Fall has most assuredly arrived in Chapel Hill. The leaves are especially colorful this year, the morning air has been crisp more than once, and, as dean of the UNC School of Medicine I had the honor of delivering my fall address to the faculty.
This year provided ample reason for reflection. We have faced many challenges, many of them stemming from the financial crisis that was felt by individuals and institutions around the world. But I was also able to cite a long list of accomplishments for which the faculty deserve much of the credit. Among those I mentioned:
¢ We graduated and matched a wonderful class of medical students, and we filled all of our own residency positions with outstanding doctors
¢ We again ranked second overall for primary care on the U.S. News & World Report Best Medical Schools list; and we were twentieth overall and sixth among public schools of medicine for research
¢ We received the third highest score among all hospitals for patient satisfaction with nursing
¢ We opened two world-class facilities: the Genetic Medicine Building, the most sophisticated science building ever constructed at UNC, and the long-awaited North Carolina Cancer Hospital, which welcomed its first patients in August
¢ UNC faculty received more than $350 million in research grants in 2009; our funding from the NIH has increased 15 percent since 2007
¢ As of October, the medical faculty have received 150 awards totaling almost $50 million from the American Reinvestment and Recovery Act (the Stimulus bill)
However, the loss of jobs across the state has had a significant impact on UNC Health Care because of the growth in uninsured North Carolinians. Unemployment across the country weighs heavily as citizens and members of Congress consider health reform. The economy and health care reform were on the minds of many of the faculty at this meeting.
As I have stated in this blog many times before, health reform is an economic issue as well as a health issue. We feel that very acutely at UNC. I repeated to the faculty my belief that every American ought to be insured, and we, as a nation, need to change the way we provide health care to focus on keeping people well.
Fortunately, UNC faculty are also leading the way in creating and expanding new ways to organize and deliver quality health care services in a more efficient manner. We want UNC to be a national leader in this area.
The faculty asked questions about the challenges of our growth, including the scarcity of space. In some respects this is a good problem to have, but it is surely hard to solve, especially quickly. We also talked about our proposed new hospital in Hillsborough.
Because of the economy we have tightened our belt, but the Imaging Research Building is under construction, and we hope to open the Hillsborough hospital, if we get CON approval, in 2014.
Many of our challenges are not unique to UNC. They're faced by practically every academic medical center in the country. However, the level of excellence and the spirit of collaboration and collegiality among UNC faculty sets us apart. It is through their efforts that we answer challenges creatively, and will continue to find innovative ways to conduct research, provide patient care and educate.