Dean’s Newsletter – March 2012

Two weeks ago I worked with a fourth-year medical student, Katherine Thompson, in my clinic. I had not met Katy before, but was impressed with her excellent rapport with patients and her knowledge of medicine. Between seeing patients I asked her what her background was. She grew up in the Washington, DC, area and then went to Harvard College, majoring in social studies. I asked her what she did after college, and she surprised me by saying that she had worked with Atul Gawande, the famous Harvard surgeon, who has written about health care practice, the quality of health care, clinical guidelines, and coaches for doctors. Katy said she not only worked with him, but helped him put together many of his written works, including an article that ran in The New Yorker entitled, “The Checklist”. After two years with Dr. Gawande, she decided to come to Alpert Medical School. Needless to say, she made my day, and once again I realized what talented and truly outstanding students we have.

Match Day, on March 16, was terrific (see full list). Our students matched to outstanding residencies—it seemed to me the best overall that I have seen. We held the event in the new medical school building for the first time…balloon drop and all. Many families were able to attend with their students. Several babies were there to cheer on their parents. Phil Gruppuso, associate dean for medical education, played with his band as usual. At noon sharp, students ripped open their envelopes, let out a yell, and immediately did one of several of the following: 1) hugged friends, 2) hugged family members, 3) phoned their friends, 4) texted their friends, and 5) had a drink of Champagne. Of interest, 44.1% of our students matched to primary care programs (family medicine, internal medicine, pediatrics, or med/peds), an increasing trend over the past few years. A smaller number of students graduated this year (79) compared to previous years, primarily because many students have taken time off to do research, work overseas, or get master’s degrees. Next year we anticipate close to 120 graduates. Incidentally, I have learned from experience that absolutely no one has any interest in hearing what the dean has to say on Match Day, so I wisely said nothing. As you can imagine, a great time was had by all.

Brown President-elect Christina Paxson came to campus last week. She officially begins her duties July 1. As you may know, she is currently professor of economics and dean of the Woodrow Wilson School at Princeton University. Her scholarship in part has dealt with health care and the effect of poverty on health, including that of children. She has also been funded by the NIH. I attended a dinner honoring her given by the Provost and I also had a one-on-one meeting with her. My impressions, like everyone else’s, I have talked to, have been very positive. Christina is quite interested in both the Medical School and the future school of public health. By extension, she asked many questions about the health care system in Rhode Island, our hospitals and our physicians. Furthermore, she expressed an interest in meeting faculty and health care leaders in our community. I for one am very excited to have her as our new president and look forward to her active involvement in BioMed.

Medical schools rankings were published recently in US News and World Report. Our ranking in primary care rose from 28 to 24, but in research dropped from 29 to 35. We have seen this type of variability from year to year previously. Research funding dropped for practically all schools because of the decrease in ARRA funding. We believe, however, that the drop in our research ranking resulted from a fall in NIH funding compared to our close competitors. There is a cluster of schools close to our ranking, and the change in even one of the eight factors used to determine ranking can rearrange the order of this cluster. You should keep in mind that our drop in NIH funding was actually lower than the average drop for all schools. Nevertheless, our NIH funding remains strong and our funding per investigator is among the highest of all medical schools. In all I am pleased with the rankings, and Alpert Medical School remains among the very best institutions in the country.

Comments are closed.