New Year’s Reflections

People think of the New Year holiday as marking the beginning of great endeavors. In this spirit, the next installment of On the Same Page for 2010 will take a look forward. But as I contemplated this first essay of the New Year, I thought it would be important to take a look back at 2009, as we’ve generated tremendous momentum and laid a strong foundation for the future here at the UF Health Science Center and at Shands HealthCare.

For the past six months, I have been privileged to serve as UF’s senior vice president for health affairs, and president of the UF&Shands Health System. What an extraordinary experience! I have been inspired by your can-do spirit and lofty aspirations. This Gator spirit permeates all of the people I have come into contact with — the leadership of the university and its colleges, centers and institutes; department chairs and faculty members; administrators and staff; and alumni, community leaders and philanthropic supporters.

During these early months, I have tried to harness this spirit and build on the momentum that has been created to support our newly articulated vision. This vision, as developed by our Strategic Planning Cabinet, is to create “unstoppable momentum toward the goal of improving individual and community health through discovery, clinical and translational science and technology, exceptional education, and patient-centered, innovative, high-quality health care.”

As we enter the New Year, which will undoubtedly mark continued great endeavors, let’s take a look back at a remarkable year. These achievements reflect the talent of our faculty and staff, and the hard work that takes place in our labs, in our classrooms and across the hospital system. Consider just a few of our many achievements:

  • The opening of the $388 million Shands Cancer Hospital at UF and the transition of patient care from Shands at AGH and the Shands at UF emergency department to the new facility.
  • The appointment of Michael Perri, Ph.D., as dean of the College of Public Health and Health Professions and of Michael Good, M.D., as dean of the College of Medicine.
  • 2009 "Florida Newsmaker of the Year for Science, awarded by Florida Trend, to William W. Hauswirth, Ph.D., the Rybaczki-Bullard professor of ophthalmology and molecular genetics, COM. Dr. Hauswirth led a team that helped three people born with an incurable form of blindness regain some of their vision. He also showed how gene therapy could cure squirrel monkeys of color blindness — the most common genetic disorder in people. The finding — which was deemed the No. 3 scientific discovery of 2009 by Time magazine — represents a significant step toward curing human vision disorders involving cone cells, which are the most important cells for sight.
  • The second annual Chairmen's Distinguished Life Sciences Award from the Christopher Columbus Fellowship Foundation and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce was presented to Bryon Petersen, Ph.D., associate professor of pathology, COM. Dr. Petersen was recognized for his work using bone marrow-derived stem cells to develop therapies to combat liver disorders.
  • Nov. 20 marked one year tobacco-free at Shands-Jacksonville, the University of Florida Health Science Center-Jacksonville, and the University of Florida Jacksonville Healthcare Inc. clinics. Implementation of the tobacco-free policy on the Gainesville Health Science Center and hospital campuses occurred on Nov. 1.
  • A $26 million Clinical and Translational Science Award from the National Institutes of Health, which will facilitate the translation of laboratory discoveries into patient therapies and the translation of such therapies into improved health in the community. (Principal Investigator: Peter Stacpoole, M.D., professor of medicine, COM, and director of the Clinical and Translational Science Institute.)
  • A $64 million NIH grant from the National Institute on Aging (with a recent $9 million supplement) to conduct a six-year study on whether a program of structured physical activity can prevent or delay the major causes for morbidity in older adults, including movement disability, cognitive decline and cardiovascular and pulmonary compromise. This grant is the largest federal award to UF in its history. (Principal Investigator: Marco Pahor, M.D., professor and chair of the department of aging and geriatrics research, and director of the Institute on Aging)
  • A $12.2 million NIH grant from the National Center for Research Resources that will help UF researchers implement a new type of networking system to link researchers across the country and world with like-minded peers and potential collaborators. By making it easier for scientists to find each other, researchers will be able to improve their ongoing studies and forge collaborations that could lead to new discoveries. (Principal Investigator: Michael Conlon, Ph.D.)
  • A $2.4 million NIH Grand Opportunity grant to a multidisciplinary team of researchers to study animal models of human disease and injury. (Principal Investigator: Edward Scott, Ph.D., professor of molecular genetics, COM, and director of the McKnight Brain Institute’s Program in Stem Cell Biology and Regenerative Medicine.) The aim is to find ways to tap unused human capacities to treat spinal cord injury, stroke, traumatic brain injury and other neural conditions.
  • A $2.3 million two-year grant from NIH for a Program Project to develop effective treatment interventions to prevent muscle wasting and accelerate recovery after spinal cord injury. (Principal Investigator: Krista Vandenborne, Ph.D., P.T., professor and chair, department of physical therapy, PHHP)
  • A $3 million, five-year NIH grant to join 13 other centers in the TrialNet research network, which is aimed at preventing or delaying the onset of type 1 diabetes. (Principal Investigator, Desmond Schatz, Ph.D., professor and associate chair, department of pediatrics) This award represents a continuation of resources that have supported type 1 diabetes research at UF for more than 20 years.
  • The College of Nursing, in partnership with North Florida/South Georgia Veterans Health System, received a grant from the VA Office of Academic Affairs to design and implement a nurse-led wound treatment program in order to improve clinical outcomes. The VA-UF partnership grant, one of eight awarded nationally, will be used to develop a one-year program focused on enhancement of interdisciplinary education for the prevention and treatment of pressure ulcers and development of evidence-based wound care for veterans.
  • The College of Nursing was awarded more than $900,000 in grant funding from the U.S. Health Resources and Services Administration Department of Health and Human Services to facilitate transition from the Master of Science in Nursing degree to the Doctor of Nursing Practice degree in four nursing specialities.
  • The initiation of a comprehensive strategic planning process across all of the colleges of the Health Science Center, all of the associated institutes and centers, and all of Shands HealthCare.
  • The decision to install a fully integrated electronic medical record system across the UF College of Medicine Faculty Practice and all locations of Shands HealthCare. The Epic system was chosen, and this $110 million commitment to patient care was officially launched with the first training session on December 17, 2009. To implement this system, and to coordinate academic computing in the Health Science Center, a national search for a chief information officer commenced and is now near completion.
  • In parallel, the selection of a new electronic clinic management system to be installed in College of Dentistry student, resident and faculty practice clinics (as well as college-owned clinics in Hialeah, Jacksonville and Seminole) that will allow the clinical operation to transition to an electronic dental record in the near future. The College of Nursing also plans to install a new electronic health record and practice management system for Archer Family Health Care, the college’s comprehensive, nurse-managed health center. These steps will provide rich opportunities for research and improve delivery of care.
  • Five-year accreditation as a school of public health to the College of Public Health and Health Professions by the Council on Education for Public Health, an independent agency recognized by the U.S. Department of Education. PHHP joins only 40 other U.S. colleges that have received accreditation in public health and is unique among these in its educational model that integrates public health and health professions.
  • The College of Pharmacy completed a contract with the Food and Drug Administration to provide Masters of Science degrees in Drug Regulation and Policy. The program will eventually have 40 students who will receive U.S. Public Health Service Commissions and work for the FDA for four years after graduation.
  • The College of Dentistry continues as a national leader in oral health research. Total research awards during the last fiscal year exceeded $17 million, and the college was ranked fourth of all U.S. dental schools in NIH/National Institutes for Dental and Craniofacial Research funding.
  • The College of Dentistry provided more than 120,000 patient visits during the last fiscal year, primarily to low-income adults and children, through its Statewide Network for Community Oral Health. More than 6,000 patient visits were provided at the college’s newest facility, the NCEF Pediatric Dental Center located in Naples, since its opening in December 2008. The pediatric dentistry residency program received full accreditation status following a site visit in July, and the facility recently was awarded LEED Gold certification.
  • The Southeast Center for Research to Reduce Disparities in Oral Health opened in October 2008, with a goal of eliminating disparities in head and neck cancers among vulnerable and underserved individuals. Partners include the Florida Department of Health, Florida dental organizations, Florida A&M University, NIDCR, Alachua County Organization for Rural Needs, and regional ministerial networks.  The College of Veterinary Medicine obtained approval to implement an enrollment expansion for its D.V.M. degree program. The expansion will meet a state and national need and enable to CVM to expand its faculty and thereby grow its academic and service programs.
  • The 2009 NCLEX-RN Licensing Examination pass rate for UF College of Nursing graduates was 97.88 percent, with 185 of 189 first-time takers passing the exam. The College of Nursing pass rate was one of the top in the state, far exceeding the Florida pass rate (88.87 percent) and the national pass rate (88.91 percent).
  • Shands-Jacksonville was successfully accredited by JCAHO, was designated as a National Disaster life support course regional training center and received the silver performance award from the AHA and American Stroke Association for continued high-quality performance in treating heart and stroke patients.
  • Appointment of Gregory C. Gray, M.D., M.P.H., as the founding chair of the department of environmental and global health in the College of Public Health and Health Professions. Dr. Gray comes to UF from the University of Iowa, where he established and directed its Center for Emerging Infectious Diseases.
  • Appointment of Steve Sugrue, Ph.D., as the College of Medicine senior associate dean for research affairs.
  • Appointment of Krista Vandenborne, Ph.D., as the associate dean for research and planning in the College of Public Health and Health Professions.
  • Chair appointments in several COM departments: Henry Baker, Ph.D., as the Hazel Kitzman professor and chair of the department of molecular genetics and microbiology; Tetsuo Ashizawa, M.D., as the Melvin Greer professor and chair of the department of neurology; R. Stan Williams, M.D., as the Harry Prystowsky professor and chair of the department of obstetrics and gynecology; Lucia Notterpek as professor and chair of the department of neuroscience; and Kevin Behrns, M.D., as professor and chair of the department of surgery.
  • Numerous faculty hires and center director recruitments, including Paul Okunieff, M.D., a nationally recognized radiation oncologist and researcher to serve as chair of the department of radiation oncology and director of the UF&Shands Cancer Center, and Todd Golde, M.D., Ph.D., one of the nation’s leading Alzheimer’s disease researchers, to lead the newly created Center for Translational Research in Neurodegenerative Disease, which will focus on Alzheimer’s disease and other neurodegenerative disorders.
  • Robert C. Nuss, M.D., dean of the UF College of Medicine-Jacksonville regional campus received the Florida Medical Association Certificate of Merit, its highest award. This award was presented by the FMA Board of Governors to Dr. Nuss at its 2009 Annual Meeting. The Certificate of Merit is presented for excellent and outstanding service over a period of years to the association, to the medical profession and to the public.
  • Russell M. Bauer, Ph.D., professor and chair of the department of clinical and health psychology, PHHP, was elected president of the International Neuropsychological Society.
  • Patricia B. Kricos, Ph.D., professor of communicative disorders, PHHP, was elected president of the American Academy of Audiology, the world’s largest professional audiology organization.
  • The American College of Clinical Pharmacy awarded its 2009 Therapeutic Frontiers Lecturer award to Julie A. Johnson, Pharm.D., the V. Ravi Chandran professor of pharmaceutical sciences at the College of Pharmacy and a professor of medicine at the College of Medicine. The award recognizes an individual, considered to be at the leading edge of research, who has made outstanding contributions to pharmacotherapeutics.
  • Shahla Masood, M.D., professor and chair of the department of pathology and laboratory medicine (COM-Jacksonville) was highlighted at the University of Florida’s 15th Annual Multidisciplinary Symposium on Breast Disease, which she founded, and the First International Breast Health Education Program, a weeklong program organized by Susan G. Komen for the Cure and the Breast Cancer Foundation of Egypt under the auspices of Egypt’s First Lady Suzanne Mubarak. About 10,000 people gathered at the pyramids for the Egypt Race for the Cure, the first Komen race in the Middle East.
  • Elevation of the College of Medicine’s physician assistant program to “School” status.

It bears repeating: At the University of Florida, we are unique nationally in the breadth of health-related colleges, centers and institutes on a single campus, coupled with the strength of the Shands HealthCare hospital system. Moreover, the Jacksonville campus offers complementary teaching and patient care opportunities, and a future that holds untapped potential to excel in clinical and translational research. During the past year, we have attempted to build on this unique set of resources to create a foundation for the future, as illustrated by the achievements outlined above. In the next issue of On the Same Page, we will take a look at how we can accelerate this momentum in 2010.

Hoping that you enjoyed the holiday season and New Year celebrations,

David S. Guzick, M.D., Ph.D.
Senior Vice President, Health Affairs
President, UF&Shands Health System