Thomas Boat, MD, dean of the UC College of Medicine, on Wednesday challenged faculty and staff to commit to transformational improvement with the goal of placing the college among the nation’s elite medical schools.
Boat’s challenge came as he shared his vision for the college in an address to a nearly filled Kresge Auditorium marking his first major speech as dean and vice president for health affairs, a role assumed July 1, 2011, after serving three years as executive associate dean. It was titled, "UC College of Medicine: A Candid Assessment, An Upward Trajectory." Follow-up presentations on research, clinical care, finance and education will be offered in the coming months by the college’s four senior associate deans.
"All around us I see opportunity," Boat said. "I know that five years from now we are going to be a lot better, and 10 years from now we ought to go from that point to reach even greater heights.”
Specifically, Boat noted that the College of Medicine is ranked 42nd overall and 17th among public schools in USNews and World Report’s national rankings of medical schools. However, he added, "that's not good enough. The bottom line is we should be solidly in the top 20 medical schools 10 years from now—and we can do that.”
Accomplishing that goal, Boat said, will require incremental transformational change. "The change I’m talking about is day-to-day improvement, assessing where we are and then going on to further improvements.”
Boat said he and his leadership team will be focusing on five areas of improvement over the next five years: patient care, education, research, finance and faculty development. In addition to achieving a Top 20 ranking, his vision for the College includes:
Making the UC College of Medicine the preferred destination in the Midwest for the best medical students, graduate students, residents and postdoctoral fellows.
Making UC Health the regional care center of choice for patients who require complex procedures.
Joining the University of Pittsburgh, the University of Michigan and Washington University in St. Louis as elite biomedical research institutions in the Midwest.
Regarding patient care, Boat said it will be important to work with other health care providers in Cincinnati and the Tristate. "We are beginning talks with other hospital systems," he said, adding, "what we need to do is think about how what we do in our system can be complementary with what is being done in the community so we can join hands and work together rather than working competitively."
Citing the college’s new educational curriculum, Boat said, "We do need to prepare our trainees for the new world of medicine, and they have to have experiences in quality improvement and in figuring out how to add value rather than taking value away from the medical system.”
Research efforts, Boat said, should strive to connect discovery with clinical application and address major health care needs with cross-disciplinary research.
"I think that there is great opportunity in the College of Medicine to take advantage of funding opportunities in the area of health services research. We’re doing some, but not enough. I think it’s pretty clear that we’ll change outcomes more by improving how we deliver care than by what care we deliver. Prevention research and understanding health-related behaviors are going to be very important in the future and there will be funding opportunities."
The college’s researchers must take advantage of collaborative opportunities with colleagues at key affiliates such as Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center and the Cincinnati Department of Veterans Affairs Medical Center. Researchers also must advance collaborations with colleagues from UC’s west campus.
"We need to keep in mind that in this day and age, team science works best and collaborative efforts have to be nurtured. There are colleges and programs on the west campus that are as good as any in the country. We need to team up to drive our health agenda. I see a time when there are going to be campuswide health-related programs. We are all a part of the University of Cincinnati, and if we can elevate the stature of the entire campus we’re going to be the beneficiary."
The college faces financial challenges in the current economic climate, Boat said, and is working to eliminate waste by centralizing its support structure. He added, "We have to create new revenue streams. If we are going to do institutional investment, it must be in the kind of science that is going to get extramural funding.”
Faculty development must be in line with the college’s goals, Boat said. "We need to create thematic, multidisciplinary approaches, and the way to do that is to bring in leaders—leaders who are good scientists, leaders who understand clinical medicine, who can manage and leaders who can manage to important goals."
Boat also stressed the importance of staying connected with UC College of Medicine alumni. "More personal contact is needed," he said. "A lot of our graduates are practicing medicine in Cincinnati, and rather than viewing them as competition or the enemy, we need to work with them.”
Above all, Boat stressed, the next five years will be a time of change.
"For all of you, it’s your chance for a change, and what you’ve got is choice as to how you are going to participate and manage it. And I hope that all of you in fact see this as an opportunity to get involved."
Boat compared the job ahead to the 39 steps leading from Eden Avenue to the gleaming CARE/Crawley Building, which opened in 2008 and houses labs, offices and collaborative space.
"This is the way we’re going to get to the top," he said, via an incremental, step-by-step approach. "My sense is that if we take this kind of approach, we are going to look back five or 10 years from now and say, ‘Wow—look what we did,’ and we will feel really good about the UC College of Medicine because of what we put in place."