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March 9, 2007
Proceedings of the HMS Faculty Council
The Jan. 17 Faculty Council meeting began with Raphael Dolin, dean for academic and clinical programs, updating the members on the Clinical Translational Science Committee (CTSC). Dolin described the organizational structure that has been put in place, explaining that an executive committee and several subcommittees have been formed. Focus areas include education and training, informatics, and biotechnology. Dolin welcomed input from council members and their colleagues. He said that a website has been established, https://wiki.med.harvard.edu/CTSA/WebHome, which he invited members to visit.
Don Gibbons, associate dean for public affairs, and Kevin Casey, senior director of federal and state relations at Harvard University, reported on NIH funding issues. They underscored the need for research institutions to work together to get the message to Washington that NIH funding is critical to medical programs. Efforts are continuing to educate Congressional staffers, who are responsible for drafting the NIH budget, about how the budget supports medical research. Gibbons and Casey noted that given the historical NIH budget doubling intervals, it is important to be able to identify what the doubling accomplished. A pilot project is under way to identify four to six areas of scientific transformation propelled by the recent doubling from 1998 to 2003. HMS is spearheading an effort, along with Johns Hopkins, the University of Texas system, Columbia, Partners HealthCare, the University of Wisconsin Medical School, Washington University in St. Louis, and the University of California system, to explain what the doubling achieved and what institutions could do if the funds are sustained or increased.
Nancy Andrews, dean for basic sciences and graduate studies, spoke about funding during hard times. She noted that approximately 90 percent of HMS research funding comes from federal sources, primarily the NIH. She provided several examples of NIH-funded successes over the last 20 years and reminded members that for the first 50 years of the NIH, doubling of the budget every three to nine years was the rule.
Andrews identified the following as starting points to strengthen research funding in the future: develop plans and policies for bridge funding within the HMS hospitals, identify seed funding opportunities, lift restrictions banning low-overhead grants, encourage collaborations to increase the competitive advantage of our faculty, and consider retaining grant-writing experts.
Barrett Rollins, HMS professor of medicine and the chief scientific officer at Dana–Farber Cancer Institute, explained that DFCI provides bridge funding to investigators to get them through until outside funding is approved and received. The effect on overall morale is extremely positive, the way funding is awarded is transparent, and funds are derived from philanthropy. He noted that the DFCI research budget is currently $180 million and philanthropic support is currently $50 million. The council suggested surveying the other hospitals to determine how they address the problem of interim funding for investigators.
Lisa Iezzoni, council vice president and HMS professor of medicine at Massachusetts General Hospital, then turned the discussion to the Faculty Council dean search survey. The results show that council members think the new dean should be a visionary and an excellent communicator and should be known for integrity, gravitas, and political savvy. Professional qualities that lead the list include having a medical degree, national and international stature, and experience with management. The priorities of interest to the council include Allston development and vision for the type of trainees HMS will produce.
Iezzoni proposed to draft a letter to the search committee emphasizing these points. She invited comment on the draft, which she said she will circulate to council members.
Symposium Spotlights Rising Scientists
At the March 2 New England Science Symposium at the NRB, HMS graduate student Diedra Wrighting (left) shows her poster, “STAT3 Regulates Hepcidin Expression Downstream of Inflammation,” to Nancy Andrews, the George Richards Minot professor of pediatrics at HMS and Children’s Hospital Boston and the HMS dean for basic sciences and graduate studies. Andrews was one of the judges at the event, responsible for a group of posters that did not include Wrighting’s. The interest Andrews had in the poster was partly personal since Wrighting works in the Andrews lab. Established in 2002, the symposium seeks to encourage postdoctoral fellows and both graduate and undergraduate students to build careers in the biomedical sciences. The event offers Silen Awards in each of two categories, oral presentations and poster sessions. First prize for oral presentations went to Richard Guyer of the University of Pennsylvania. First place for posters at the graduate level and above went to Richelle Williams of the Harvard–MIT Division of Health Sciences and Technology and below the graduate level, to Tashara Banks of Cuyahoga Community College. The winners came from a field of 12 oral presenters, 106 poster presenters, and 380 registered participants who, said Joan Reede, HMS dean for diversity and community partnership, “represented 80 institutions and 23 states plus Puerto Rico and Canada.” The symposium is sponsored by the HMS Office for Diversity and Community Partnership, the HMS Minority Faculty Development Program, and the Biomedical Science Careers Program.
Leaders in Biomedicine Lecture
Rockefeller University president and Nobel laureate Paul Nurse will give the inaugural talk in the Leaders in Biomedicine lecture series on Thursday, March 15, in the NRB auditorium. The lecture, titled “The Great Ideas of Biology,” is sponsored by the MD–PhD program and will begin at 4 p.m., followed by a reception.
Nominations Requested for Community Service Awards
The Office for Diversity and Community Partnership at HMS is requesting nominations for the 2007 Dean’s Community Service Awards, which were established to recognize HMS faculty, trainees, students, and staff who have made outstanding personal efforts in serving the local, national, or international community. The deadline is Friday, March 16.
Businessman and philanthropist Warren Alpert, founder of the Alpert Foundation, passed away on March 3. Through the foundation, he donated millions of dollars to HMS, including a $20 million gift in 1993, naming the Alpert Building on the Quad. Alpert was also a founding donor of the New Pathway medical education curriculum. Each year, Alpert’s foundation has honored a leading medical researcher with the Alpert Prize, which recognizes scientists from around the world whose research has a direct impact on the treatment of disease. The prize competition is judged by a committee chaired by the HMS dean. Gifts to the School in honor of Alpert may be directed to the Dean’s Discretionary Fund (with the notation “I/H/O Warren Alpert”), ORD Gift Processing, Harvard Medical School, 401 Park Drive, Boston, MA 02215.