Town Hall Meeting Now Available Online

March 12, 2004

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Town Hall Meeting now available online

Materials from the March 12 CUMC town hall meeting are now available to all faculty and staff online: Visit for a 50-minute streaming video of the meeting. (Note: You will need RealPlayer to view the video. Visit for a free download). You can access Dr. Fischbach's PowerPoint presentation at: Please see below for a summary of highlights and minutes from the meeting.

******************************************************************************************* SUMMARY OF HIGHLIGHTS:

“I believe as Columbia goes, so will go American medicine” – Dr. Gerald Fischbach Dr. Fischbach opened the meeting by reminding the audience of the medical center’s strategic goal to be “excellent in all areas.” Optimistic on the prospects, he noted that many challenges still lie ahead. His central administration leadership team helping to address those challenges was briefly introduced, with each individual’s roles and responsibilities summarized.

The rest of the meeting covered progress and priorities against major strategic goals, including the launch of the $1 billion capital campaign, and challenges that are being addressed.

Balancing the budget in the coming year is the medical center’s most urgent challenge, Dr. Fischbach said. A sound fiscal foundation is vital to CUMC’s ability to deliver on its strategic plan and its mission. While the individual schools are all prospering, the overall central administration of the medical center was due to operate at a $19.5 million deficit in the coming fiscal year. A series of aggressive actions has been taken which will result in a balanced budget. More than half of the deficit is being addressed by non-personnel cutbacks, e.g., economies achieved through operational restructuring, renegotiating of contracts, limiting consultants, and tightened financial controls. In addition, some new revenue streams have been identified.

Personnel cutbacks also will be required. About 40 people are at risk, and university resources are cooperating to see if other positions can be found for many of these individuals. “I know this will be hard on everyone,” the Dean said, adding that the medical center will provide outplacement assistance for each person.

Dr. Fischbach cited accomplishments in a few core areas, such as research operations, where grant income is up by 14 percent to $358 million. Several important grants have recently been announced, including $125 million from the CDC to a consortium led by the Mailman School of Public Health for the Multicountry Columbia Antiretroviral Program (MCAP) to provide comprehensive HIV care and treatment in five hard-hit African countries. Mailman’s Regional Center of Excellence for BioDefense and Emerging Infectious Diseases Research has been awarded a $9 million per year, multi-year award for biodefense research.

Two of many recent findings by CUMC researchers that made headlines in recent months were highlighted: the link between obesity and certain inflammatory diseases; and the role of prions in memory retention. Dr. Fischbach also reviewed three major recent gifts: $12 million from the Naomi Berrie Foundation for diabetes research, $7.5 million from the Kavli Foundation to establish an institute for neural science research and $4.4 million from the estate of Francis Somers to the School of Nursing.

Looking ahead to the capital campaign, the Dean outlined key strategic priorities for funding in the years ahead. CUMC hopes to announce soon plans for a major neuroscience center. “Great universities and medical centers are going to be judged by how they contribute to the study of the human brain,” Dr. Fischbach said. “We are one of the top two or three programs in the world in neuroscience. Our neuroscience center will be a beacon for research in this area.”

The Glenda Garvey Academy will be the cornerstone for many future education initiatives. Serving as a “think tank” for innovation, it will also reward educators for their efforts. Student scholarships are another crucial area, in Dr. Fischbach’s view, particularly when today’s average medical student graduates with as much as $95,000 in debt.

Dr. Fischbach recognized several recent faculty appointments. Leadership searches are under way for Psychiatry, Urology, Biochemistry, Genetics, and the Herbert Irving Comprehensive Cancer Center.

In the patient care area, expansion of ambulatory care is seen as a strategic priority for across-the-board development of the CUMC academic enterprise. Strengthening our outcomes research and adding innovative information systems will help in this endeavor.

Finally, Roy Vagelos, former CEO of Merck and a P&S grad of’54, was introduced as the chair of a new board of advisors. He will be helping with the capital campaign. ###


CUMC, Gerald Fischbach Dr, Kavli Foundation, Naomi Berrie Foundation, Town Hall Meeting