Dean’s Newsletter February 2011

As I have written before, brain sciences is one of Brown’s outstanding strengths. Many of you are aware that all of the science of the brain at Brown is under the umbrella of the Brown Institute for Brain Sciences (BIBS), headed by John Donoghue.  It includes not only the outstanding Department of Neuroscience chaired by Barry Connors, but faculty from many departments outside of BioMed, including Cognitive and Linguistic Sciences and portions of Engineering on the campus, as well as Psychiatry, Neurology, Neurosurgery and Ophthalmology in the hospitals.   Many faculty from still other departments focus their research and education on the neurosciences.

At the direction of President Ruth Simmons a strategic planning process has been undertaken on the campus to expand BIBS in a major way over the next 10 years.  This will include adding faculty, infrastructure, and research space.  We are in the process of developing a plan for the first phase of this campus expansion.  Furthermore, the recent gift of $15 million dollars to the Rhode Island Hospital to establish the Norman Prince Neuroscience Institute has added to our overall resources for clinical care and research.  Tim Babineau, CEO of Lifespan, and I are in the process of hiring a director shared between Rhode Island Hospital and Brown to coordinate our efforts. All of these developments on campus and with our partner hospitals will be coordinated through BIBS.  The faculty, our clinical partners, and my office are determined to develop BIBS into a world-class institute.

Another strength at Brown is its long history of outreach to developing countries in health care, education and research.  Activities have ranged from student exchange programs in countries such as Kenya and the Dominican Republic, population-based research in Ghana and South Africa, emergency aid in Haiti, HIV research in India, and direct clinical care throughout the world.  Students (undergraduates, medical students, and other graduate students), residents, fellows, and faculty have participated.  Many departments are involved, including Anthropology, Sociology, Community Health, Medicine, Surgery, Pediatrics, Orthopedic Surgery, Obstetrics and Gynecology, and Emergency Medicine.

In 2009 we established a Global Health Initiative on campus headed by Dr. Susan Cu-Uvin.  Its offices are on the fourth floor of Arnold Lab.   This Initiative, soon to be a center, provides a mechanism for coordinating activities in global health throughout the Brown community, in particular allowing people with interests in Global Health to explore the various opportunities for participation.  Symposia are held and seed grants are available for travel and research.  The Fogarty Grant, the Framework training grant, and others are managed by the Initiative.  Over the next several years I predict that there will be substantial growth of this initiative and increasing participation by the whole Brown community.

Funding in BioMed has increased markedly over the past two years because of federal stimulus funding and the success of our faculty.  For fiscal year ’11, we project that the Brown University’s research funding will approach $300 million dollars annually, with approximately $220 million coming from BioMed (this includes campus and hospitals).  The outlook for the future, however, is grim.  Funding for federal agencies, particularly the NIH and NSF, will fall and we will need to work very hard to sustain our current level of funding.

I am particularly proud of the faculty who have recently been named fellow of the AAAS.  There are three outstanding faculty members representing the Division: Edward Hawrot, the Alva O. Way University Professor of Medical Science, Department of Molecular Pharmacology, Physiology and Biotechnology; Agnes B. Kane, Professor of Medical Science, Department of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine; and Gary M. Wessel, Professor of Biology, Department of Molecular Biology, Cell Biology and Biochemistry.

My wife told me that many people are tired of hearing about the new Medical School Building, so if you are one of those, skip this paragraph.  I have been showing numerous alumni, local business leaders, faculty, and donors through the building.  The progress is remarkable.  The drywall is up and painting has begun.  We are pleased to announce that we have funding for the terrace on the fourth floor.  In nice weather (it’s covered with snow and ice now), students and faculty will be able to sit under umbrellas and view the Providence River, College Hill, the new Park across Eddy Street and its accompanying bridge to South Main, and downtown Providence.  At night the view will be even more spectacular, particularly when there is Water Fire.  We are on schedule (the building will be finished by mid-July and there will be a grand opening ceremony on the first day of classes, August 15, 2011) and on budget, knock on wood.

I have begun training to use an electronic medical record (EMR) system called E-Clinical Works for my practice at The Miriam Hospital.  E-Clinical Works is used in the Department of Medicine under University Medical Foundation and the Lifespan hospitals.  As you know, EMRs are extremely important for accurate medical record keeping, coordination of care, tracking of quality, communication between doctors, and billing.  From my point of view as a beginner however it can be cumbersome, time consuming, and sometimes makes me wonder who designs EMRs.  In the future, physicians have to make sure that we take full advantage of EMRs and their ability to ultimately enhance patient care.

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