Faculty are focus of med school speech

by Melanie Evans

The words “moving forward with excellence,” echoed many times Wednesday by Medical School Dean Alfred Michael, are words he hopes will become synonymous with the school’s reputation by Jan. 1, 2000.
On the tail of President Clinton’s annual policy speech, Michael delivered the University’s first State of the Medical School Address to more than 100 faculty members and administrators at the Basic Sciences and Biomedical Engineering Building.
With less then a year at the helm, Michael heralded increased faculty salaries, closer ties with Minnesota’s biomedical industry and increased educational resources as priorities for 1998 that will distinguish the school as one of the nation’s elite.
“The mission of this medical school is to be a leader in enhancing people’s health through education, biomedical research and clinical programs,” Michael said. “This mission has not changed and is not about to change. It is the golden thread that ties us together.”
In addition to being his majority audience Wednesday, faculty members were at the forefront of many of Michael’s initiatives throughout the address.
Much of the educational institution’s goals for 1998 derived from priorities set by the faculty at a November planning retreat. The retreat capped nine months of departmental planning among department heads and faculty members.
“Those agenda items to which we will devote our full attention in 1998 are based on the recommendations which you, the faculty, determined were critical to our success,” Michael said.
Michael pledged to establish by June 1998 an evaluation and research training center for continuing education for faculty members, though he didn’t say how it would be funded. He also called for the appointment of a new associate dean of research by the end of February to act as a liaison between the school and the private industry.
Michael’s address also included strong support for University President Mark Yudof’s $290 million budget request. Yudof earmarked close to $30 million of the budget request to raise faculty salaries and recruit top-ranked faculty.
Dr. Harry Orr, laboratory medicine professor, was among the faculty members who attended Wednesday’s address for an indication of the new dean’s priorities for the school’s limited resources.
Medicare cuts, competition from managed health care and internal reorganization have frayed the Medical School’s focus, said Orr in an interview before the address.
He said the school needs to regain that focus to remain a competitive research and education institution.
“In an era of demanding resources, the whole has to be greater than the sum of its parts,” said Orr, who also serves as Michael’s adviser for the basic sciences.
After the speech, Orr said he was satisfied Michael’s goals would provide the necessary focus for the school, whose 23 departments demand the largest operating budget of the seven colleges within the Academic Health Center.
“It’s good to hear it from the horse’s mouth,” said Dr. Paul Qiue, a Regents’ professor in the pediatrics department.
However, students stand to gain from the dean’s upcoming plans as well. Michael proposed the creation of a 30,000 square foot education center, a state of the art learning facility for medical school students to be built with private funds.
He said by the year 2000 University students would compete with such top schools as Harvard, Johns Hopkins, and Stanford.