State of the School Address 2013

The state of the School of Medicine is strong thanks to its successful clinical enterprise, the ongoing support of its affiliated health-care providers and the dedicated work of faculty and staff, Dean Richard Krugman, MD, declared Wednesday.

In his annual address outlining progress during the past year, Krugman said the School will build from those strengths to implement proposals that emerged from a strategic-planning process that began in 2012 and continued throughout 2013. 

The proposals include:

building the nation’s premier inter-professional education program;

establishing a branch of the School of Medicine in Colorado Springs;

supporting efforts to pursue the “best science,” such as the creation of a Center for Bioinformatics and Personalized Medicine;

pursuing programs that encourage community engagement; and

structuring the governance of the clinical enterprise to respond to changes in the healthcare marketplace.

In recent years, the School has received substantial support from financial commitments and endowments established by University of Colorado Hospital, Children’s Hospital Colorado and University Physicians, Inc. A substantial commitment in October 2013 by the University of Colorado Health to provide annual funding will further bolster efforts to enhance the learning environment.

“This infusion of resources really gives us the opportunity to move forward with the plans,” Krugman said.

The School of Medicine has grown remarkably during the past two decades and now has more than $1 billion in annual revenues, with more than half of its support coming from University Physicians, Inc. (UPI), which manages clinical practice contracting, billing and collections of the faculty members.

In 1990, the clinical enterprise accounted for $48 million in annual revenue. In fiscal year 2012-2013, it provided about $540 million, Krugman said. Meanwhile, support from state government decreased from $16.8 million in 1990 to $13.3 million now. Student tuition and fees increased during the same period from $6 million to $32 million.

“UPI, as an organization, has always been a magnificent business enterprise,” Krugman said.

The growth of grants and contracts has been impressive too, Krugman said, increasing from $60 million in 1990 to $244 million in direct costs in the 2012-2013 fiscal year. Notably, the amount of grant support decreased only 1.5 percent last year at a time when across-the-board budget cuts by the federal government were decreasing grant funds by 5 percent to 6 percent at other schools.

“That’s a testimonial to the hard work of our faculty,” Krugman said.

Looking ahead, the School of Medicine will continue discussions that focus research efforts into programs that offer high potential benefits for scientific and medical breakthroughs. For example, the Department of Immunology will be relocating from National Jewish Health to the Anschutz Medical Campus and it will be consolidated with the Department of Microbiology in 2014. Discussions with other basic science departments about the potential benefits of focusing resources will continue.

A major initiative for the year ahead will be establishing the Center for Bioinformatics and Personalized Medicine. Investments in the infrastructure have been made, efforts to recruit a center director are underway and the Department of Medicine will be the academic home to a division focused on the discipline. Other departments, the CU Cancer Center, the Skaggs School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences will work together to establish the center.

“This, we hope,” Krugman said, “will be functional by the time my next State of the School speech rolls around.”

The interdisciplinary approach of the initiative is a major source of the School’s strength and was noted by the strategic-planning consultants who helped guide that process. Krugman recalled that a consultant remarked that the School’s academic leadership was unusually collaborative, saying: “This is a different planet here. They actually get along.”

The School must strive, though, to foster a respectful and civil learning environment, Krugman said, because students report a rate of mistreatment that is higher than the national average.

Krugman commended the Faculty Senate for its step toward making improvements. In November, the senate adopted a Faculty Promise acknowledging that “a culture of respect and compassion is essential to achieving excellence in education and patient care.” The promise, combined with other efforts, is part of comprehensive plan by the School to reduce the number of instances of learner mistreatment.

Attention to the issue is necessary because silence can be considered “tacit approval” of unacceptable behavior, said Krugman, who discussed the issue in last year’s State of the School speech. The efforts to raise awareness may already be yielding results based on a lunch Wednesday with a group of students who said instances were rare.

“I don’t want to extrapolate from a biopsy of just 11 students, but we may be doing just a little better.”​

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