Despite facing challenges that are far from over, the College of Medicine is on track for a "break-even budget” this fiscal year and poised to invest significant resources for growth.
That was the message Tuesday in Kresge Auditorium, where Lori Mackey, senior associate dean for operations and finance, and Neil Holsing, associate dean for operations, presented, "The Business Side of the College of Medicine.” It was the third in this academic year’s series of leadership presentations.
"I take my hat off to the business people, the PIs (principal investigators), the faculty and everyone else in this room as we have faced some horrible challenges,” Mackey told the crowd of about 250. "But we didn’t just do business the same way … we took the hit and managed our expenses so that we actually are going to have for the first time (in eight years) a break-even bottom line, which I think is a phenomenal thing.”
Using slides that covered a five-year period, Mackey noted that previous budgets had been propped up by liquidating quasi-endowment funds, an unsustainable practice in today’s market. This year, she said, "with absolutely no liquidation, we’re on track to make $216,000.”
With the improved financial climate, Mackey said, the College of Medicine has been able to make new research commitments totaling $35.6 million that will add 33 researchers to the faculty in the next five years. This includes $10 million for the cancer biology department and $6.6 million for the new biomedical informatics department.
"We have faced our challenges with clarity and we’re still focused on securing a better future,” she said.
Continuing challenges include the need to grow the research portfolio of the college, increase philanthropy and expand university employee use of UC Health services.
Amid an extremely competitive environment, research expenditures, reflecting grant funding, are down to about $77 million from a peak of $118 million in 2011, Mackey said, calling it "not something we can accept.”
"We need to focus on grant submissions,” she said, noting that after dipping over the past few years they are back on track thanks to College of Medicine programs and policies encouraging submissions.
Mackey noted that direct gifts account for about 2 percent of the College of Medicine’s funding. Gifts were $4.8 million in 2009 and are projected to be at that same figure in 2014.
"I think the one thing we’re going to have to do over the next two years is a much more effective job of bringing gifts in to support the College of Medicine programs,” she said. "We need more scholarship dollars and we need more dollars to come in and support new programs, so this is going to have to be a big focus.”
Other major sources of funding for the College of Medicine include research grants (40 percent), contributions from the UC Health system (21 percent), direct funding from UC (18 percent) and the endowment (12 percent), Mackey said.
"Our total UC Health support has grown from $23.2 million to $40.6 million,” she said. "That really has been the salvation of our financial budget.”
She credited the increase in part to tremendous growth in UC Physicians patient volume which nearly doubled from 679,748 patient visits in Fiscal Year 2009 to a project 1.3 million visits this year.
"That’s a phenomenal amount of volume growth which allowed them to drive more money to the College of Medicine. We not only saw more patients, we saw patients that had stronger reimbursement.”
UC employee use of the faculty practice has increased nearly fivefold in the last two years due to a co-pay reduction program, and the goal is to continue growing that with more initiatives—including discounts from UC Health hospitals—under development.
Before Mackey took the stage, Holsing presented some basic demographics for the College of Medicine showing that faculty FTEs (full-time equivalents) had increased from 798 in Fiscal Year 2012 to 904 in Fiscal Year 2014. At the same time, the college’s staff has been trimmed from 930 to 881 due to a decrease in research staffing and some gains in efficiencies.
Holsing cited the importance of revenue-producing programs such as master-level students and the new undergraduate minor program, which has 38 students this year. "These are areas where we generate tuition dollars, and it’s important that we continue to grow in areas where we generate additional revenues within the College of Medicine.”
The future looks bright, Mackey stressed, with several major initiatives on the horizon. Among them:
• The pursuit of international affiliations, such as a proposed international medical school at Chongqing Medical University in China.
• Creating a true Academic Health Center through more effective partnering with the colleges of nursing, pharmacy and allied health sciences.
• Increased collaborations with Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center.
• Direct fundraising at the department level and implementing a new spending policy for the endowment.
• An enhanced website.
• A culture change, with more emphasis on esprit de corps and celebrating successes.
"I love working at UC; we are a great place,” she said. "If we can break even this year and make money next year, have fabulous revenue-generating programs, grow our research and move up in the USNews & World Report ranking, I think the world is our oyster.”
Thomas Boat, MD, dean of the College of Medicine and UC vice president for health affairs, gave his annual update to faculty and staff Oct. 29, 2013. Melanie Cushion, PhD, senior associate dean for research, and Christopher Lindsell, PhD, associate dean for clinical research and vice president for research at UC Health, spoke Dec. 9 about their plans and aspirations for research. Slides and the complete video from all the talks can be viewed in the Dean’s Corner on med.uc.edu.
Future presentations are:
• Tuesday, March 11, Andrew Filak Jr., MD, senior associate dean for academic affairs.
• Monday, April 7, Myles Pensak, MD, senior associate dean for clinical affairs.
• Monday, May 12, Alex Lentsch, PhD, senior associate dean for faculty affairs and development.