RBHS Progress Report, July 2015

July 17, 2015

Dear colleagues:

As we begin a new academic year, it is with pleasure that I provide an update on the progress we have made as we continue to build RBHS into one of the best academic health centers in the country. It has been two years since the integration, a year and a half since I became chancellor, and about nine months since we began to implement our strategic plan initiatives. This has required a lot of work from everyone and I thank you for all of your efforts. While our work is not complete, I think we are doing extremely well. I’ve outlined below a number of significant achievements over the past 18 months.

RBHS Strategic Planning National Recognition
Recruitment Faculty Development
Clinical Initiatives Research
Financial Advancement  

RBHS Strategic Planning

The RBHS strategic plan was developed with input from more than 5,000 faculty, staff, and students who responded to surveys and more than 500 faculty who served as members of working groups; overseen by the 24 members of the RBHS Strategic Planning Steering Committee; then presented to and endorsed by the Rutgers Board of Governors in October, 2014. Our plan focuses on the development of signature programs, complementary programs, educational initiatives, and clinical initiatives; plans to integrate among schools and across Rutgers; infrastructure needed to support these programs and initiatives; and financial and development strategies (see http://rbhs-stratplan.rutgers.edu/plan/key-strategic-plan-initiatives). Leaders for the signature and complementary programs:

  • Robert DiPaola, MD (cancer signature program)
  • Kenneth Reuhl, PhD (environmental and occupational health signature program)
  • William Gause, PhD (infection and inflammation signature program)
  • Gary Aston-Jones, PhD (neuroscience signature program)
  • Joel Cantor, ScD, and Shawna Hudson, PhD (community health and health systems emerging signature program)
  • Jeffrey Carson, MD (clinical research complementary program)
  • David Kimball, PhD (drug discovery and development complementary program)
  • David Foran, PhD (informatics complementary program)
  • Jasjit Ahluwalia, MD, MPH, MS (public health, including global health, complementary program)

Denise Rodgers, MD, will lead two educational initiatives: novel approaches to teaching and interprofessional education. Alfred Tallia, MD, MPH, is leading an accountable care organization initiative. Vicente Gracias, MD, is leading a patient access initiative. Kathleen Scotto, PhD, is leading an initiative to reorganize and strengthen PhD programs in biomedical sciences. Ah-Ng Tony Kong, PhD, is leading a task force to work in coordination with a university-wide committee to consider reorganization options in the basic sciences within RBHS, and provosts Jeffrey Carson and Robert Wieder are co-leading a faculty development initiative. Implementation of all components of the strategic plan is underway. Some highlights are included in this report. Progress and achievements for all initiatives will be provided on a strategic plan website that is in development (http://rbhs-stratplan.rutgers.edu/implementation/progress-implementing-rbhs-strategic-plan-initiatives). Paul Lioy, PhD, who recently passed, was leading an initiative to advance our institutional stature. His commitment and contributions will be missed greatly. The initiative will continue, led by a soon-to-be-named successor, to build on Paul’s work to enhance our esteem within the higher education community.

A capital master planning process is now beginning to address the capital needs to support our strategic priorities.

In addition to the initiatives identified above, I have also begun to meet informally with groups of faculty across RBHS. My goal is to get to know faculty members and their issues and concerns better, and respond to questions faculty have regarding our plans moving forward.

National Recognition

School of Nursing

The formation of the Rutgers School of Nursing, following the merger of the College of Nursing and the School of Nursing in July 2014, helped strengthen nursing education and patient care. The merger was noticed by the nursing community and enhanced the school’s national reputation, as demonstrated by the latest US News & World Report rankings. The school now ranks in the Top 10 percentile nationally among graduate schools of nursing.

Reorganization of the School of Public Health

The School of Public Health (SPH) has been reorganized to enable it to strengthen its academic base and effectively and efficiently enhance RBHS’s public health mission. The first step in this process was the appointment of Jasjit S. Ahluwalia, MD, MPH, MS, who began as the SPH dean in May, 2015. Faculty with relevant backgrounds and expertise who have appointments external to SPH but within RBHS were then invited to move to the SPH. Specifically, most faculty members in the RWJMS Department of Environmental and Occupational Health and from the NJMS Department of Preventive and Community Health moved to the SPH. Those whose appointments are being moved are not moving physically, but are simply moving their primary departmental affiliation.

Academic programs with a public health focus, including degree, training, and research programs throughout RBHS, will benefit from this reorganization and expansion, as will the students, trainees, and researchers in these programs. It is anticipated that course offerings will be increased over time. There will be economies of scale, and increased opportunities for team science and the pursuit of grants. The impact on academic programs, including student applications, enrollment, research and practice experiences, graduation, and job placement, will all be very positive. Creating a more significant critical mass should help the school's ranking as well.

Student Admission and Enrollment

It was envisioned that the integration with Rutgers and the changes thereafter would positively influence student enrollment. While it is too soon to assess the full impact, as one example, the Robert Wood Johnson Medical School admissions cycle for the entering class of 2015 is very encouraging. Applications (4004) increased 10% over the previous year, the number and percentage of accepted students who chose to matriculate surpassed previous years, well beyond expectations, and more out-of-state students (22) will be members of the entering class. In fact, the total number of matriculants now stands at 191, compared to the target number of 160.

Recruitment

Leadership Positions

Several leadership positions have been filled:

  • Kathleen Bramwell, MBA, joined us as RBHS senior vice chancellor and chief financial and administrative officer.
  • Jeffrey Carson, MD, and Robert Wieder, MD, PhD, were appointed as provost for RBHS–New Brunswick and provost for RBHS–Newark, respectively.
  • Susan Dolbert, PhD, joined the Rutgers University Foundation as vice president for development, RBHS.
  • Gary Aston-Jones, PhD, joined us as the inaugural director of the Brain Health Institute, a joint initiative of RBHS and Rutgers–New Brunswick.
  • Gwendolyn Mahon, PhD, was appointed as dean, Rutgers School of Health Related Professions (SHRP).
  • Jasjit Ahluwalia, MD, MPH, MS, joined us as dean, SPH.
  • Sherine Gabriel, MD, MSc, has been appointed as dean, Robert Wood Johnson Medical School (RWJMS). She will begin later in July, 2015.

Chancellor Scholars

A Chancellor Scholars Fund has been utilized to attract outstanding scientists to RBHS. Our goal is to recruit the highest quality faculty for interdisciplinary positions focused on research. The Chancellor Scholars Fund will enable us to strengthen and build our research mission. Those appointed to date:

  • Mark Siracusa, PhD, assistant professor of medicine, New Jersey Medical School (NJMS) (research interests: immunoregulatory role of innate immune cell populations during infectious disease).
  • Manuel Jimenez, MD, MSHP, assistant professor of pediatrics and family medicine and community health, RWJMS (research interests: developmental behavioral pediatrics, including autism, and community health).
  • Sally Radovick, MD, senior associate dean for translational research and professor of pediatrics, RWJMS (research interests: pediatric endocrinology, obesity, and diabetes).
  • Fredric Wondisford, MD, chair, Department of Medicine, RWJMS (research interests: endocrinology and metabolism).
  • Karen Edelblum, PhD, assistant professor of pathology and laboratory medicine, Center for Immunity and Inflammation, NJMS (research interests: immunology, inflammatory bowel diseases, intestinal barrier function, and intravital microscopy).
  • Aimee Beaulieu, PhD, assistant professor of microbiology, biochemistry and molecular genetics, Center for Immunity and Inflammation, NJMS (research interests: immunology, influenza, transcription factors, and epigenetics).
  • Molly Erickson, PhD, assistant professor of psychiatry, RWJMS (research interests: cognition in schizophrenia and investigations using electrophysiology (EEG and event related potentials). (Dr. Erickson will work primarily at University Behavioral Health Care.)

Faculty Development

Leadership Training

After an RBHS-wide competition, Barbara Gladson, PT, OT, PhD, Department of Pharmacology and Physiology, SHRP; Shawna Hudson, PhD, Department of Family Medicine and Community Health, RWJMS; and Monica Roth, PhD, Department of Pharmacology, RWJMS, were selected to attend the 2015 HERS Bryn Mawr Summer Institute, the prestigious 12-day higher education resources services leadership training course dedicated to creating and sustaining a community of women leaders.

After a similarly broad competition, 12 RBHS faculty and staff were selected to attend the Rutgers Leadership Academy, a two-year program for mid-career faculty and staff who aspire to broadened leadership roles within their units, the institution, and/or higher education more broadly. The RBHS faculty and staff selected to participate are: Lauren Aleksunes, PharmD, Department of Pharmacology and Toxicology, Ernest Mario School of Pharmacy (EMSOP); Nancy Cintron, Office of the Dean, EMSOP; Elliot Coups, PhD, Cancer Prevention and Control Program, Cancer Institute of New Jersey (CINJ), and Division of Medical Oncology, RWJMS; Tobias Gerhard, PhD, Department of Pharmacy Practice and Administration, EMSOP, and Institute for Health, Health Care Policy and Aging Research; Sabiha Hussain, MD, Department of Medicine, RWJMS; Sharda Kohli, MBA, Radiation Oncology, CINJ; Stephen Moorman, PhD, Department of Neuroscience and Cell Biology, RWJMS; Margaret Quinn, DNP, Division of Advanced Nursing Practice, School of Nursing; Sheraz Siddiqui, MD, Department of Family Medicine and Community Health, RWJMS; Steven Singer, DDS, Department of Diagnostic Sciences, Rutgers School of Dental Medicine (RSDM); Frank Sonnenberg, MD, Department of Medicine, RWJMS; and Tudor Vagaonescu, MD, PhD, Department of Medicine, RWJMS. The program will begin in the fall 2015.

Faculty Evaluation

Three RBHS faculty evaluation committees have been formed to develop metrics and processes for evaluating faculty performance in: 1) clinical excellence, 2) teaching, and 3) service. Research is the fourth discipline for which faculty are evaluated and we will be using the widely accepted metrics to evaluate research that already exist. The committees will work with provosts Jeffrey Carson and Robert Wieder to review existing evaluation metrics and processes within each RBHS school, best practices utilized by schools external to RBHS, and the literature. The goals for each committee are to develop good, meaningful, and standardized parameters where appropriate, utilizing qualitative and quantitative tools for the evaluation of faculty, both annually and for promotion. Provosts Carson and Wieder aim to have evaluation metrics and processes in place for the 2016 end-of-academic-year evaluations.

Faculty Mentoring

An RBHS-wide mentoring committee was formed by provosts Wieder and Carson. Members were selected from faculty nominated by their schools after an extensive set of interviews. Committee co-chairs are Anne Mosenthal, MD (Surgery, NJMS) and Kitaw Demissie, MD, PhD (Epidemiology, SPH). The committee’s goal is to develop a mentoring infrastructure that will serve the needs of junior faculty of all disciplines in all RBHS schools and institutes. Its first task will be to establish school-specific mentoring committees with broad representation and expertise in both basic and clinical sciences. These committees will partner with excellent mentoring programs that already exist and function in some of the RBHS entities and expand the programs to serve faculty in all disciplines. The committee’s second task will be to begin developing a sustained mentor-the-mentor program that incorporates best practices available in the mentoring field and apply them to train our mentors. The committee is organizing a one-day symposium on mentoring in the spring of 2016.

Faculty Contract

We are currently in intense and extremely productive negotiations with the AAUP-BHSNJ faculty union, and are optimistic that we may have a contract within the next few months.

Clinical Initiatives

Development of a New Model for a Multi-Specialty, Multi-Professional Faculty Practice Plan

A steering committee has been formed under the leadership of Dr. Vicente Gracias and a consultant has been hired to explore the potential for an RBHS-wide multi-specialty, multi-professional faculty practice plan. The vision is to create a “statewide, integrated Rutgers faculty practice that attracts the best providers and serves as the foundational component of a premier academic health center; an effective partner to patients, hospitals, community providers, and other affiliates; and the market leader in delivering consistent, value-based health care throughout the region.” Significant progress has been made. Current clinical operations have been assessed across clinical departments of multiple schools and campuses, clinical care units, and licensed providers to address the revolutionary changes underway in the health care delivery system. National trends and peer examples have been analyzed. Economic, operational, and legal perspectives have been considered. The consultants have presented the steering committee with early recommendations in draft form that are under discussion.

Hospital Affiliation Agreements

New and renegotiated master affiliation agreements (MAA) are being developed with principal and other teaching hospitals. A five-year agreement has been signed between RWJMS and Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital (RWJUH) that will benefit both partners and ensure the provision of quality health care. This is the first update of this relationship in decades and has set the two institutions on a new path as partners.

In Newark, we are renegotiating the terms of our MAA with University Hospital and beginning negotiations with Beth Israel Medical Center. Further, Navigant Consulting recently released a report recommending the restructuring of hospital care in Newark that includes the development of a regional medical center by combining Newark Beth Israel Medical Center and University Hospital on the current University Hospital campus. If the recommendation is accepted, this would be a long-term project requiring public-private partnerships and substantial capital investment.

Dual Chairs for Clinical Departments

New Jersey Medical School and Robert Wood Johnson Medical School are pleased to announce the creation of joint chairs for several of their clinical departments.

After a nationwide search, the current chair of Neurology at RWJMS, Dr. Suhayl Dhib-Jalbut, was selected to fill the Neurology chair at New Jersey Medical School. This model has been in place for the last six years, with Dr. Bruce Haffty, chair of Radiation Oncology at RWJMS, also serving as chair of the same department at NJMS.

Additionally, in light of their expertise and national prominence, Dr. Soly Baredes (chair of Otolaryngology-Head & Neck Surgery at NJMS) was named interim chair of the Department of Otolaryngology at RWJMS, and Dr. Charles Prestigiacomo (chair of Neurological Surgery at NJMS) was named interim chair of Neurosurgery at RWJMS.

We are excited about the opportunities this model provides to our two medical schools, in terms of an increase in training opportunities both in undergraduate and graduate medical education, as well as the potential for increased overall clinical revenues and research strength.

Robert Wood Johnson Health System and Barnabas Health System Merger

Robert Wood Johnson Health System and Barnabas Health System have signed a definitive agreement for a merger. While still subject to regulatory approvals, the net result will be the largest health system in New Jersey and one of the 10 largest in the U.S. The merged health system will align perfectly with RBHS and support our strategic plan.

Research

Pilot Research Grants

The New Jersey Health Foundation (NJHF) funded five multi-disciplinary, multi-investigator pilot research projects designed to advance RBHS strategic plan signature programs. The aim for each project is to produce data that will enable investigators to seek larger, externally-funded, multi-investigator awards.

NJHF also funded 23 additional awards to provide seed or bridge funding for faculty throughout RBHS, regardless of the focus of the project, and advance innovative research in New Jersey.

RBHS, through the Office of the Vice Chancellor for Research, sponsored the Team Science Initiative (TSI) grant program, implemented to encourage the creation of viable multi-disciplinary research teams that can tackle the complex, multi-faceted biomedical research questions that face us today. Five TSI grants were awarded (total $160K) to foster research in cancer, infectious disease, cardiology, mental health, and health services, and to enable the research teams to compete effectively for extramural support.

Other pilot grant programs are pending. The university’s Office of Research and Economic Development will award small grants, a maximum of $5,000 each, to full-time faculty to support studies that are likely to lead to significant extramural awards. In addition, NJHF will soon issue a call for its Innovation Grants program, teaming with the Nicholson Foundation, for faculty with promising ideas that will support the advancement of innovative ideas toward commercialization.

Equipment Grants

The National Institute of Health’s (NIH) Shared Instrument Grant and High End Instrument Grant programs provide much needed funding for the purchase of expensive, specialized equipment that can only be justified on a shared-use basis and that are critical to the research goals of our NIH-funded basic/translational and clinical investigators. Not surprisingly, these programs are highly competitive, and success depends on the quality of the research, the track record of the investigators, and a clear institutional commitment to both. In recognition of this, I committed approximately $600,000 in institutional support for six proposals that involved faculty from across RBHS as well as collaborators from other Rutgers schools. Equipment requested in these proposals will enhance our capabilities in animal imaging, high throughput screening, real-time analysis of biomolecular interactions, high-end proteomics, and microscopy. A financial commitment was also made for an NIH proposal to establish a Rutgers Mass Spectrometry Center for Integrative Neuroscience Research; we are delighted to report that the co-PIs of this proposal, Hong Li, PhD (NJMS) and Peter Lobel, PhD (RWJMS), have recently been notified that their proposal will be funded, thereby expanding our infrastructure in this critical research area.

Extramural Awards

Extramural awards received by RBHS faculty increased dramatically in FY 2015. Increases by quarter, from FY 2014 to FY 2015, are as follows: $48.5M (122%) for the 1st quarter, $11.8M (29%) for the 2nd quarter, and $9M (12%) increase in the 3rdquarter. This is a remarkable track record of funding success, and a real credit to our faculty. FY 2015 4th quarter results are not yet available.

Financial Advancement

Development

The integration of the former UMDNJ with Rutgers led to the creation of an RBHS unit within the RU Foundation. In addition to Susan Dolbert’s appointment as the inaugural vice president for development for RBHS, a considerable number of staff have been hired to replace staff members who are no longer with the university as well as existing staff members who have been promoted into new positions to support our development needs: Kurt Hinrichsen, MA, associate vice president, Newark; Joan Russo, associate vice president for CINJ and EMSOP; Eileen Murphy, PhD, senior director for corporate and foundation relations; Brittany Barkow, MS, director of development for basic science research; Dan Barnett, MA, director of development for pharmacy; and Marianne Wiatroski, BSN, RN, director of development for nursing. Other senior positions remain open, which will support the development needs for: NJMS; SPH; the Environmental and Occupational Health Science Institute and the Institute for Health, Health Policy and Aging Research; RSDM; RWJMS; and SHRP and University Behavioral Health Care. We hope to fill these positions soon. In addition, four new positions are being added to the RBHS team for FY 2016: a director of development for patient and family services (Tim Gale, who will begin on August 27); an associate director of development for events and leadership annual gifts for CINJ (Kaitlyn Woodward, who will begin on August 3), as well as a director of annual giving and a director of alumni relations.

Through the efforts of the RU Foundation, $45.16M was raised in FY 2015 for RBHS units with specific purposes designated by the donor. In addition, several new endowed chairs have been created. 1) Benjamin F. Rush Endowed Chair of Surgery. Funds will be used to retain and honor or recruit an eminent scholar in the field of surgery who possesses a distinguished record of research and teaching (NJMS). 2) Embrace Kids Foundation Endowed Chair of Pediatric Hematologic Oncology. Funds will be used to recruit an outstanding medical leader who has the ability to seize the current period of unprecedented opportunity in science and capitalize on it to advance the quality of life for children with cancer (CINJ). 3) Omar Boraie Endowed Chair of Genomic Sciences. Funds will be used to retain and honor or recruit an eminent scholar in Genomic Sciences (CINJ). 4) Peter W. Carmel Endowed Chair of Neurological Surgery. Funds will be used to retain and honor or recruit an eminent scholar in the field of neurological surgery who has a distinguished record of research and teaching (NJMS).

Financial Turnaround

I am extremely pleased with the financial progress we have made so far. In December, 2013, we projected an FY 2014 budget deficit of approximately $41M on our annual budget of about $1.5B. RBHS closed FY 2014 with a reduced deficit of $29M. We projected a $24M deficit in FY 2015 when the year began, but, as of May, the deficit had shifted to a small surplus of $3.4M, which represents a $21.4M positive variance to the fiscal year-to-date budget. While some schools/institutes are still in deficit and any deficit is unfavorable and not sustainable, our progress cannot be overstated.

As you can see, we are well on our way to creating a powerhouse academic medical center of national stature. Thank you again for all you are doing to achieve our goals. Please accept my best wishes for an enjoyable summer.

Brian L. Strom, MD, MPH
Chancellor, Rutgers Biomedical & Health Sciences