Magazine article Clinical Psychiatry News

Medical School Leaders Are Poised for Challenges

Magazine article Clinical Psychiatry News

Medical School Leaders Are Poised for Challenges

Article excerpt

Fresh from their successful efforts to persuade Congress and the president to dramatically increase federal biomedical research funding, the nation's medical school deans are now working to prioritize which issues to tackle over the next several years.

The menu of issues is huge: There are crises in access to and cost of health care, an inadequate emphasis on preventive and primary care services, wide variations in health care use and quality of care, and a pace of translational research that many believe is much too slow.

"We're asking ourselves, what should we take on in the next 3-5 years, and how can we as medical school leaders maximize our value and contribution?" Dr. E. Albert Reece, who chairs the Association of American Medical Colleges' Council of Deans, said in an interview.

The council identifies issues affecting academic medicine and develops strategies to deal with them.

When Dr. Reece assumed the council chairmanship last October, biomedical research funding was the top issue. Since 2004, the budget of the National Institutes of Health had been reduced by 13% after factoring in inflation--a trend that leaders at the AAMC argued was slowing progress on critical research programs and creating a backlog of unfunded and underfunded biomedical research projects.

"Our approach with Congress and with the Obama transition team, and then the administration, was to point out how academic medical centers create a huge amount of economic activity," said Dr. Reece, vice president for medical affairs at the University of Maryland and dean of the university's school of medicine in Baltimore.

The combined economic impact of the nation's 130 academic medical centers exceeded $450 billion in 2005, according to the AAMC, with academic medical centers responsible for the creation of more than 3 million jobs. "That's 1 out of 48 wage earners in the U.S.," said Dr. Reece, who also serves as the John Z. and Akiko K. Bowers Distinguished Professor at the university.

In their meetings with legislators and other national leaders, Dr. Reece and his colleagues from other medical schools emphasized the ripple effect of declining funding--the way in which it thwarts the careers of young scientists and physicians who are interested in bench-to-bedside research, slows the amount and pace of such translational research, and ultimately adversely affects patient care. …

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