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Med Schools A Crucial Part Of Health Center Mission, Operations


January 30, 2011

Recently, Hartford Mayor Pedro Segarra publicly suggested that the University of Connecticut's schools of medicine and dentistry consider moving from Farmington to Hartford. Make no mistake, such a relocation would irreparably harm the university's ability to ensure that Connecticut's only public academic medical center meets the health care, education and economic development interests of our state and region.

The UConn Health Center was established with strong and integrated centers of excellence in medical and dental education, research and clinical care. As an academic health center, all three components need to work together in a shared environment to advance new ways of educating physicians, researchers and dentists; uncover medical breakthroughs; and provide state-of-the-art care for Connecticut's citizens. For these reasons, removing the schools of medicine and dental medicine from this collaborative atmosphere would dramatically impede the health center's capacity to be the health care innovator and economic engine we so desperately need.

Every year, the health center's faculty educates nearly 900 medical and dental students and graduate students in biomedical sciences, brings to Connecticut $100 million in biomedical research grants and provides clinical care to Connecticut citizens who, in aggregate, make 950,000 patient visits.

Thanks to a wise state investment, UConn is now a national leader in stem cell research and through this initiative is pursuing new advances in diabetes, cardiac care and a range of other diseases. In all, the synergy among activities is what distinguishes an academic health center and provides our state and region with an invaluable resource.

With all three elements working in concert, an academic medical center fosters a rich learning experience for medical and dental students. At the health center, we have continually achieved successes from this integrated approach. Our students benefit from the wisdom and experience of a faculty that is devoted to academic medicine. In fact, the health center has more physicians every year on the prestigious "America's Top Doctors" list than all other regional hospitals combined.

The UConn School of Dental Medicine, which by many accounts is one of the top dental schools in the country, also includes internationally acclaimed leaders in dental research and innovations. Providing easy access, in one central location, to all three professional elements research, education and clinical care is essential to recruiting and retaining these top-flight clinician-scientists for our schools.

Our schools also benefit from the health center's deep commitment to Hartford. Working with its teaching hospital affiliates, UConn's medical school provides approximately 600 medical residents in training to hospitals in Hartford each year. The city's hospitals could not offer their quality care without the UConn medical residents. In addition, our faculty, students and residents provide superior medical and dental care to Hartford's citizens through community-based clinics such as the Burgdorf Health Center in the North End, as well as involvement with a range of community-based public health initiatives, such as the South Park Inn Medical Clinic.

Leaders from our medical, dental and graduate schools are committed to opening the doors of education to students from the region's urban areas. The health center has run a long-standing and nationally recognized health careers program that encourages a love of learning among students from middle school to college and beyond. Through the program, students are introduced to research, clinical and teaching career opportunities. They spend time in research labs, classrooms and learn from clinical experts. Through the years, the program has touched the lives of thousands of students, including many who have gone on to complete professional training.

Looking to the future, we continue to be guided by the elements of the plan approved by Connecticut's General Assembly last year to expand access to care in our region, renew the John Dempsey Hospital on the Farmington campus and foster stronger regional health care initiatives.

This broadly supported and comprehensive plan, which relies on a strong and integrated academic health center, also provides significant new financial and programmatic investment in Hartford. It represents the best approach to help the UConn Health Center continue to meet the health care, educational and economic development needs of the region and the state. These goals can be achieved only through the health center's model as an integrated academic medical center combining educational, research and clinical strengths on one campus.

Cato T. Laurencin, M.D., Ph.D., is vice president for health affairs and dean of the School of Medicine at the University of Connecticut Health Center.

Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant. To view other stories on this topic, search the Hartford Courant Archives at http://www.courant.com/archives.
| Last update: September 25, 2012 |
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