeFrancesco

Dr. Cato T. Laurencin, vice president for health affairs and medical school dean, says he’s excited and optimistic about the future of the UConn School of Medicine.

"Challenges are opportunities" was the message of the "State of the School of Medicine" address he delivered to faculty October 4 in the Keller Auditorium. His speech also was webcast live to the new Cell and Genome Sciences Building at 400 Farmington Avenue.

Calling the Health Center "one of America’s great academic medical centers," Laurencin detailed a three-part vision:

  • To achieve top-tier status as a medical school and academic medical center
  • To become a destination location for health care first regionally, then nationally
  • To become an economic powerhouse for the region and state

Laurencin announced he was close to the goal he announced a year ago of adding 40 clinical science and 10 basic science faculty hires.

"But that’s not enough," Laurencin said. "It’s not enough to hire faculty. We have to really work very hard to retain our faculty. One of the ways is through working with Faculty Development."

Faculty Development programs include workshops, mentoring, and a series of lunchtime training sessions.

Laurencin gave an update on the medical school’s accreditation. Earlier this year, he announced the school had received a warning of probation from the Liaison Committee on Medical Education, the accrediting body for medical schools. The school remained and continues to be fully accredited. The final corrective action plan is due to the LCME in December.

"As an institution we have to reaffirm our commitment to education as we move forward," Laurencin said. "And hopefully, this process will allow us to be able to do that."

Laurencin offered several other institutional highlights:

  • The Health Center just submitted its application to the Health Resources and Services Administration for a $100 million federal grant, an essential component of the plan to build a new patient tower and launch the UConn Health Network initiative. A decision is expected within three months.
  • Design and planning for the tower is moving forward with the selection of an architecture firm.
  • The Health Center is reapplying next week for the Clinical and Translational Sciences Award, a major grant from the National Institutes of Health seen as crucial to the future of biomedical research at UConn.
  • Dr. Mike Summerer became the director of John Dempsey Hospital on a permanent basis in April. He had joined the Health Center as interim hospital director in January 2009.
  • Patient census numbers are showing improvement, thanks to aggressive marketing of the Emergency Department and Health Center physicians. The Health Center is starting a new television ad campaign called “I am UConn” that features faculty and staff.
  • In Fiscal 2010, for the first time, the Health Center received more than $100 million in extramural research funding.
  • The Health Center finished Fiscal 2010 with a budget surplus of nearly $4 million and is running a “break-even” budget so far this year.