Dean’s Newsletter – February 2012

This past Sunday, I was showing my sister and her husband through the new medical school building before going to see The Merchant of Venice at the Trinity Repertory Company. While on the third floor of the building, we went into one of the seminar rooms and found two first-year medical students, Joe Schmidhofer and Tendo Kironde, studying for a neuroscience exam coming up on Thursday (incidentally, I had taught Joe’s mother, Edi Shapiro, in Pittsburgh when she was second-year medical student). Joe had come in at 7:30 in the morning to claim the room for studying that day. The chance meeting reminded me how important the building is for the students. Much of their time is spent studying, and they now have superb study space options. They spread throughout the building, use the white boards and their computers and iPads. The students are able to access all of their course material and textbooks, learning in the most effective way. In past years on the campus, a major issue they had was finding adequate study space. Sufficient space simply wasn’t available on the campus, particularly around exam times and during studying for boards.

We have been working on some strategic new academic initiatives in the Division of Biology and Medicine over the past six months. We have made major commitments to the area of Structural Biology by purchasing new equipment to analyze the structure of molecules and hiring new faculty. As you may know, scientists working in this area of biology discovered the structure of DNA that has proven so vital to all of biology and the health sciences. More recently, similar techniques were used to determine the structure of the HIV virus that in turn resulted in the development of effective drugs to battle this infection. We have also committed to new space and recruits in our Department of Molecular Microbiology and Immunology. Thanks to this and to the leadership of Laurent Brossay, MMI will become an even stronger department.

Support of Brain Science is another major commitment by Brown University. The University is investing in new faculty, infrastructure, and eventually new space for this exciting area. Three recruits are being hired this year alone. The overall Brain Science Initiative is multi-institutional and includes our hospital partners, who are also committing major resources by hiring new chairs of Neurosurgery, Neurology, and Psychiatry.

Public Health has some very exciting news. Last week, three faculty members from Tufts University were recruited to form a new Center for Evidence Based Medicine in Public Health at Brown. This highly successful, internationally known group, including Dr. Joseph Lau (see recent profile in The Lancet), Thomas Trikalinos and Christopher Schmid, uses meta-analysis to evaluate large numbers of studies in determining the effectiveness of medical treatments. Comparative effectiveness research is at the forefront of our country’s efforts to determine what works and what doesn’t work in medicine. The implications for quality medical care and reducing costs are enormous. Our hospital partners and clinical faculty will be working closely with this group to bring the best medical care to Rhode Island.

On campus, the Division is recruiting a total of 14 tenure-track faculty this year. This surge of initiatives and hiring has occurred in part because of the vision and support of our new provost, Mark Schlissel. Mark, I and others have worked hard to clarify our priorities and craft a plan for expansion in the Division. Using resources from the Provost’s office as well as Biomed will allow us to continue to grow strategically in our areas of strengths.

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