Dean Hess celebrates two years of service at the IU School of Medicine

October 8, 2015

Dear Colleagues,

As I mark my second anniversary with the IU School of Medicine, I am pleased at how much we have accomplished in such a brief time together. We have advanced in many areas, paving the way for even greater success in the year ahead. I believe the best way to thank you is to share our accomplishments and celebrate the results of our efforts. We have significantly increased our research funding, strengthened our leadership and faculty, improved our alignment with our healthcare affiliates and made great strides towards reaccreditation. Let me share with you what I consider to be some of our key milestones in each of these areas.

Dean Hess celebrates two years of service with a letter to faculty, staff and students. | Photo By Tim Yates

Growing Research

Our research funding is up nearly 20 percent – close to $45 million – from prior years. In particular, we received a number of large grants, a testament to our team science approach to research. Our successful proposal to the NCI's Specialized Programs of Research Excellence initiative is one recent example. The five-year, $12 million national research project, led by Wade Clapp, chairman of the Department of Pediatrics, is the first SPORE project to focus primarily on pediatric cancers. Similarly, we became one of just 16 schools of medicine with a federally designated diabetes research center with a five-year $4.5 million grant that will create the foundation for the new IU Center for Diabetes and Metabolic Diseases, led by Raghu Mirmira. These are just two recent examples among many.

As part of this growth, the school attracted $111.5 million in research funds from the National Institutes of Health, the single largest source of research dollars for the school and the nation's primary source of funds for academic biomedical research. More importantly, we have increased our support from multiple sources in FY15, including:

  • A 22 percent increase in funds to $63 million, from foundations and other non- profit organizations.
  • A 10 percent increase, to $65 million, from corporations, much of it to test potential new drugs.
  • A 24 percent increase, to $25 million, from other federal government agencies, such as the Department of Defense.

The success of these awards is the result of your efforts, persistence and creativity.

Faculty Vitality

Landing large grants that develop faculty in addition to attracting new talent using resources such as the Strategic Research Initiative (funded in part through IU Health) and the Physician Science Initiative (funded through the Lilly Endowment Fund) are key to accelerating future discoveries, as well as to attracting highly regarded physicians and scientists to leadership positions. Each successful recruitment and placement we make, either from outside the school or by promoting from within, increases our national reputation for what we have always known to be true – IU School of Medicine is home to translational research, unique patient therapies and innovative education on a scale that is unrivaled elsewhere.

Population Health

As chair of the IU Health Education and Research Board Committee, I’m pleased to share that the committee awarded its first Grand Challenge grants for two projects. The grants were converted from smaller awards formerly given as part of IU Health Value Grants into larger awards ($250,000 for one year or $500,000 for two years) with the potential for greater impact on community health. Grants were awarded to IUSM physicians Debra K. Litzelman, MD; Medicine for WeCare Indiana: Improving Maternal and Infant Health to Reduce Infant Mortality; and Tamara S. Hannon, MD, MS; Pediatrics for Finding the Patient’s Voice: Developing Practical Approaches for Adolescent and Family-Focused Diabetes Prevention.

IU President Michael McRobbie has put forward his own version of a Grand Challenge for the university. With an investment of $300 million, the president is calling for projects that address a compelling problem or challenge, leverage one or more of IU’s strengths, engages a multidisciplinary team and can ultimately be funded through other means for long-term sustainability. For this first round, we are working under the leadership of Executive Associate Dean for Research Affairs Anantha Shekhar, M.D., Ph.D., on a proposal focused on Precision Medicine. Future proposals will likely focus on population health or improving care during life transitions (Pediatrics, Geriatrics, Palliative Care).

We recently learned that the Center for Health Innovation & Implementation Science received a $46.4M grant from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) to implement a Transforming Clinical Practices Initiative with the Great Lakes Practice Transformation Network. This is the second largest federal grant made to IU next to USAID AMPATH grant, which was the largest.

GLPTN is a three-state coalition of 33 healthcare partners, which includes: four Regional Extension Centers (RECs); three State Departments of Health; five regional Health Information Exchanges (HIEs); and eight universities. GLPTN will be formed in response to the CMS Transforming Clinical Practice Initiative with an overall goal of transforming the practices of 11,500 clinicians across Indiana, Illinois, and Michigan into learning practices capable of providing better health and improved care at a lower cost for a population of more than 10 million Americans.

Alignment with our Healthcare Affiliates

Simply put, our long-term future depends on our ability to provide health care that is value-driven, cost effective, and focuses on providing best outcomes for patients and learners. We have a societal responsibility to address healthcare needs, one that we share with our healthcare affiliates throughout the state. Most recently, we have been engaged in an enterprise alignment project with IU Health that will allow us to more effectively deliver on that responsibility through closer alignment of leadership and shared accountability.

Tangible evidence of that partnership is our joint work on the Academic Health Center of the Future in Indianapolis, and a Health Sciences Campus in Bloomington. Both projects brought our leaders together to plan for facilities that will support our work for decades to come. We recently received a commitment from IU Health to build a much needed new medical education building in Indianapolis. This project will also include new offices for many of our clinical departments. Next month, we break ground on the Evansville Health Sciences Campus, which is another example of collaboration with Universities of Evansville and Southern Indiana, and health care affiliates Deaconess Health System, St. Mary’s Medical Center and Jasper Memorial Hospital to provide learning opportunities and clinical rotations to our learners. We’re excited to see this project moving forward as well.

Training Providers of the Future

At last month’s white coat ceremony, we welcomed our largest class to date with 355 medical students. We’re also exploring how we can expand residency opportunities to ensure we have a pipeline of physicians ready and trained to meet the demands of our aging population. Our aim is to increase residency positions by 500 over the next 10 years using federal monies and extending the infrastructure we have by leveraging our nine-campus system and partnerships with over 50 clinical affiliates throughout the state.

Our reaccreditation process is providing us with valuable data from students that will help us identify which improvements we need to prioritize to increase accessibility to research, service learning and other relevant opportunities that will better prepare them for the environment in which they will serve. We’re deploying additional resources to meet those demands, including over 270 faculty, staff and students who are actively analyzing data as part of our self-study efforts for reaccreditation, and putting the final touches on our revised curriculum in order to implement Phase One in the fall of 2016.

Evaluating a school our size is no small task, which is why we have also taken this opportunity to implement a continuous quality improvement effort that will be ongoing so we can meet both the volume and rate of change occurring in medical education and health care.

Looking Ahead

We are on an excellent trajectory with important foundational work still at hand. As we tackle these ambitious plans, we are also realigning our reporting structure to Bloomington. You may have noticed IU School of Medicine banners on the Indianapolis campus, or the new school brand on the white coats. This mark of distinction is a sign of things to come as we increasingly rise to the challenges before us and emerge as one of the nation’s leading academic medical institutions against which others will benchmark themselves. Thank you for hard work and dedication these past two years. I’m excited for how we will continue to excel in supporting our mission to learners, and ultimately, in enhancing the health and well-being of those in our state and beyond.

Jay L. Hess, M.D., Ph.D., MHSA

Vice President for University Clinical Affairs Dean of the School of Medicine

Walter J. Daly Professor