The other day while my wife and I were having morning coffee, we realized that I’m starting my third year as dean of the School of Medicine! We talked about how quickly the first two years have passed, how much we love Charlottesville, and how happy I am at UVA — and what an incredible honor it is to serve as your dean.
In some respects, my role is like that of an orchestra conductor because I’m not the one actually making the music. I only facilitate and fully recognize that you are the ones doing the real work.
When we’re focused on the urgent tasks of each day, it’s easy to forget where we’ve been and what we’ve done. We’ve done a lot! This letter mentions only a few highlights. Because we have so many accomplishments to celebrate, I’ve added this link where you can see what we’ve achieved in specific areas.
UVA moved from 40 to 36 in the NIH rankings of schools of medicine, as reported by the Blue Ridge Institute for Medical Research! Congratulations to all of you who worked hard on writing grants and preparing the submissions! Our FY17 extramural funding was $221 million … our highest level ever, excluding ARRA. This is remarkable growth from $162 million in FY14 and is truly a cause for celebration. The data also show that we are diversifying our research portfolio to spread risk and to create opportunity for further success. Related to this, we have just contracted with The Conafay Group to help us improve our chances of success with funding from the Department of Defense and related federal agencies.
UVA and Inova executed an academic affiliation agreement to establish the Genomics and Bioinformatics Research Institute (GBRI) on the former Exxon campus in Fairfax. We’re just in the early stages of setting this up and it will be a game changer. The affiliation agreement also establishes the UVA School of Medicine — Inova Campus where 72 of our students will complete their 3rd and 4th years in a high-volume, urban environment to begin in 2021. The School of Medicine has taken a lead position in what we anticipate to be a more broad expansion of UVA into northern Virginia.
In September 2016 we renamed Jordan Hall to Pinn Hall, and recently we held the dedication ceremony. A group of SOM leaders identified UVA alumna Dr. Vivian Pinn as the ideal choice for representing excellence in clinical care, research, scholarship, and the character and personal qualities we value. Phased renovations on Pinn Hall have begun. In addition to providing modern, open, flexible laboratories, Pinn Hall will house a Nobel Atrium to honor the Nobel laureates who did their pioneering work at UVA — thus highlighting our future by recognizing stars who represent what is best about us.
We are starting our third year of a tuition freeze. Nationally, medical students are completing their programs with staggering levels of debt. Thanks to the support of our alumni and the scholarship programs they fund, our students graduate with an average debt level that is much lower than the national average. Freezing tuition, while helping to reduce student debt, results from sound fiscal stewardship at the School of Medicine.
For the second year in a row, the University of Virginia Medical Center was recognized as the number one hospital in the Commonwealth of Virginia. Six specialties (Cancer, Ear, Nose & Throat, Orthopedics, Urology, Diabetes & Endocrinology, and Cardiology & Heart Surgery) were ranked in the top 50. And Gastroenterology & GI Surgery, Nephrology, Neurology & Neurosurgery, and Pulmonology were called out as being “high performing” specialties. Congratulations to our caregivers, researchers, and staff for this recognition of your work!
Our accrediting agency, the Liaison Committee on Medical Education, is monitoring our success in increasing diversity among our faculty. While our URM faculty increased from 4.8% to 5.3% we still have much work left to achieve the AAMC 50th percentile of 6.7%. Now each department has a diversity plan that maps out a strategy and tactics to increase diversity among faculty and trainees.
I also want to share some information that makes a strong statement about our organization. As we continue to move as one Health System, it’s important to note that our partners in the Medical Center contributed $70.1 million in FY17 to the SOM for academic support. This is a significant and tangible statement of our partnership and of the shared trust between the individual entities of the Health System.
As I said, these are just some of the highlights. Clearly, we — that’s all of you! — have been doing a lot and accomplishing great things.
The events of August 11-12 created a lot of anxiety and uncertainty. We can get mired in the confusion or we can recognize something crucial — we are defined by who we are and what our values are, and not by the events of August. The importance of our work hasn’t changed. Let’s focus on our mission and our excellence. When someone asks where you’re from, you can stand a little taller and say, “I’m from the University of Virginia. I’m from Charlottesville.” And say it with pride, because you know who you are.
I’m very excited about what we are going to do together in the coming years. Although I’ve shared my priorities with you before, this is a good time to share them again.
- Execute the development of the UVA-Inova Genomics Institute.
- Operationalize the regional medical school campus for UVA 3rd and 4th year medical students at Inova.
- Continue an aggressive investment in research and faculty recruitment.
- Increase our NIH portfolio to $150 million by 2020.
This will take a lot of heavy lifting, but based on what we’ve already accomplished, I know we can do it. Every day we have the opportunity to do our best and every day I see the results of our efforts. My thanks to each one of you.
David S. Wilkes, MD
Dean, UVA School of Medicine
James Carroll Flippin Professor of Medical Science
See all accomplishments at https://news.med.virginia.edu/blog/deans-anniversary-letter/