Dean’s Newsletter – November 2011

I promise I won’t talk about the building again, but I have to describe in brief two events that celebrated the official opening of the new Medical School Building in the past few weeks.

Members of University Orthopaedics in the Michael G. Ehrlich, MD case study room

On Saturday evening, October 15, we held a special event to express Brown’s thanks to all of the donors who made it possible to construct the new building. Donors were thanked officially, given tours of the building by medical students and had their photographs taken with Ruth Simmons and me. As usual, the students outshined everything. Shreyus Kulkarni MD’14 gave a terrific talk about the importance of the building to the students and their education. He finished by making a very effective plea for a donor to fund the future fitness center, showing how important the building is for the students. Jonathan Fain and I had planned to have our photograph taken in a seminar room on the third floor. When we opened the door, we saw a picture of a microscopic view of a nephron, the working part of our kidneys, on the flat screen. Five second-year students were seated around the table studying for an exam coming up on Monday. We shut the door quietly and had the photo taken outside of the room. Needless to say, students are working hard almost around the clock in the building.

The following Friday, Brown University officially dedicated the building during the Corporation meeting. The speakers were in academic regalia. Chancellor Tom Tisch accepted the building for Brown and thanked all those who made it possible. Ruth Simmons noted that for the first time, the mace of Brown University had crossed the Providence River.

Kenneth Breuer carries the mace as it crosses the Providence River

Herb Kaplan, President of The Warren Alpert Foundation, was given an honorary degree in recognition of his role in making this building possible. Our student speaker, Marina MacNamara MD’12, had a touch of laryngitis but gave testimony to the School, the building, and its importance to her and other students.

(left to right) Marina MacNamara MD'12, Provost Schlissel, Chancellor Tisch

Dr. Darrell Kirsch, president of the Association of American Medical Colleges, gave the keynote talk. He praised Brown’s vision in investing in the future doctors of America, and in particular placing the building in the Knowledge District of Providence, the future economic engine of the city and the state. The food at this event, supplied by Brown Catering, was outstanding. I can attest to the mango desserts but not the sushi. We also realized how well the space in the atrium on all three floors works for social events. People could easily move up and down the stairs to all parts of the building and enjoy this exceptionally designed building. At the end of the evening, the students scooped up the extra food and stored it in refrigerators in the academies for future snacks.

A meeting of the President’s Leadership Council was held on Friday October 28th. The Council is a distinguished body of select alumni, parents, and friends of the University. They are informed of issues and challenges facing Brown and have an opportunity to discuss with the president and senior officers the future direction and activities of the University. During the afternoon, a panel of six medical students from all four years (Amanda Westlake MD’12, Thomas Anderson MD’13, Jenna Lester MD’14, Grayson Armstrong MD’14, Greg Elia MD’15, and Erica Alexander MD’15) told the group of their background, their plans for their future careers, and why they came to Brown. These students enthusiastically described the uniqueness of the School. They spoke of the culture of support by their fellow students and the faculty, the sense of empowerment that the students have, and the mission of the School that includes a strong sense of social responsibility. They expressed better than anyone else can how excited they are about their education, their optimism for the future, and the importance of the building. It made me realize again that all the work we do as faculty, alumni, supporters, and administrators is for the students, a truly remarkable group who will be the future physician leaders of our country.

In a separate development, George Vecchione, president and CEO of Lifespan, has announced that he will step down in December 2012 after 15 years in his position. George has been a highly successful leader. He took over a system that was losing tens of millions of dollars each year and had not invested in its infrastructure appropriately for years. During his early years he had to deal with deficits on operations approaching $50 million/year, power outages in Rhode Island Hospital, labor strife, and tension with physicians. Under his direction, Lifespan invested heavily in its infrastructure, and increased its revenues significantly through such programs as the outpatient laboratory testing system and contract negotiations with health insurers. He centralized back office functions of the system and invested heavily in IT. Perhaps most importantly for Brown, he supported the educational programs including supervising the training of over 500 Brown residents and fellows each year. These trainees are critical to the education of our medical students during the clinical years. Lifespan also invested heavily in its research programs, growing the research profile over time to $80 million each year. Moreover, the system helped Brown recruit hundreds of faculty in all areas. Finally, he negotiated an amendment to the affiliation agreement with Brown that supported the Medical School financially, defined a trademark agreement, and helped develop a strategic planning process with the School. He leaves a strong hospital system to his successors.

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