Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Christie Accepts, Supports UMDNJ Recommendations

Today, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie accepted and supported the interim recommendations of the University of Medicine and Dentistry Advisory Committee as a guide to improving New Jersey’s system of medical education now and into the future. The interim recommendations, which build on those of the Higher Education Task Force chaired by former Governor Tom Kean, will move medical education in New Jersey forward through long-discussed governance changes to better position the system for the future and provide certainty about the future of the system. Most notable among the recommendations is support for the merger of the Robert Wood Johnson Medical School (RWJMS), the School of Public Health (SPH), and the Cancer Institute of New Jersey (CINJ) with Rutgers University. The Committee’s interim recommendations provide ambitious goals and recommendations to New Jersey’s system of medical education, and include an initial assessment of The University Hospital (UH), UMDNJ’s Newark-based educational assets and the delivery of medical education in Southern New Jersey.

The Committee, chaired by Dr. Sol J. Barer, also provided important initial assessments on UMDNJ's educational assets in Newark, which include the New Jersey Medical School (NJMS), the New Jersey Dental School (NJDS) and the School of Nursing, among other important units, affirming the importance of these schools' presence in and contributions to the Newark community; and emphasizing that each must remain in the city, whether or not the Committee ultimately recommends governance changes in its final recommendations to the Governor. In this respect, the Committee, while praising its academic excellence, also deferred for additional considerations the ultimate governance model best suited for the School of Osteopathic Medicine (SOM), a UMDNJ medical school in Camden County. Furthermore, the Committee noted the importance of various research and clinical units within UMDNJ, such as University Behavioral Health Care, based in Piscataway, and the Public Health Research Institute Center, based in Newark. The Committee emphasized its need to further study the many complex and technical relationships each of the educational and clinical components of UMDNJ have among themselves before arriving at final recommendations on potential new governance models.

“I want to thank Dr. Barer and the Committee for their ongoing hard work and dedication in taking an in-depth and comprehensive look at the landscape of medical education in New Jersey. These recommendations will serve as a guide for my Administration, the Committee and individuals across the medical education community, to work together quickly and ensure that we are putting in place the changes needed to strengthen our system of medical education in New Jersey for the future,” said Governor Christie. “I look forward to the Committee’s completion of its final work and specific steps to begin achieving these critical and necessary goals and ensuring that this system is structured to make every dollar count and able to continue delivering a world-class medical education to students.”

The Committee also offered an important recommendation that favored a focus of the New Jersey Institute of Technology on improving its core mission as New Jersey’s lone technical research-focused public institution, rather than expanding into medical education. These recommendations precede a final set of recommendations due to the Governor by the end of the year following an extension of the Committee’s work, and will include the steps needed to meet the goals outlined in the interim recommendations.

“Today’s interim recommendations to Governor Christie, which are supported by our entire Committee, serve as an important milestone for ensuring New Jersey remains a leader in providing medical education. Our recommendations are not only critically important for these institutions that will be strengthened, but for the future of health care delivery in our state,” said Dr. Sol J. Barer. “I’d like to thank Governor Christie for agreeing to our request for an extended timeline through the end of the year to complete our recommendations. I look forward to continuing to meet with stakeholders, visiting the campuses, and reviewing various previously issued reports as we prepare to make final recommendations to the Governor.”

In summary, the Committee made the following interim recommendations to Governor Christie:

· Robert Wood Johnson Medical School, the School of Public Health, and the Cancer Institute of New Jersey should be merged with Rutgers University to establish a first-class comprehensive research university-based health science center

The Committee believes the case for such a reorganization, merging RWJMS, SPH, and the CINJ with Rutgers University’s New Brunswick-Piscataway campuses, is strong and affirms the recommendations of the Governor’s Task Force on Higher Education to establish a first-class comprehensive research university-based health sciences center. The Committee recommends that the CINJ also be elevated as a distinct reporting unit within Rutgers University.

In the interim recommendations, the Committee notes that basic changes in the organization and governance of RWJMS, SPH and CINJ will provide a much more promising foundation for achieving greater distinction of these units and Rutgers University. The Committee also affirmed that opportunities exist to increase collaboration and the deployment of resources, noting that the current organizational divide between Rutgers University, and RWJMS and SPH is an obstacle to the level of collaboration New Jersey should expect from academic research entities engaged in activities that should complement and enhance each other.

Prior to issuing final recommendations, the Committee will continue to address and examine specific challenges and issues related to this reorganization, including financial considerations like bond covenants, debt service, and lease agreements, the allocation of state operating appropriations, existing personnel contracts and tenure agreements, and a timeline and plan for implementation.

· Favoring a focus of the New Jersey Institute of Technology on improving its core mission and unique role as New Jersey’s lone technical research-focused public institution, rather than expanding into medical education.

The Committee recommends that NJIT not start its own medical school. In particular, the Committee did not favor NJIT’s plan to expand its current relationship with St. George’s University School of Medicine, a Grenada, West Indies-based institution, to offer a joint M.D. degree. The Committee recommends instead a focus on improving existing levels of research and academic collaboration among technological research institutions like NJIT, medical schools and other institutions with strong basic science programs and beyond. The Committee believes that as New Jersey’s lone technical research-focused public institution, it should seek to achieve a comparable level of academic excellence achieved by the premiere technology education institutions of higher education in the country. The Committee’s view is that the school should allocate its resources and intellectual capital in a manner that improves existing areas of academic training to protect against diluting its mission through academic expansion into areas of academic training for which, at this time, it is not suited.

As part of their ongoing work, the Committee also made several interim assessments, including a finding that UH remain a hub of health care delivery in the city of Newark; that it should remain a primary teaching hospital for Newark-based medical, dental, nursing and other students in health-related professions; and, that it should continue to serve the residents of Newark and Essex County, the State and region. The Committee also however noted that the hospital requires widespread capital improvements without which the delivery of patient care and the provision of medical services will be impacted. More specific recommendations addressing UH will be included in the Committee’s final recommendations to the Governor.

The UMDNJ Advisory Committee, created through Executive Order No. 51, is chaired by Dr. Sol J. Barer, former CEO and Chairman of Celgene, and members include Robert E. Campbell, former Vice Chairman of Johnson & Johnson; Joyce Wilson Harley, Esq., Executive Director of Administrative Services at Essex County College and former Essex County Administrator; Anthony J. Perno III, Esq., President & CEO of Cooper’s Ferry Development Association, Inc., and Harold T. Shapiro, Ph.D., former President of Princeton University.

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