December 21, 2018
Dear RBHS Colleagues:
As we look forward to 2019 and back on 2018, this has been another year of major accomplishments and milestones for Rutgers Biomedical and Health Sciences (RBHS). Just over five years ago, the historic enactment of legislation to restructure New Jersey’s higher education system created RBHS on July 1, 2013. The integration has provided us with the ability to develop new models for clinical care and community service, educate the next generation of health care providers utilizing team approaches, and conduct basic science, public health, and clinical research. We are now one of the nation’s most comprehensive university-based centers for studying and improving human health and health care. We are uniquely equipped to transform lives through the advancement of health care innovation, the provision of direct patient care that is supported by the latest research findings, and the education of the full complement of health care professionals. In my view, we are optimally positioned to be the premier academic health center for the 21st Century.
This month marks my own five-year anniversary with RBHS, and I would like to take this opportunity to reflect upon our many achievements together. There have been far too many exciting developments over the past five years to catalogue them all here, but I would like to highlight just a few of the many points of progress we have made together as Rutgers University’s newest campus and home for biomedical research, health professions education, and patient care.
Since the integration, we have successfully recruited a wide range of new leaders for our schools and institutes from within Rutgers and across the country. Since 2013, we have welcomed Deans Joseph Barone (Ernest Mario School of Pharmacy), Sherine Gabriel (Robert Wood Johnson Medical School), Perry Halkitis (School of Public Health), and Gwen Mahon (School of Health Professions). Our research institutes and clinical care units also have new leadership, including: Gary Aston Jones (Brain Health Institute), XinQi Dong (Institute for Health, Health Care Policy, and Aging Research), Frank Ghinassi (University Behavioral Health Care), Steven Libutti (Rutgers Cancer Institute of New Jersey [CINJ]), and Helmut Zarbl (Environmental & Occupational Health Sciences Institutes [EOSHI]). To lead our efforts in building an infrastructure for clinical and translational research in New Jersey, Rey Panettieri joined us as the director of the new Rutgers Institute for Translational Medicine and Science. Coordinating our significant contributions to health on a global stage is Richard Marlink as Director of our new Center for Global Health and Henry Rutgers Chair. Nir Eyal will be joining RBHS as the Henry Rutgers Chair of Bioethics in July of 2019. Most recently, we announced the successful completion of the search for the Director of the Center for Advanced Biotechnology and Medicine; Martin Blaser is coming to Rutgers from New York University in January.
Within the Chancellor’s Office, we welcomed Kathy Bramwell as Senior Vice Chancellor for Administration & Finance and Vicente Gracias as Senior Vice Chancellor for Clinical Affairs. Dr. Gracias also carries the titles of Vice President of Health Affairs for Rutgers University and Interim Chief Academic Officer for RWJBarnabas Health System. We also established the statutorily mandated offices of RBHS Provosts for Newark and New Brunswick, who serve as leaders of faculty affairs efforts across RBHS. Jeffrey Carson continues to serve as the inaugural RBHS Provost - New Brunswick and we recently welcomed Patricia Fitzgerald-Bocarsly to serve as RBHS Provost - Newark. The Provosts have led the efforts to revise our appointments and promotions guidelines, develop tracks to best fit faculty career trajectories, and sponsor a wide variety of career development conferences, mentoring workshops, and leadership seminars. Many faculty have attended leadership training while others have received bridge funding for their grants. Another new resource for faculty includes M. Maral Mouradian, now serving as Vice Chancellor for Faculty Development. Recruitments of a Senior Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs and Vice Chancellor for Marketing and Communications continue apace. A search for a Vice Chancellor for Diversity and Inclusion will be reinitiated in the New Year.
We made several internal consolidations as well. Under the leadership of Dean William Holzemer, the School of Nursing successfully combined the former Rutgers College of Nursing and UMDNJ School of Nursing into one of the largest and most prestigious nursing programs in the United States. Through the efforts of Deans Kathy Scotto and Jerry Kukor, the former Graduate School of Biomedical and Health Sciences recently merged with the Graduate School – New Brunswick to form the new School of Graduate Studies, the first combined school linking RBHS and Rutgers University – New Brunswick.
Our educational programs continue to be in great demand and recognized for their high quality. College Factual ranked the School of Health Professions #1 for the degrees in health professions. The US News and World Report ranked the SON’s Doctor of Nursing program at #18 and the Master of Science Program in Nursing at #20. The number of applicants for admission to each of our medical schools now far exceeds 5,000 for their classes of approximately 170, increased from about 2000 applicants before integration; this is a trend which is not reflected nationally.
Upon my arrival in late 2013, RBHS claimed a balanced budget for Fiscal year 2014 but was in fact on a trajectory for a deficit of $54 million. Our financial journey has been transformative as well, and despite absorbing responsibility centered management costs, debt, and reductions in appropriations, we closed FY 2018 with a budget surplus of $22 million. In large part, we can attribute this financial turnaround to increased grant awards and clinical revenues, both of which have risen considerably over the past five years, reflecting the productivity and commitment of our faculty. We also had a marked improvement in fundraising performance for RBHS by the Rutgers University Foundation, which has outpaced our targets and achieved record level performance.
Total research funding awards are up for RBHS by over $80 million since 2013. We also received notice that the National Institute for Environmental Health Studies renewed our major center grant for the EOHSI, and the National Cancer Institute (NCI) has renewed the CINJ core center grant, along with its status as New Jersey’s only NCI designated comprehensive Cancer Center. We are also expecting to receive momentarily the funding letter for a Clinical and Translational Science Award, awarded to our new Rutgers Institute for Translational Medicine and Science.
The physical plant of RBHS is also undergoing much needed renewal and improvement. Major accomplishments include the opening of the new state-of-the-art building addition for the Ernest Mario School of Pharmacy, tripling its practice teaching space and increasing the footprint of the school by fifty percent. The School of Dental Medicine recently held a grant opening of its expanded research facilities, totaling 25,000 square feet of new laboratory space. Planning and staging for a complete renovation of the NJMS Medical Science Building in Newark continues, as well as new expansion space for CINJ in New Brunswick, where we anticipate groundbreaking early in the New Year. Early planning is also underway for a new interprofessional academic, teaching, and translational research building in New Brunswick.
In 2016, the Rutgers Health Group (RHG) became operational as the faculty practice plan for RBHS. Uniting over 1,000 providers under one organizational umbrella, RHG is the first integrated, inter-professional faculty group practice in the country. The creation of this new model for organizing academic health care, is a core component of our drive to combine innovative delivery with population level care distinguishing ourselves from our nearby competitors. With the help of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, we launched our new brand “Rutgers Health”. This brand represents our commitment to quality and excellence, which is inspired by innovation and discovery, and is fully dedicated to keeping populations healthy. Rutgers Health sites are located in sixteen of New Jersey’s 21 counties in over 50 municipalities.
Perhaps the most significant milestone of the past five years is the signing of the Master Affiliation Agreement with RWJBarnabas Health. This partnership forges a real critical mass for transformation and innovation, as together we can shape the health care delivery system in New Jersey. For its initial 20-year term, RWJBarnabas will invest nearly $1 billion in the academic missions of RBHS. This transformational partnership will allow us to double our research portfolio, adding 100 new primary investigators to our faculty. Separately we were each a strong institution, but by working together we are more than formidable with the critical mass necessary to break into the upper tiers of academic health centers nationwide. With a combined five million patient visits per year, we have an unprecedented opportunity to deploy clinical and translational research innovations. We are able to invest in our core missions of research, education, and patient care at a level not seen in a generation. Most importantly, together we are becoming a model patient-centered practice, committed to quality, access, and value that is wholly devoted to helping our patients get well and stay well.
Again, there are far too many accomplishments across RBHS to enumerate within this message. Every day our faculty, staff, and students work to improve the lives of our patients and contribute to our local communities. We also make meaningful contributions advancing the scholarship and learning represented across our wide variety of disciplines in biomedical research and health professions education.
Many of you know that I begin and end all of my presentations at RBHS by stating my core goal for RBHS: to build one of the best academic health centers in the country. Over the past five years, we have made tremendous progress towards realizing this goal. I would like to thank each and every one of your for your contributions to this tremendous effort. Please accept my best wishes for you and your families this holiday season.
Brian L. Strom, MD, MPH
Executive Vice President for Health Affairs